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  • Updated March 23, 2021. Today 77 stories.

    With contributions from: the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, England, Norway, Spain, Kenya, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, USA.

     

    Gert Dumbar in stories

     

    Dumbar Int’l.

    Posted March 23, 2021

     

    During one of our design classes, I mentioned to ‘professor Gert’ (my final-year mentor at the time at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague) that I was interested in doing an internship in Asia, to which he brought up his friend in China, Wang Xu. Almost instantly, he pulled out his phone to call Studio Dumbar, asking them to get in touch with WX-Design in Guangzhou to relay the request of providing an internship for one of his students in Holland… A few days later, it was confirmed, but it really was more or less a done deal right there and then—during a laid-back graphic design class at the Royal Academy with a glass of wine in his hand.

    I flew across the world towards South China just a few weeks later…

     

    With hindsight, that seemingly small favour changed the course of my life but also taught me to be less fearful or hesitant and to take immediate action to make shit happen; advice he had often shared with his students… On many occasions during classes, he would spontaneously leap into action, setting things in motion for students that were otherwise hard to achieve without his backing; a great motivator and a great mentor!

     

    Nivard Thoes

     
    •••

    Reciprocity

    Posted March 15, 2021
     

    An important element of the studio was engaging people that fitted in this out of the ordinary setting. So many from all over the world joined, and they all left their mark. An example is a young designer who immediately asked when arriving for a job interview: "why is everything red here..?" I don't remember the answer but the red from then on started to vanish. Even the IBM typewriter slowly returned to its original black.
    Mentioning names is not my intention except for one, and that is Michel de Boer. Without him, the studio would never have been so successful in designing and carrying out all those vast corporate identities, i.e. ANWB, AEGON and KPN, to mention just a few. Michel had what was needed as a designer, as a leader and as a business partner to complete the picture. Was it a coincidence that he was the first designer who entered the studio and also the very last one to leave the original setting? A perfect studio also fit in his sense of humour which even exceeded that of Gert in the craziness. Once when Michel was alone in the studio, he answered two simultaneously incoming calls. One from Gert who was attending an important meeting at AEGON and had an urgent question. The other from the police, who needed confirmation that Gert himself was the one who had been speeding the car registered on his name. Michel replied: "One moment, officer, I'll put you through" and then turned the telephone horns so that the two men could speak together. Gert had no other option than to answer that he indeed had been the offender while being overheard by all men present in the AEGON boardroom. An awkward situation, undoubtedly. When Gert returned to the studio, he was still annoyed and said to me earnestly: "Michel should nót do such things!". I answered, tell him that yourself... I don't think he ever did.

     

    Kit de Jong

     

    •••

    A modest designer

    Posted March 15, 2021

     

    Sometime in the 1990’s – I’m afraid I can’t be more specific – I attended a panel discussion in The Hague on graphic design for political parties. Among the panellists were Gert Dumbar, one or two other designers, a few representatives of cultural institutions and a local politician. Since the audience and venue were graphic design-oriented, the discussion soon turned to the dire state of design for political communication. The perennial heads-with-slogan posters! The corny visual puns that vainly aimed at making politics look funny! Gert didn’t speak much until the local politician said something to the effect of “we, politicians, know politics, and therefore are the experts when it comes to communicating with the public.” The suggestion was: who needs graphic designers anyway? To which, Gert, polite as ever, begged to differ. The politician was not impressed and, rather condescendingly, said that any designer would say they’re good at engaging an audience if only to protect their business. Now Gert straightened his back and responded: “You may not be aware of who I am or what I do, but you may be sure I know what I am talking about.” The politician openly wondered who this arrogant guy was and uttered, “what did you do, that you can tell me I don’t know how to address my audience?” Gert, looking modestly at the table, said with a studied soft voice: “well, a few things, the NS logo, for instance…” The politician fell silent, understanding that he had truly misjudged his audience here. During the rest of the discussion, we heard nothing more of him.

     

    Max Bruinsma


    •••

    The horse and the rider

    Posted February 14, 2021

     

    In 1980 we won various D&AD awards amongst others a silver award for the studio stationery I designed. Gert asked me to join him to go to London and attend the award ceremony. It was my very first flight.

     

    In London, we first visited Michael Peters and Partners. Michael's office had all diplomas and awards exposed on the wall. "Very Britsh," Gert said. We would never do such a thing; even though we took ourselves quite seriously as designers. Later that day, we joined the ceremony at the very posh Grosvenor Hotel. We felt a bit uncomfortable about the award event's seriousness, and Gert asked me, what shall we do? We thought up a small act to shake up the official atmosphere. When it was our turn to receive an award, Gert sat down on his knees, and I mounted him as a rider, on our way to the stage. To me, this made the event even more unforgettable.

     

    I was totally unaware of our work's reception, but later I read about its impact on British graphic design. I was very proud of course, and above all thankful, for the chance, the trust and the generosity I was given by Gert.

     

    Ko Sliggers

     

    •••

    Gert and Piet

    Posted February 13, 2021

     

    In 2009 Gert was honoured with the Piet Zwart' lifetime achievement' award, named after one of the founding fathers of graphic design in the Netherlands. During the formal and festive afternoon that was organised for Gert, I had the privilege to deliver the speech on behalf of the Piet Zwart jury. The text below is a part of that speech translated to English:

     

    "For this afternoon, it is especially interesting to pause where people speak of an excellent oeuvre, of an iconic effect and as an example and source of inspiration for young designers.

     

    First of all, it is striking that Gert has never opted for a solo career. Other designers have always surrounded him. In the beginning, there were his partners and teachers such as Emile Truyen and Jan Lucassen. Then brilliant colleagues, including Gert-Jan Leuvelink and René van Raalte, and I am now forced to leave many unmentioned.

    Especially after the foundation of Studio Dumbar in 1977, the year in which Piet Zwart died, with an innumerable stream of young designers who arrived from all over the world. An internship at Studio Dumbar was called the first second-phase training for graphic design in the Netherlands. They came to Studio Dumbar for qualities that were unique to Gert and completely unimaginable in their own country. Gert had a reputation as a scout for new talent, which he - as he says somewhere - together with partner Michel de Boer, guided in a 'fatherly' way.

     

    We now know the keywords of that quality: room for personal creativity, room for humour and experimentation, not to mention a 'cheerfully irreverent' approach to clients, including many venerable government agencies. Indeed properties that are still not tolerated anywhere else in the world to this day.

     

    All these properties would eventually become synonymous with Dutch Design, a concept that with the travelling exhibition of the same name designed by Gert would cause enormous furore worldwide and would finally be embraced by everyone and everyone and therefore, at least by the designers themselves, hardly used today."

     

    Paul Mijksenaar

     

    •••

    "Het schuimt maar kan niet krassen"

    Posted February 12, 2021

     

    It is rather difficult to translate one of Gert's sayings about the obsolete modernist design approach we saw all around us in the late 1970s, not because of its translation because of its cultural impact. "It foams but cannot scratch", a famous pay off for VIM scouring powder, was used by Gert to comment on this universal flavourless visual language. Very to the point and very witty.

     

    I was very fortunate to experience a couple of years with the (in my eyes) non-organised organisation the studio was. To practice, Fluxus-like-do-it-yourself-esthetics (yes, that's what we called it) doing graphic design for the public sector.

     

    Ko Sliggers

     

    •••

    "Please tell your husband we will no longer work for him."

    Posted February 12, 2021

     

    1980. A very big client of Studio Dumbar, the Dutch national gas company 'Gasunie', asked us to develop their visual communication. I remember I worked together with Gert over the weekend and we ended up with some hilarious concepts, involving avant-garde theatre makers, musicians and more. Working on it was so much fun!

     

    When we presented our ideas to the client, they were not amused. So we went back to our desks and tried harder. After a second meeting with the publicity department, we drove back to the studio and discussed what to do next. When Gert saw a phone booth, he stopped and tried to contact the 'Gasunie' director, but he was not available. He then decided to call his private number and spoke with his wife, saying "when your husband gets home for dinner, please tell him that we (Studio Dumbar) just decided we will no longer work for him". Period.

     

    Ko Sliggers

     

    •••

    Flattened toast

    Posted February 11, 2021

     

    Whilst the studio felt like a special little fortress of creativity, I remember there were often visitors too. Pierre Bernard ladened with gifts of his beautiful work. Anthon Beeke stopping by one evening - 'are you coming for supper?' Gert said, so many of us tagged along. The stately Ootje Oxenaar for tea. And on occasion, guests at the communal lunch table where Gert would introduce himself... by standing on his toast with his much-loved brogues, before taking a bite.

     

    Martin Brown

     

    •••

    Truffle hunting

    Posted February 11, 2021

     

    One week in Winter, we all decamped to a hotel in the Dordogne, since Gert had a house nearby. We found ourselves variously chopping wood, making bonfires, eating at wonderful restaurants and drinking lots of wine. One morning Gert suggested truffle hunting, and he knew just the incline in which to dig for them. Gert announced he'd found one and appeared to hold something aloft within what seemed like minutes of arriving. And as quick as you like, he was off and wishing us luck as he went. After some time and effort, we wearily returned to the house empty-handed wondering if he'd been having us on. There was certainly no truffle in sight, just Gert's smile and 'what can I get you?'

     

    Martin Brown

     

    •••

    The Queens Guards

    Posted February 11, 2021

     

    Each week at Bankaplein, the Queen's Guards would pass by the fountain outside (lines of horses and guardsmen in all their finery, pulling cannons noisily behind them) and Gert would rush to the window like it was the first time he'd ever seen them. His excitement never diminished - week in, week out, he'd rush to see and beckon you to join him.

    What an extraordinary and generous little haven he created there. A palace of design, possibilities and living - full of his mischief and unswerving enthusiasm.

     

    Martin Brown

     

    •••

    Gert Dumbar

    Posted Februari 8, 2021

     

    Talented, intelligent, communicative, humorous.

     

    Eric Nuijten

     

    •••

    Grandmaster

    Posted February 8, 2021

     

    We, Dienand and Joost of 3D design agency WAAC's once had to present a design for the 'Post Office of the Future' to a group of very senior directors. We had made a model and put in far too many hours.

    Just before we stepped in the meeting, it was hit by a strong gust of wind. What was once a decent presentation was suddenly flattened into a pathetic pile of cardboard.

    We mainly wondered what you, Gert Dumbar, would think about this and how you would present this pasted and dented rag as the 'visionary solution' for the Post, Telegraph and Telephony Company.

    But as it turned out, you had an acute attack of the giggles that left us in bewilderment. You didn't roll on the floor with laughter, but it was close. Joost and I looked at each other in fear and did not understand exactly what was happening here in front of us.

     

    We got more and more nervous, thinking that this could have been our first and the last job for Studio Dumbar, but it seemed to have the opposite effect on you. You got more excited as this crucial presentation got closer. The dying model seemed to have awakened the best in you.

     

    The presentation went smoothly. Like a true grandmaster, you sympathetically played the game, everyone was happy and laughed at your charming humour. Your wisdom on how to behave was very appropriate: "always be calm, don't let anything or anyone fool you, and if that is the case, don't show anything, and use humour, lots of humour, especially for your mental well-being". These were wise lessons, from which we learned a lot. Thanks for that Gert!

     

    Dienand Christe

     

    •••

    Melted mind

    Posted February 6, 2021

     

    Gert melted my RCA grown empirical 'concept to form' design mind on day one. He said to me, "Marc, form and idea are a two-way street, are you not able to go both ways?". He challenged everything I knew about design in a single sentence. He introduced me to the concept of 'Vormgeving' as a completely new skill. He left me, mouth open, eyes wide, with the shape for AT&T Unisource and said, "use your design skills to form meaning".

     

    Marc Shillum

     

    •••

    Brevity

    Posted February 2, 2021

     

    Pissing into tea strainer. Night swim low-tide Scheveningen.

     

    Allen Hori

     

    •••

    The secret bar

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    In the mid-1980s Gert Dumbar was appointed Professor of Graphic Design at the Royal College of Art in London. He was only there for two years, but luckily for me, this coincided with my time there as a student. The graphics department was based in a large rambling building opposite the Natural History Museum on Cromwell road.

     

    In his first week, Gert climbed the stairs to the very top of the building where several of us had set up our desks. He enquired whether we had a fridge. When we said no, he replied that he would fill it with alcohol if we acquired one. By his next visit the following week, we had, of course, found a second-hand fridge from somewhere and true to his word, he gave us the cash to fill it with beer.

     

    He appeared again a few weeks later and gestured that he wanted a chat with me in private. Once on our own, he opened the front of his large dark blue overcoat and produced a large bottle of Jenever Gin from the inside pocket. He told me to put it in the fridge's freezer compartment, and he would be back at the end of the day to share it with me before he left for the airport.

     

    In the moments I spent with him at the RCA, drinking ice cold gin or not, we rarely ever discussed graphic design. The conversations normally involved alcohol and life. But what he did give me was an enormous encouragement to pursue things in my own individual way, with a tongue firmly fixed in my cheek and a smile on my face. Thanks for that Gert and CHEERS!

     

    Andy Altmann

     

    •••

    Amazing

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Gert thrives on surprises. If nothing happens spontaneously, he will provoke surprises. This anthology will undoubtedly contain many stories proving his predictable unpredictability.

    This need for a surprise may also explain how the Studio attained its successes. That need may be the source of Gert's policy always to ask designers to generate as many ideas for a project as possible. Surprises were evident.

     

    He probably was the only designer owning a studio who worked that way. And for good reasons as it is not very efficient nor cost-effective and even risky. It is known that other famous designers from Gert's generation practically used to dictate how and what their assistants were expected to do.

     

    No such thing at Studio Dumbar. Small projects were tackled by one or two designers with complete freedom to explore and experiment. Groups of three/four designers worked on projects from returning clients the same way, while truly big challenges, i.e., including winning a competition from serious competitors, were achieved by the whole team.

     

    The result, a massive pile of ideas, was discussed during a group session. However, the tilting choice was mostly made by Gert: with subtle dominance, by lingering a bit longer at his preferred design; carefully tasting the words to describe its potential. Recognising quality in people and design is his unique talent. But he definitely deserves a medal for how he presented design proposals to a client. A fair selection of most ideas was shown in unpolished form during a first meeting, using tables, chairs, walls and even floors if necessary. A vulnerable method as the audience was by no means prepared and certainly not used to judging design. Using his charisma and authority, he almost always knew how to convince clients to follow his preference. Amazing.

     

    Kit de Jong

     

    •••

    Intercourse?

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    There are many stories to tell about Gert, and his studio from the peanut butter shoe to wonderful afternoons with lots of laughter. If I had to tell you one, I could say that it is not easy to pick one, particularly, as there are so many memorable moments and events. Therefore, I share with you a more unknown encounter.

     

    My English knowledge increased in the Dumbar days. A telephone call once made me blush. A student enquired about an internship at the studio, but instead of the word internship, I used the word intercourse. And a big laugh came to me through the receiver. I cannot tell for sure if this person joined the studio, but I guess not.

     

    Gaby Schalk

     

    •••

    P.

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    The tenor of English humorists, Gert often pointed out, is "laugh or I'll shoot you". Taking the piss; Gert would never do that. He prefers to create theatrical scenes that, as a whole, can become a joke — of which you then become a part.

    However, pissing as such is in good hands with Gert. As a witness, I can confirm two stories, the reason why I have no doubts about the third, much older anecdote.

     

    1. In the early 1980s, as a newcomer, I was introduced to Gert's way of celebrating a new account. As soon as the good news arrived, he announced the appropriate ceremony: peeing through a tea strainer, in the sink. And then he just started doing that.

    2. At the end of the 1980s, our team was invited for drinks at a fellow design studio. At one point Gert announced: "Let's go upstairs, so-and-so [not Gert's best friend …] lives there. I have to piss through his letterbox." And so it happened.

    3. Now a story that I have heard Gert tell a few times. It must have happened in the late 1960s. He and a notorious partner in crime found themselves alone in the boardroom of the country's largest employer after a meeting. Their non-authoritarian mood instigated the urge for a joke, and soon enough they found that the tubular steel seats at the top behind the backrest had removable caps. At this stage of telling his story, Gert was already laughing to a point where he could barely go on. "Hahaha. And then — hihihi — we took — whaaaha — the caps off and — hahahaaa — pissed in the tubes." The climax came when he imagined management would start to smell something or the thought of ultimate corrosion, sagging chairs and the like.

     

    Vincent van Baar

     

    •••

    RED beginnings

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    During my second last year at the Rotterdam Academy of Visual Arts, my teacher Ben Aalbers urged me to call Gert Dumbar. Gert appeared to have left Tel Design, was starting his own studio and needed an intern. That same week I appeared at the family residence in the Riouwstraat. Gert - long hair, designer moustache, khaki clothes and shoes — opened the door. Next thing I knew was that after a brief scrutiny of my portfolio, I got the position and started on the 1st of June 1977.

     

    On my first day, we went shopping at the local art supplier. We bought everything a design studio needed in those days; San Serif Letraset (except Helvetica!), Rotring pens in all sizes, trashcans, pen-trays, everything threefold and RED. RED was the chosen studio colour. Typewriter, furniture everything had to be RED, if not available in RED it was sent to the spray painter. The jobs at hand were book covers for Kluwer and projects for the Dutch Post and Telecom Company. A week later, I received the key to the house as Gert and Leonie went to a design conference in Aspen. Their trust was flattering, and during my work, I also took care of house and cat Jet.

     

    On his return, Gert announced that we could collect his new car. The Peugeot 104 was a humble choice certainly compared to the Alfa's Gert was used to. But it suited the starting position. He ordered RED of course, but the car waiting for us at the dealer was not RED but bright orange! Gert appeared to be misled by the colour selector on paper. From that moment on, I have always accompanied him when he bought a new car.

     

    Michel de Boer

     

    •••

    'Het bonnetje aan Kitty'

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    While I was doing my internship at Studio Dumbar, I travelled from Breda, where I was studying at St. Joost Academy of Fine Art, to The Hague every day. One day Gert noticed that I was wearing shoes with the soles coming loose at the front. The shoes were indeed a few years old but as a student, with limited funds available, spending money on new shoes was not my priority. I would rather drink a Duvel or two at Café De Bommel in Breda.

     

    “Ton, you need to buy new shoes”. “Why?” I replied. “What if you trip when you step out of the tram and get injured or killed, then we don’t have ‘wunderkindje’ anymore…” I told Gert that I did not have any money at that moment. He always had money in his pants and shirt pockets. He pulled out a hundred guilder note from his shirt and passed it to me. “Now, go and buy new shoes tomorrow please”. I was shocked, and a bit embarrassed and did not feel good about taking his money. It was equivalent to about one week’s money from my government student loan. Vincent van Baar, my mentor, during my internship, had witnessed the conversation. I looked at him and asked: “What shall I do?”. “Just take it!”. I took the hundred guilders and thanked Gert. “But please ask for a receipt (het bonnetje) and pass it to Kitty (the studio manager) tomorrow.” I bought very nice black shoes for 99.95 guilders and passed ‘het bonnetje’ to Kitty the next day. I am not sure if she was very happy with this expense, but the shoes were a good investment. They lasted a long time.

     

    Ton van Bragt

     

    •••

    Father figure

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I would not so much say that Gert Dumbar is the father of Dutch design, rather he is the father of a whole generation of Dutch Designers. With not too many words, Gert managed to instill a set of values and an outlook on the world. Talk about being an influencer! He encouraged me to do field research in visual illiteracy and set me on a path that ultimately led me to move to Africa. He doesn't just provide an example in the traditional sense (he speaks, you follow): he has also offered me something to rebel against. Back in 2004, he stood up from a chair in class, raised a glass of wine (at 11 am) and pronounced, "Marketing is the devil", and sat back down. I deeply believe brand and marketing are the skills needed to make great ideas for change happen. He gave me maximum responsibility at a young age to find my footing in the profession, his former designers Joost, Bob and Oscar gave me the same when I was an intern, and now I do this with my interns in Kenya. I am deeply grateful for both the positive example, as well as a father figure to rebel against — even in my own polite way.

     

    Anne Miltenburg

     

    •••

    Stories from the seventies

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    When Gert was a Tel Design partner at the beginning of the seventies, like clockwork, we were having afternoon drinks at 5, 6 pm. In these days, drinking and driving was an issue but bothering about it was another thing. Fulfilled afterwards we drove to Gert's place in the Riouwstraat with two wheels on the pavement and the other two on the road of the Oostduinlaan. We had so much fun being stupid.

     

    In 1975, Gert asked me for an assignment given by Sieb Wijsenbeek. I think it was for the Dutch Railways. Gert had made a very fragile object out of paper maché that he wanted me to take photos of. Of course, we did this quite late in the evening as usual. The idea was to use my hazy light of which I was the very proud owner.

     

    I invented a construction for the hazy light hung from the ceiling in my small, tiny, tiny studio in the Van der Doesstraat. Suddenly, when we had installed it all, the hazy light got loose and fell from the ceiling with a big bang. Right on the object. Gert's fragile paper maché object.

    My very precious hazy light was broken. It gave a short circuit, and all the lights went dead. We sat in the dark for 15 seconds in complete shock, quietly and surprised. But coming back to our senses, we tumbled over one another and could not stop laughing. We decided to open a bottle immediately and stayed there till late at night. The next day, with a heavy head, Gert had to tell his client that the pictures would arrive later due to circumstances.

     

    Lex van Pieterson

     

    •••

    Kiss

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Gert regularly walked around in the studio. If he thought that the design you were working on was good and had potential, he would give the paper or print a big kiss. And then just walked on.

     

    Henri Ritzen

     

    •••

    Celebrate your mistakes

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    So many great experiences during my eight years of being a Studio Dumbar member. 'Dare to make mistakes' was one of the favourite sentences Gert Dumbar always told us.

     

    I remember that I just worked there for a year, doing mostly interesting cultural projects, and there was one of their big corporate clients that needed a special brochure to introduce their new identity. I was 'the chosen one'. I put all my energy into it — it needed to be perfect! The client was very happy. Together with the client, I went to the printer to take a look at the printing process. The first printed pages looked amazing! Lunchtime! The printer invited us to a very exclusive restaurant! It was two hours of sitting, eating, drinking, talking and laughing. When we came back to see the rest of the brochure, we were in shock! The paper was much to thin, almost a see-through. You could see the backside appearing on the front.

     

    I communicated all the details, including paperweight by phone, not by email. On our way back to the studio, in the car, we were in complete silence. That was a 10.000 Euro mistake! While walking back to the studio, the building suddenly looked bigger and bigger: How will I tell Gert? I was completely pale. In the studio, the first thing Gert asked: How was it, Bob? With a squeaky voice, I told what happened. Gert walked away and came back with a bottle of wine and two glasses. Well, Bob, let's celebrate that even Bob is not perfect! Gert never spoke about it anymore. I will n­ever forget that!

     

    Bob van Dijk

     

    •••

    The peanut butter act

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    It turned out to be a sort of recurring act when new interns were having lunch. It was a crazy act but completely typified the man. It usually started with the words "look what I dare, look!", with the same naughty smile and shiny eyes when he occasionally secretly opened a bottle of wine at 11 am during internal meetings.

     

    He triumphantly picked up the jar of peanut butter during the studio lunch at the top floor of the Bankaplein building, took an enormous amount of it on a knife, lifted one leg placing his foot on his knee of his standing leg and smeared a thick layer of the substance on the sole of his shoe.

     

    Then again "look, look, see what I dare!" followed by the unsavoury sensation of taking a white slice of bread, using it to scrape the peanut butter off his shoe in one thick fat stroke, to then devour it with shining eyes in front of his astonished audience!

     

    Jan Bunk

     

    •••

    I love your hairstyle

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Time flies. The day I arrived in Studio Dumbar feels just like yesterday, but that was twenty-five years ago when I was thirty. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to join your world-renowned design family. Thank you for accepting me, though I was the first to come from the far east, China. Thank you for your patience in cultivating me, though I wasn’t really aware of real design yet. Days at Studio Dumbar weren’t long, but it was a very happy time — every moment with you and all my friends were very precious.

     

    To me, the most unforgettable moment was when we met. As soon as you arrived in the studio that day, you talked loudly on the first floor, but I didn’t understand Dutch. Joost told me this was you, heading to the second floor asking where I was. He reminded me “Gert is going to ask you what you think of his hair today, and you must say it looks awful.” It made me a bit nervous and puzzled. However, the moment I saw you with your messy hair, I just laughed happily and said: “Oh, your hairstyle looks awful!” Then, there was your big laugh and a big hug. Suddenly, all my nervous feelings of strangeness, distance, timidity, and worries just faded away. I did not expect such a warm and informal welcome. Your wisdom, humour, equality, and kindness influenced me a lot in my later life. Thank you, Gert. I love your hairstyle!

     

    Zhao Jian

     

    •••

    Sleeping beauty

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Notorious amongst Dumbarians of the first decade were our annual trips to the Degree Show at the RCA in London. We left for Vlissingen after work on Friday to catch the night ferry to Sheerness.

     

    On one of those trips, we travelled with a hired van. Gert was the driver and held the car keys. That night was one I will never forget. Somehow Gert managed to win lots of money at the blackjack table on the directions of a very talented gambler who had however just lost big time himself. He gave instructions and Gert - starting with only a handful of fiches — managed to almost blow up the bank. The croupier was visibly angry when she had to end the game because of closing time. Gert's pockets were bulging with fiches, and he was by no means ready to call it a night. After negotiations with the bartenders, they yielded for his bribes, and the bar reopened just for us and the gambler. They served exotic cocktails which didn't miss their effect. Drunk and swaying, we finally started to leave one by one to get at least a few hours of sleep.

     

    The next morning we were chased out of our berths way too early, up to the car deck where disembarking was already well on its way. Our van stood isolated on the deck, blocking lorries, and Gert was nowhere in sight. We searched the ship from top to bottom but couldn't find him. The bar was the only place we hadn't looked as it was closed. I finally persuaded a grumpy cleaning lady to open the door for me, and there I found him curled up, fast asleep in a windowsill and nothing of his winnings left.

     

    Michel de Boer

     

    •••

    Gert and the art of flying

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    It was very early in the morning at Schiphol Airport when Gert and I were walking to the gate to our plane to Zürich. A new client invited us to visit their headquarters, discussing the project and have lunch together.

     

    I was terrified. Due to my fear of flying, I had successfully avoided air travel until then, but now there was no way back, and I decided to tell Gert. He smiled, and while we passed a little coffee bar on our way to the gate, he stopped and bought me coffee… and a glass of white wine. And there was I, at 7:00 am, having wine on an empty stomach because I was too nervous for food. While the plane was getting ready for take-off, Gert said: “Don’t worry. You are flying with me, so nothing bad will happen.” He told me to focus on the view from above during take-off, and when we reached cruise altitude, Gert ordered more wine accompanying breakfast. I still feel admiration for the purser who never showed even the slightest glimpse of disapproval serving me wine with a croissant at that hour of the day.

     

    More wine was served later during lunch, and maybe that’s why I don’t remember much of the further meeting. On our way back I fell asleep on the plane the moment I got seated. Since then I used Gert’s method many times and if you got concerned about the amount of booze involved… later in life I had proper fear-of-flight therapy and learned to board planes without one drop of alcohol, and I even enjoy flying now! But still, every time I pass one of the little bars at an airport, I thankfully remember Gert’s art of flying.

     

    Andrea Fuchs

     

    •••

    The mythical ‘Gert’

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I still remember my first meeting with Gert Dumbar very well. I had just graduated at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and was in-the-picture for working at his studio. The same studio that I had passed by, riding my bicycle, so often during my studies. I could never believe that all these world-famous designs were actually made in that stately building over there.

     

    During my first visit, Gert wasn’t in. The designers who received me were much younger, normal and friendly than I had expected. In the talk, they referred to their boss as ‘Gert’. Just with his first name! How was this possible? He couldn’t be just a normal person, right? I didn’t even know what he looked like, but he surely had grown to mythical proportions in my mind. To talk about him, just with his first name, was like you would, let’s say, talk with friends of Obama about ‘Barack’. ‘Gert Dumbar’ in my world of 1990s graphic design, wasn’t a person but an attitude.

     

    Shortly after, I was very honoured to shake hands with him. “Thans, Gert Dumbar” he introduced himself to me. I had never heard someone saying that… He turned out to be a human being, all flesh and blood. I worked with him a couple of-fantastic-years. Luckily, he never turned out to be normal.

     

    Dennis Koot

     

    •••

    Engagingly engaged

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    When Gert enters, positive energy is coming in with him — lifting my mood whenever we meet.

     

    Always interested (how is your family doing?), always motivated (you have to read this assignment I made for the students!), always curious (do you have some gossip?). He is up to celebrate the good things in life and generously share it with others (come on, you can finish that later, let's go and have a good lunch first!).

     

    'How is your graphic father doing?' my father will ask regularly. Still fully engaged, he's doing good.

     

    Rieme Gleijm

     

    •••

    Exotic from Europe

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Professor Dumbar arrived at the Royal College of Art, London in 1985, twinkly-eyed, maverick, mischievous. Thank god. He turned us upside down and loved the flip-side. Charming, playful, always up for a party, funky designer, a beguiling presence, exotic from Europe! Completely not Heritage British, a relief.

     

    How bemused he must have been by the rickety infrastructure and Thatcher’s henchman’s non-arts’ regime, and all those creaking stairs to the top! We were. He called us all professors; Professor Tofts, can you organise a party for my studio, a boat on The Thames? A Halloween party on the back steps? A Christmas outsized party? We were an exceptional year of individuals; luckily, he celebrated the individual as we were a headstrong crew. Remember that wretched brief; ‘describe how the internal combustion engine works, so even your grandmother can understand?’ Us breakaways wrote a script, made costumes and a set to perform the process, I was a fuel inlet-outlet valve; truly a piece of brilliant theatre!

     

    Remember when we went on strike and booked out for a week to Holland? We drank, skated, and de-coded Dutch a little. Our Professor didn’t tick boxes nor like to be boxed, foolishly misunderstood by the college administration. I carried a plastic red tulip to the graduation. His approach spoke to a lot of us. I’m still out of a box! Thank you, dear extraordinary Professor, for championing performance, fun and our own voice.

     

    Hannah Tofts

     

    •••

    Life-changing question

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I've never asked Gert what went on in his head that summer day in 1976 when he forced me to brake on Emma Square in The Hague. Gert was in his blue Citroen break and I in our grey 2CV. Puzzled by this action, I opened a window and expectantly looked at him. He smiled and took a solemn pause before saying anything.

     

    By the way, Emma Square was the Tel Design address; the agency Gert owned with three partners before he started Studio Dumbar in 1977. Tel Design was in the middle of changing from design agency to a multidisciplinary limited company. I worked there as a temp. '76 was my in-between year before enrolling at Leiden University to study Dutch language and literature.

     

    Tel Design was an impressive experience. Everybody working there — well maybe not all but most — were passionate people. The restructuring appeared to be already long underway and how it was just then decided to be carried out was heavily contested by all other designers of the team. Promises about shared ownership were made time and again but in the end not kept. The emotions and clashes provoked by the situation were unnerving for them and exciting for an outsider like me.

     

    So when Gert stopped me that day while all of this was going on, and asked me after taking a pause: "would you consider starting a studio with me...." I was stupefied.

     

    What followed lasted 23 years and is now ancient history too, but I am still wondering: what on earth did he have in mind…? And yet I never dared to ask.

     

    Kit de Jong

     

    •••

    Upside-down

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Then

    Me: Showing Gert some sketches.

    Me: Proud of my achievements considering the complexity of the project.

    Gert: Yes, great thoughts; very good.

    Gert: Rotating the printouts by 180 degrees, looking at them upside-down.

    Gert: Even better, now continue your explorations.

    Me: Baffled and somewhat pissed.

     

    Now

    This was probably the most significant lesson I learned as a designer. Keep exploring, be adventurous and don’t settle for the obvious. Thank you, Gert.

     

    Michael Lugmayr

     

    •••

    Kemperman company

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Gert always found an excuse to take a look at the production process of the signmaker Kemperman in Amsterdam (later Diemen). A quasi-critical look was then given to the product in the making, but the meeting was eagerly awaited in the so-called boardroom. Because drinks and snacks were waiting there, and it became a long afternoon.

    Gert always took studio clients to Kempermans production hall. When pre-products were shown to them, Gert would say in the presence of Kemperman employees: "it will fall off the wall soon, because that is always the case with Kemperman... but after that, it is solid as a rock". It was never a smooth and slick presentation. And due to that atmosphere, everyone understood that Dumbar and Kemperman was the golden match they were looking for. A lot of inventiveness and fun, which resulted in top products.

     

    Henri Ritzen

     

    •••

    'Bekentenissen!'

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    'Bekentenissen'! Gert invented this game one night on Bankaplein. Everyone had to make a juicy confession. Maybe you do not recall it Gert, but I do. I forgot what we all said, but it was such a very nice evening. The word 'bekentenissen' never left me. I once used it at the school I now work when one of the employees had given everybody the title Dr. on the name tag. So funny. He thought that all personnel had the same university degree. When found out, the question was whodunnit! So I yelled 'bekentenissen,' 'bekentenissen'! This time nobody laughed…

     

    Gaby Schalk

     

    •••

    The gift of the gap

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    One of the many gifts of Mr Dumbar was how his charisma blurred the boundaries between facts and fables. And when I think back of the time I was working at Studio Dumbar, I fondly remember how Gert managed to entertain everyone with his outrages stories. It didn’t quite matter whether it was based on any truth; it was all about his delivery that got you captivated until the wine ran out.

     

    During one of the many parties we seem to always have at the studio, I vaguely remember one rather formal event. If my memory served me right, we had the full studio with a few partners and even clients. To mark this occasion, Gert gave a formal gesture to make a speech. As I was relatively new in the country and the company, I was really looking forward to hearing words of wisdom from the great man. After a few clinking of glasses, Gert reached to his pocket and pulled out what seemed to be a well prepared multi-page speech. After clearing his throat, he began as we all listen tentatively.

     

    However, what came out was totally unexpected. We started to realise that the unfolded paper was just a stage prop, as Gert decided to do his speech in Indonesian - what else! I was totally thrown by this, but the rest seem to have seen this trick before. By chance I did understand what he was saying; growing up in that region and I must say, he did a decent job. It was not that what impressed me, but his ability to transcend language to still deliver the message to his audience even if no one understood a word: a true magician and master entertainer.

     

    Alvin Chan

     

    •••

    The authority on anti authoritarianism

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I applied to Studio Dumbar in the late Summer of 1996. I was lucky to be offered a place starting in January of 1997. My only problem was the crippling debt from my master's program made the salary that Studio Dumbar offered untenable. So, I plucked up the courage to ask for a little more money so I could break even.

     

    The recruiting team sent me a note back saying that the position was now, unfortunately no longer open. I was devastated. Instead of accepting defeat, I booked the plane ticket to the Netherlands anyway

    and I arrived at work promptly on day one.

     

    The recruiting team was very surprised to see me at the front door at Bankaplein. 'Why are you here' they said? As they were about to turn me away, Gert appeared at the door. He looked at me and winked. "Well," he said, "if he's here anyway, we should use him." And so my journey at Studio Dumbar began.

     

    Marc Shillum

     

    •••

    Spirited

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    The Dutch fire brigade was jealous of the sparkling design of the Dutch police cars. They wanted the same amount of attention the police got. So I applied the police striping to the fire brigade vehicles. When the guidelines where ready I went with Gert to The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken) to present the design to the officials.

     

    Unfortunately, we forgot our identity cards and could not go through. Gert was amazed by this unnecessary bureaucratic obstacle and asked for a pen and paper to draw his personal identity card in front of the confused lady behind the reception desk. He handed the self-made identity card over to the lady. He told her in the most charming and tender way that designers are allowed to produce their ID cards by themselves and that, by the way, he hardly ever had seen a more beautiful and likable woman in the world than her.

     

    When we entered the elevator, Gert said: Bela, that’s the way to deal with ridiculous regulations.

     

    Bela Marady

     

    •••

    First driving lesson drunk!?

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    In the mid-nineties, we worked with Studio Dumbar on a permanent exhibition for the Dutch Dairy Association (Nederlandse Zuivel Organisatie) in a beautiful historical weighing house on the market of the city of Gouda. Gert was heading up the project.

    After a successful presentation, Gert took the design team out for lunch in Gouda. A rich and long-lasting lunch that started with food and wine and ended with strong drinks. A typical and spontaneous food event that Gert is known for.

     

    Then, all of a sudden I realised that the same afternoon I was supposed to have my first ever driving lesson. Oh shit, what to do now, all these drinks? Okay, I am going to call and cancel!? No need, Gert told me. The first lesson, you only stir the car and your instructor will do the rest. It is like riding your bike. Just take a peppermint and no worries! It was my first time drinking and driving... and the last one.

     

    Joost Roozekrans

     

    •••

    Apple in the house

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Computer company Apple wanted to conquer the European market in the early nineties and had chosen Studio Dumbar as their agency to design the communication tools for European management meetings. Gert and the studio management were aware that such a client would be demanding and would turn the studio upside down considerably. The unique thing was that in a studio meeting, the employees were asked for their opinion, whether we should accept the "job" or let it pass. During the meeting, it emerged that we would go for the project, and Gert promised that the interesting opportunity would also be paid off to the staff. That open attitude and showing vulnerability motivated us. This was, of course, the intention, but the way in which was done well.

     

    Henri Ritzen

     

    •••

    Hotel?

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Dear Gert, what was the name of that fantastic hotel somewhere above Copenhagen in Denmark? That hotel where we collaborated with Kontrapunkt on the Danish Post corporate identity. That great hotel where the Jewish Orthodox family cooked us delicious kosher food for a week. That hotel on that small beach where we drank coffee through our noses. In that hotel, I would like to have another coffee with you. Love you.

     

    Katrien van der Eerden

     

    •••

    Cheers!

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I first encountered Gert’s work whilst studying at St Martins: his playful design for a European Illustration annual. I bought the book for the design alone. The same year he visited the Graphic Design Department to talk about his work. Never before had I encountered a designer with such wit, energy and mischievous charm. He presented graphic design as, not just fine-tuned communication, but a way for designers to express themselves and have fun. His work looked like he enjoyed doing it.

     

    After St Martins, I went to the Royal College of Art. Herbert Spencer had just retired as professor of Graphics, and the department felt in the doldrums. Application numbers were down. The head of illustration babysat the department while a new professor of Graphics was sought. Imagine my delight when Gert was appointed!

     

    With the new year arrived Gert - truly a breath of fresh air. Suddenly anything seemed possible. Each week he came from Holland with an armful of duty-free booze for the student fridge, alongside a heart full of enthusiasm, energy and care. His spirit swept through the department in an irresistible wave.

     

    Gert’s time at the RCA was brief - but he certainly left his mark. What did I learn from you, Gert? It’s difficult to be specific, but I’ve enjoyed the work I’ve done. I’ve even had some fun! I love the process of being a designer. I’ve tried to do everything much better than it needed to be. I’ve taken some risks along the way and been true to myself. I’m proud of my work. I know you engendered a fair proportion of that spirit. Not bad for a guy who visited one day per week. It’s high time we bought YOU a drink, Gert!

     

    David Ellis

     

    •••

    Once a month, I would disappoint him

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I started at Studio Dumbar in 2005, and unfortunately, I never worked side by side with Gert Dumbar. I was still lucky enough to see him around coming to the studio once a month. He would come to get prints from the archive, copy some images for his work, etc., and this is where I got to know him.

     

    He would come to the studio, say hello to everyone and have a brief chat with us. One nice thing that he would always do while greeting us all was offering us a drink, but I always seem to disappoint him since I would reply ‘No, thanks’, and by his surprise, he would always ask me ‘Why not?’ and I would answer back ‘I do not drink (as in alcohol)’. A few times have passed, and he still could not persuade me of having a glass of wine or beer, so then he finally asked me: ‘Are you an alcoholic?” – We cracked up together with such a question since nobody would have ever asked me that before. There is Gert, unique, inquisitive, and curious. Thank you for this opportunity to be part of an amazing studio, and thank you for your brilliancy and this fantastic legacy.

     

    Rejane Dal Bello

     

    •••

    The honourable oracle from The Hague

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Spring 1989, Kanaalweg The Hague. Respected notables of the conservative Dutch Christian Radio Association (NCRV, founded in 1924) were pleased to invite Studio Dumbar – prominent avant-garde icon in the Dutch design landscape – to design their new corporate identity.

     

    In the run-up to one of the first design presentations, Gert Dumbar – late as ever — hastily walked onto the studio floor, stepped upon a chair in front of the kitchen sink, pretended to piss through a tea strainer. Then knelt on the floor, and poshly spoke to the designers who would accompany him to the presentation: “Come on you ladies, now please all of you respectfully but quickly cross your heart with your right hand, and then on to Hilversum!” And off they went to the capital of Dutch radio & television...

     

    Richard Sluijs

     

    •••

    The conductor

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    The late Anthon Beeke said about Gert Dumbar: ‘He is not a designer, he is a conductor.’ Although I consider Gert being a good and inspiring designer, I could see what he meant. Gert as conductor of an orchestra of mostly young, talented designers, him being able to get the best out of all of them. Of course, it started with recognising and getting the most talented ones in his studio. From the first time I met Gert at the Kanaalweg I liked him a lot: a kind man, open, witty and interested in my questions and with a wonderful, easy-going atmosphere in the studio.

     

    Later in life, when I worked as an advisor for KPN, we had another relationship. He seemed to fit Nabokov’s idea ‘to be kind, to be proud, to be fearless’ maybe even more elusive than fearless. In a way he played with the commissioners, never a dull moment.

     

    In my last job, as head of the Department of Graphic Design at the KABK, I was (officially) Gert’s boss. He was still kind, proud and elusive. Most students loved him as he was stimulating and full of good advice. He would liven up assessments with silly things like giving every girl with nail polish one euro, every boy two. Being part of an institute I had to tell Gert things like: ‘Don’t drink wine in the classroom with students.’ and he would cheerfully reply: ‘Of course, I understand, you are right’. The next day I saw him drinking wine with students in the courtyard of the Academy… elusive.

     

    Ada Lopes Cardozo

     

    •••

    Moments with employees

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Gert spent a lot of time with his employees. The studio trips were notorious and well known. The more souls, the more joy was his motto. Also, the drinks started early on Friday afternoon in the studio. But there were even more intimate moments with Gert. Then you went to a good restaurant together, or you were together in a cave (in France Gert had a real cave in the garden of his holiday home). I recall long night-time car journeys through Scotland or sitting on a terrace in Venice. There was also regular cooking. At such moments everything came up; well-intentioned advice, jokes, stories, but also a listening ear and a genuine interest in your background and life. When my younger brother died, Gert and Kitty (de Jong) unexpectedly appeared at the funeral, after a 2.5-hour drive. I very much appreciated that.

     

    Henri Ritzen

     

    •••

    € 2,- for men, € 1,- for women, € 0,50 for Max

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Dumbar is intriguing, honest, and creates conditions that enable many to go where they didn't go before. He inspired me to surprise myself and others by taking unexpected turns in a project, context, or mixing disciplines when collaborating with a clear vision. Gert was my teacher, and later my colleague at the KABK.

    During my internship at NLXL where I worked with Joost Roozekrans, Oscar Smeulders en Bob van Dijk, who all worked at Studio Dumbar, we prepared a 'Dumbar' night at Zeebelt Theater. I vividly remember their Dumbar-anecdotes, one included 'licking a shoe' and 'peanut butter'...

     

    The first class ever from him at 10 o'clock in the morning: "Here's 10 Euro, come back with a bottle of red wine and glasses."

     

    Wine, France, Kitty, his son and grandson, motorbikes, teaching, crazy student projects, NS, Studio Dumbar... but his eyes truly twinkle(!) when he talks about Leonie, and of course he carries A3+ pictures of 'his Leonie' with him. Gert is curious, asks questions about work, life, love... and every time we crossed each other in the academy hallways, we shook hands, and he checked out my nails. Being creative, almost living in the academy, you can imagine what my nails looked like with two weeks old nail polish and paint splatter all over...

     

    One moment in class, I remember like it was yesterday. Gert looked through several papers containing about 72 design sketches, grabbed a marker, within seconds he circled the ones he thought were good, found an empty page in the middle of my sketchbook and wrote: 'words divide - images unite.' This all happened very quickly; Gert ended by saying this was his talent, to recognize the potential in people and to pinpoint the golden nuggets in an ocean of nuggets quickly. This was one of the Dumbar moments that at a later point in my career helped me understand my superpowers ;) Gert je bent Goud.

     

    Max Bong

     

    •••

    Pub(l)ic speaking

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I first saw Gert while I was studying graphic design at St Martins School of Art in the early 1980s. He had been invited to give a talk by our tutor and his fellow RCA student, Richard Doust. Until that point, nearly every talk we had been given by an external professional graphic designer had honestly been quite dull and un-inspirational. Graphic design at that time had become an industry with some companies employing hundreds of people. The work being produced in the UK seemed very conservative, unemotional and corporate.

     

    At that time, I knew absolutely nothing about Gert or his work. So I sat that there with my fellow students in a darkened projection room, preparing myself to be bored, with the possibility of even nodding off to the whirr of the slide projector. So I was very surprised when this man with longish hair and a Dutch accent started to project these dynamic images of integrated photography and typography onto the screen. I was mesmerised. He spoke about things with such humour and self disrespect. It wasn't a graphic design lecture; it was pure entertainment. A true non-conformist that was somehow persuading his clients to go on these experimental journeys with him. I felt, at last, I had met a designer with whom I shared a kindred radical spirit. The highlight of the talk was when Gert spotted what he described as possibly a pubic hair trapped in one of his 35mm slides and commented that it only improved the design layout.

     

    I never spoke to him on that day, and I didn't hear anything more about him until fate played its hand. Having already been accepted to study at the Royal College of Art in 1985, I was told by a fellow student that Gert had been appointed as the new professor of graphic design. So I finally got to meet the man himself...

     

    Andy Altmann

     

    •••

    Frappez toujours

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    The following story can be told in a hundred different versions. This is one of mine.

     

    Like most things in life, the story of Studio Dumbar went through change. Business had always been challenging, but mutual understanding helped us overcome any difficulty. We lost that at the end of the previous century. Gert overnight decided to hire a friend to help us reorganise the studio. The guy had no idea where and how to begin, so he involved a well-known designer in helping him. To me, that felt odd and threatening, and it soon dawned on me that I was their first target. It didn't take me long to choose the flight forward. One sunny afternoon in August, I packed up a folder with important papers, grabbed my bag and left the studio for the very last time, leaving an astonished Gert behind.

     

    What followed was a fierce confrontation in which I was so fortunate to find one of the best attorneys in The Hague to take an interest in me and my case. As two opposing parties we met shortly after 9/11 in a hotel suite to find out if we could settle without going to court.

     

    Even now, twenty years later, I still smile when I remember that event. What started out for me as an assassination of character was solved to my satisfaction and with mutual consent, thanks to my outstanding attorney who by the way, showed no mercy for the consultant during that session.

     

    A month later I invited all Dumbarians for a farewell party at a bar, except for Gert. When everybody was there, an unexpected guest made his entrance. Not difficult to understand everyone's surprise when Gert walked in. Since that day we are the best of friends again.

     

    Kit de Jong

     

    •••

    Ootje and the Royal stamps

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    It was 1990. I had been heavily involved in the design of a new identity for the PTT, the Dutch Post and Telecom, under the guidance of R.D.E Oxenaar (Ootje), head of PTT Kunst & Vormgeving (Art & Design). One day he asked me if I wanted to design the stamps for the 25th wedding anniversary (11 March 1991) of Queen Beatrix and Prins Claus, as a gift from Royal PTT Post to the couple. I did not decline.

     

    When the design was ready Ootje, and I were going to see her. I borrowed a nice suit and tie, drove to Paleis Huis ten Bosch in my very shabby green Citroen GS and parked at the steps of the palace. Her Majesty was standing to welcome us. We sat down and were offered a glass of wine. It was 1 pm. I explained the design to her, and it was approved.

     

    That evening I told my mum. The next day I got a call from a newspaper reporter from my hometown. A day later Ootje summoned me to his office and showed me a clipping of a very small article from ‘the local newspaper’. In a nutshell, it read that I, a graphic designer from Someren, had presented a stamp design and that I thought The Queen had made ‘very intelligent’ comments. My hands started sweating as he told me he could take the project away from me. He said it with his kind smile.

     

    I left and not knowing what to do; I spend the afternoon playing ‘hooky’ on the beach, thinking of what would be awaiting me at the studio. That same evening, I told Gert about my ordeal. He burst out in his signature laughter.

     

    Ton van Bragt

     

    •••

    Once a Dumbar girl...

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Once a Dumbar girl always a Dumbar girl. Do (Dodo), So (Sophie) and I named our Whatsapp meet, greet and eats after Gert; 'The Dumbar dolls'. These wonderful get-togethers we have been keeping alive over the years and will go on for as long as possible, not just to see each other but also to keep up with gossip about other Dumbarians along with a good glass and lovely food.

     

    Gaby Schalk


    •••

    You're ............ hired!

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I graduated from St. Joost - Breda, an art school in the south of the Netherlands. Gert saw my final work and said: come and work for the studio. Wow!!! I was overwhelmed.

     

    It went quiet for over six mounts. I had started working for another design studio by the time Gert contacted me again and said, let's do it! I explained my situation. How to solve this? Gert did not want to annoy the studio I had just stared and came up with an inventive solution: 'Joost, we'll publish a job description that fits you precisely, and you apply'.

     

    Shortly after I started at the Bankaplein in The Hague, working on the police identity competition. (The designer I introduced to take my place at my first job became a partner later on.)

     

    Joost Roozekrans

     

    •••

    Gert and retail marketing

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    At the end of the nineties, Gert and I were "invited" to an interim marketing manager at Postkantoren BV. Because he wanted to tell us that we didn't understand 'the rules of retail marketing'. The manager thought this was necessary because, in his opinion, we came up with a ridiculous proposal for the new layout of the post offices. The man was flown in on an interim basis and was not familiar with the assignment; not with our reputation; and not with our successful cooperation with PTT Post for years.

    While we were sitting, he picked up a piece of chalk and started drawing very obvious diagrams as a kind of teacher. Because Gert and I were both chuckling like naughty children in a school class, the man became increasingly angry. In the end, Gert told the manager that he was selling completely ridiculous nonsense. Finally, the man walked away and slammed the door behind him, leaving us in bewilderment in his office. Although I was shocked by that, Gert was not at all impressed by the man. We left the building roaring with laughter. Our 'ridiculous' design proposal, by the way, was successfully implemented shortly after.

     

    Henri Ritzen

     

    •••

    Gert experiences

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    An incomplete list in no particular order:

    • The appealing excuse for a ‘creative meeting’; to drink a glass of wine at 10:30 in the morning at nearby establishment ‘Zeldenkut’. I still wonder whether that nickname referred to the quality of their collection.

    • The possibility to work 150 hours on a flyer for Zeebelt and still being taken seriously.

    • Discussing the meaning of design principles such as ‘stylistic sustainability’ while he was driving the car on a highway: when Gert spoke, he would step off the throttle, when finished, he would floor the gas pedal again. A longer argument would result in the speed dropping to 30 km with other motorists honking and swerving past.

    • Flirting with gatekeepers — a smart strategy to build allies among the client organisation: Gert would melt even the toughest receptionists to unlock bureaucracies for him.

    • Cute corruption — nudging clients to consider the best design proposal by slipping a five guilders bill above the design he deemed best in the presentation portfolio.

    • The Hidden Humpback. The main conference room of the studio at Bankaplein had a heavy door in the back which led to a small archive room filled with dusty computers, broken chairs and piles of files. One memorable day, during a presentation with an important client, the heavy door slowly opened to reveal a Terry Gilliam type character with a hump. While spreading a peculiar organic scent, he gently wobbled across the room towards the client-toilets in the hallway without giving anyone notice… The room — filled with heated designers and client suddenly fell silent… Mouths dropped, eyes blinked, arms pinched… No-one really understood the absurdity that just unfolded before their eyes. Later we learned that this had been Gert’s personal archivist. He stayed on for several months. We never really got used to him.

     

    Thank you, dear Gert, for an unforgettable era!

     

    Maarten Jurriaanse

     

    •••

    Whoop!!

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I remember Gert saying this as he entered the studio and as he climbed the stairs. You knew he had arrived. This was often followed by a reminder to have fun. And this is something I have remembered through 25 years or more in design, and when it isn’t fun, it isn’t working.

     

    Studio Dumbar had some fantastic projects when I was there as an intern. Gert and the team had an amazing ability to take risks and convince clients and all the better for it — as the Dumbar legacy shows. So often the creative process is made ordinary by endless rounds of marketing feedback and research. Design that really stands out has been championed by a brave client who knows when to leave well alone. Gert was inspirational in that sense.

     

    Rupert Denyer

     

    •••

    Who believes in aliens?

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I was much too late to apply for an internship at Studio Dumbar. Back in 1994, Studio Dumbar was widely known as one of the most influential design firms. Interns from all over the world tried to apply, and I knew I should have applied at least a year earlier. But luck was on my side; an intern from abroad wasn’t able to come, and I could take their place!

     

    Immediately I was put to work on a great assignment; designing the new identity for the GAK (Dutch Institute for Employee Insurance). The sketching seemed endless. Every week we, about four interns and three employees, gathered together and Gert judged the result. He looked at the sketches and told each of us how to continue. Our sketches were also discussed with the clients, and we were even allowed to join these meetings! Nowadays, I want to give my interns the same experience.

     

    After a few weeks, he took me for lunch to Shirasagi, a very expensive Japanese restaurant in the centre of The Hague. I was very nervous. I had never been to such an expensive restaurant and certainly not with a great designer and boss! Out of nowhere but with his familiar twinkling eyes, he asked if I believed in aliens. Wait; what? How to answer?! Panic! Stumbling, I said something that I did believe in something (what a dull answer). I still don’t know whether I’ve passed the test or not…

     

    I now have employees and interns from all over the world; we do cultural and commercial assignments, we initiate social projects, we go on excursions, organise dinners, lectures and workshops (inter)nationally. Celebrating life by creating an interesting and varied situation for yourself and others in which everyone is seen and continues to develop, is by far the most important lesson I’ve learned from Gert.

     

    Renate Boere

     

    •••

    Vanishing trick

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    At the Bankaplein - the studio's location after 1991 - we had a beautiful grand conference room with an oval table, Arne Jacobson chairs and a hidden widescreen for presentations. Adjoining was a small multifunctional room, offering a garden view and — more important — that's where we exposed all the studio's numerous awards and certificates won for our creative achievements. It also served as a waiting room for clients. If they had any doubt, those would certainly vanish there.

     

    The allure of the Bankaplein made it possible to welcome any 'bobo' in style. The fin de siecle architecture, the lovely backdrop of the fountain and the comfortable parking space in front never missed effect. And we could always see clients arriving on the spacious square and thus be truly prepared for their entrance.

     

    However, Gert had the habit of always being invisible at any such critical moment, because he was engaged in a telephone call in the small room. Hanging coats, exchanging greeting formalities, offering coffee and a seat was always left to the other Dumbarians who were to join the meeting.

     

    Whenever I knocked on the door at such occasions to let Gert know that guests had arrived, I never had the impression that he was talking business. When Gert finally joined the gathering, he made an impressive entrance and immediately got everyone's attention. Smart, of course. But I always wondered about those mysterious, well and badly timed telephone calls. That is until I left the studio in 2001 for good. In the following years, I regularly got a telephone call from Gert, unexpected, with no specific purpose or reason, just a little chat, for him to gain time before joining in an undoubtedly important meeting.

     

    Kit de Jong

     

    •••

    Eau de vie

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    When I was an intern at Studio Dumbar, all designers were invited to stay at Dumbar’s family vacation home in France. It felt like being part of the Dumbar family.

     

    After a long walk, I remember Gert showing a local moonshine bottle called ‘eau de vie’. I was in doubt about the drink, because bad moonshine might make you blind. But Gert told us a vibrant story about the drink, and its qualities, and we all had a try. And indeed it tasted terrific.

     

    This kind of sums up the way I know Gert. He sees the possibilities in things. He demonstrates a warm welcome to people who still have a lot to learn because his focus is on their potential. This positive attitude helped me a lot in my career as a designer. And it is still inspiring me to help others.

     

    Ad de Bont

     

    •••

    You cannot refuse this…

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Around 2004 I came up with the idea of organising an international event with companies that used design as a strategy, such as Apple, the Dutch national postal and telecom services PTT, Citroën, and Olivetti. Design as a strategy was not self-evident yet at that time.

     

    Gert Dumbar and Henri Ritzen helped me develop the logo and visual appearance for the event and the packaging containing the products and services; we called it 'A good product'. Gert helped me to connect with various people like Marlies Dekkers, the Dutch lingerie designer. One day I was sitting together with Gert, and he called up Marlies and said: 'Marlies, I have a lovely boy sitting next to me, he who would like to make an appointment with you, and you cannot refuse this…'.

     

    Only Gert could do this. So authentic! If he believed in you, he would do anything to help.

     

    Paul Maas

     

    •••

    The sign

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    In 1994 I was a summer intern, from Cranbrook in the US. I was thrilled to be at the famous Studio Dumbar – but also nervous as I had no real experience working in a commercial design office – and definitely no experience speaking Dutch. Gert gave me a logotype assignment – a telecom company – and told me the identity should incorporate a bird. I’m no illustrator, so I did my best to make a bird work with the company’s name.

     

    On the day of the presentation, we went to the client’s headquarters, a high rise in the commercial center. On the way there Gert reminded me that a design presentation should be “a show” – a memorable performance that would both dazzle the client and cast the work as the inevitable solution. We arrived and were lead into a formal conference room where several managers and the CEO waited. After some small talk – in Dutch – Gert introduced me – in English. He said I was “a genius designer from the US”. Gert presented the work – entirely in Dutch. “The show”, as far as I could tell, was an elegantly choreographed tapestry of words, hand gestures, and design options that relied on Gert’s ability to improvise and read the room. Finally, with an aspirational gesture he ended the presentation.

    There was a pause, and just as it appeared we were done, the CEO turned to me and said, in English, “Which one do you like?” I was stunned. I had understood nothing of the presentation, the conversation afterwards, or which direction Gert had recommended. I generally knew that Gert had told me to design a bird logo, but there were other directions in the presentation. I feared that if contradicted Gert, I would make the whole “show” fall apart. I looked over at him, and he had a smile on his face, patiently drumming his fingers on the conference table. I looked down and noticed his hand had four fingers extended – which I took to be a sign. “Option 4”, I blurted out, and then made up a story about why it was the best strategy. The CEO looked pleased, and so did Gert – “the show” being even more dramatic for the surprise ending. On the way back, I complimented Gert on his cunning sign. He said in an off-hand manner “What sign?” I still don’t know if I guessed right.

     

    Jeremy Mende

     

    •••

    'Let’s go to Madrid'

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I believe it was in my fourth year as a then senior designer at Studio Dumbar. The studio had a client called Zeebelt Theatre. We made posters and other print materials. For the upcoming performance, Petra Janssen, who was doing her internship, was tasked with designing the new poster. The studio was at that time doing a lot of 'Staged Photography'. Petra came up with the idea to build a sand sculpture of some sort of sea creature stranded on the beach and have the photoshoot there. Some of us went there that Friday afternoon including Gert and, of course, the photographer Lex van Pieterson.

     

    After the shoot, we went for drinks. After a few drinks’ a discussion between Gert and Lex started to develop about whether we should go ‘somewhere’ with the team. Lex challenged Gert that he would not ‘dare’ to take us all. The destination was to be Casablanca, and we would leave that same evening from Schiphol Airport. Gert asked us to get our toothbrushes and gather at his house. We did. Gert had been calling the airlines, but Casablanca was not available. As it was already late at night, a first available flight was in the early morning.

     

    We flew to Madrid the next morning, went for tapas lunch and more wine. We visited the Prada Museum and had more food and more drinks. I can’t remember if and where we slept. We flew back on Sunday afternoon and went to work on Monday as if nothing had happened. I had left The Hague with 25 guilders in my wallet and came back with 25 guilders. Gert’s generosity at its peak, and we all worked even harder after that.

     

    Ton van Bragt

     

    •••

    Fuck off

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    As an intern at SD in the 90s, a project I worked on was approved by the client and almost finished when the client suddenly called Gert and wanted everything changed because he had a bad dream about it. Gert came up to me and told me about it, and to my great surprise, he said: – If you want to, I’ll tell him to fuck off, nobody treats my designers like that!

     

    I was quite astonished and proud by the fact that he let it be up to my decision on what to do. We had a chat (and a glass of wine), and I decided to go on with the project. Gert had a beer or two with the client later and sorted things out :-)

     

    Sindre Risheim

     

    •••

    Ketumbar​!?

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    There is one thing that I cannot share with any other in Studio D but Gert. That is the moment I told my father that I had a new job at Studio Dumbar with founding father Gert Dumbar. As people of the Dutch Indies intend to be a bit deaf, my father immediately turned the name into Gert Ketumbar. So I already knew a 'woord grapje' when I entered the Kanaalweg. Lots of love!

     

    Gaby Schalk

     

    •••

    Any gossip?

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Gert is not only a graphic designer, but he is also involved in making the cultural life of The Hague vivid. For example, he was founder of Zeebelt and member of the Board of the International Poster Gallery.

    For the International Poster Gallery, we had to visit the Mayor of The Hague, Mr Deetman, several times. Most of the times, Gert started with the question:" Zijn er nog roddels?" " Are there any gossip?" The Mayor first looked a bit puzzled, then he smiled, and that was the start of a good conversation about the Poster Gallery. Together with Hein van Haaren, Gert was a good tandem: Gert with a lot of flair and Hein more subtle, but they both had a lot of knowledge and a good sense of humour.

     

    I also have good memories of having lunch with Gert in De Tapperij. Most of the times, we choose a fish soup, and there was always wine. He is open-minded, likes to give compliments, is interested in everyone and always in for a joke. But above all his saying of 'bending reed' (buigend riet) stays with me: sometimes things go against the grain, but it always works out in a good way. And Gert's playful way of enjoying life inspires me. Thank you, Leonie, that Gert can be Gert!

     

    Chantal van Hezik

     

    •••

    Hard to eradicate

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Or: Once Dumbarian, always Dumbarian! It was a great time at Studio Dumbar. Tanja Backe and I stayed at the Lovimar Travel Agency, keeping off the “squatters” with barbecues and parties. Alanis Morissette had launched her first album, the song “Ironic” was on permanent repeat at the studio, and Gert knew how to keep us all motivated.

     

    At the end of my stay, Gert asked me what he could give me as a good-bye present. As a “botanist anonymous” — not born with green fingers – I had always dreamt of a blue flower garden. We ended up at a garden centre near The Hague, and I chose three blue perennials.

     

    Back in Germany I soon managed to kill two of them, but the surviving comfrey plant has since flourished and has formed a big patch in my garden. To quote botanists: “… once established it can tolerate occasional drought, thanks to its deep taproot. This same taproot, though, can make it hard to eradicate if you ever want to remove the plant, since any small portion of the root will re-sprout.” Every spring, it reminds me of Gert and the crazy days I spent at Studio Dumbar.

     

    Isabel Naegele

     

    •••

    A presentation

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    During my internship (1983), I was allowed to work on the door sign "Erkend Hotel ANWB" in the ANWB house style designed by the studio. A model had to be made for the sign before we presented it to the client. Having such a model made was very expensive. However, I had passed the wrong colour on to the model maker; not a huge colour difference, but still wrong. Gert reacted very calmly to that mistake and even reassured me. That is also what typifies him and from which many creative directors and managers can learn. But anyway, we were going to present the final design to the client. Gert showed the sign very briefly (literally for two seconds) and, immediately threw it away in the corner of the room. "So gentlemen", said Gert, "beautiful, isn't it? Thank you for approving it." Followed, of course, by a lot of laughter. Gert always turned events like this into a party.

     

    Henri Ritzen

     

    •••

    Dutch mountains

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I worked with Gert many years ago, and when we first met in the studio in The Hague, he told me a funny story about the Netherlands being a flat country but that The Hague had mountains. I said really? And not quite believing him. Then he said the mountains were actually the sand dunes at the nearby beach! I always remember him fondly for that story.

     

    Simon Paterson

     

    •••

    Simple yet magical

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    On an early Friday morning in 1996, Gert asked me to join him, as he wanted to buy a garden table and a few chairs. We came back to the studio around 10:30 with a typical French bistro set. Gert wanted to put the set in a small room at the studio's back with view on the garden. Time for a coffee I thought, but instead, Gert opened a bottle of white wine, installed a phone, and we sat down. Then I witnessed a simple yet magical moment unfolding.

     

    Gert called 'upstairs' and asked designers one by one to come and discuss their work. Young designers and interns showed him their progress somewhat reluctantly. Gert did not even discuss the work in detail; he was praising them and being critical. Recharged and a head full of new ideas and confidence, they left again.

     

    That morning I saw how Gert changed people, brought out the best in them, made them discover the process, and lift their creative abilities to a higher level. How he taught us all to have faith, believe and trust in ourselves. How he instantly saw someone's qualities, helped them forward so that his designers reached their creative peak. All this in his unusual magical Gert way. You hardly noticed what was happening.

     

    That I was there to witness this I think was meant to be. Possibly it was to tell this story, but what it mostly taught me was the wise insights of how to give trust, guide and motivate.

     

    Lonneke Jansma

     

    •••

    The colour brown

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    In the late 1990s, I had a silly email conversation with Bob van Dijk, one of the studio's star-designers. Gert found out about this and shortly after I found a handwritten fax saying:

     

    Dear mister Willems,

     

    Today I received a rather unusual email. I love jokes, also poo jokes, but I have never met you in person. By now, your email is shared with everyone in the studio. So now I am facing a problem, although it's not a huge problem. As I also do like the colour brown, I would love to get to know you better before going into depth of this matter.

     

    Yours sincerely, Gert Dumbar.

     

    Not very long after I travelled to The Hague, I met Gert in person, and we had a good laugh about this absurdist conversation.

     

    Henk Willems

     

    •••

    Ballroom blitz

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    It was around 1998. For the coming famous Christmas lunch, Gert had a brilliant, hilarious plan. He would like to surround himself with 'princesses' in ballroom dresses... Of course, that had to be arranged. We went with all the ladies to the Evening Dress rental shop at the Koninginnegracht. Around the corner near the Bankaplein.

     

    Gert was sitting in a small kitschy chair and watched us changing clothes and trying out the most flamboyant, outrageous and extravagant dresses.

    He enjoyed our hysterical robes and the noise what we made. You knew what to expect when you came out of the dressing room, all the laughter and screaming of all the other ladies. The ambience of the showroom on the first floor looked like a Sissi movie with high ceils and too many curtains. Gert sat there and tried to look serious and gave us the right advice. But meanwhile, he couldn't hide his laugh and enjoying face like a godfather. Gert likes to shock his environment...

     

    I don't remember anything about the lunch by itself, but the clothing fit was hilarious and is still in my memory. This is just a small anecdote of a lot of memories I had at Studio Dumbar. Thanks for the fun, learning a lot, drinking wine, dancing, and of course designing at the highest level. Santé! Love.

     

    Miek Walda

     

    •••

    Presentation to the board of directors

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    I was joining Gert for a presentation of the new logo of insurance company Aegon. They were already waiting, in a large elegant conference room in a round table arrangement. Gert introduced himself briefly and placed dozens of sketches on separate A3 sheets on the floor in the middle of the meeting room. Gert asked the gentlemen (there were only gentlemen in suits) to join us on the floor to take a closer look at the sketches. I could see that within a few minutes, Gert turned it into a cheerful affair. The directors shuffled back and forth like small children on their knees to see the sketches. The final design was approved in the same meeting.

     

    Henri Ritzen

     

    •••

    Can I sign with my nose?

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Gert and I paid regular visits to the Dutch Ministry of Justice, and Internal Affairs as the project agency responsible for managing the Dutch National Police force's new identity design was based there. The Dutch police was going through a significant reorganisation in the early 1990s. A new logo and visual identity was part of the transformation.

     

    Often Gert had not yet seen the design implementations we were going to present. He gave a lot of confidence and responsibility to his designers. Gert quickly had a look in the basement parking before stepping into the elevator to the ground floor to check-in.

     

    The same friendly receptionist lady was always there, greeting us. Grey hair that was standing up like candy floss. We had to register; names and purpose of our visit. Every time Gert asked the friendly lady 'Is this really necessary?'. 'Yes, mister Dumbar you have to sing in'. Gert did not like these formalities. And time and time again Gert then replied 'Okay, I will register, but only if I can write my name with my nose'. He then took the pen, was holding it against his nose and filled out the form.

     

    At the end of the project, our last visit Gert bought a bouquet and gave the flowers to the candy floss lady. He got a big smile in return.

     

    Joost Roozekrans

     

    •••

    The trinity symbol

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    After graduating from the academy St. Joost, I came to work for Gert's studio in The Hague. I was far from finished studying. So I decided to continue my study as a Studio Dumbar designer. After more than two years, we more or less agreed to disagree, and I left. I continued my study at Studio Anthon Beeke Amsterdam, and after a short detour to NY, I finished my study at Studio Edelkoort Paris. I was ready to start for myself; Studio Jas was born.

     

    In hindsight, you were my first mentor. Together with Anthon and Lidewij, you made the Trinity. I now realise that you were an important part of that Trinity. Without it, I would never have become the person I am today.

     

    So thanks Gert, thanks for the lessons learned, thanks for being part of my Trinity. Namasté.

     

    Jeroen Jas

     

    •••

    Gert and Zeebelt

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    In 1983 Gert Dumbar and his comrades took over the Scarabee theatre in the Willemstraat in The Hague. After a long meeting in the basement, which involved a lot of drinking, they founded Zeebelt. It proved to be a legendary night, for Zeebelt came to be unique as a multidisciplinary theatre in the Netherlands. It has been Gert's favourite creative playground for many years. Together with his soul-mate photographer, Lex van Pieterson, he created posters with bizarre images for Zeebelt performances, which usually had no relation to the content at all. Also, it often happened that the posters were printed rather late, sometimes even after the performances had been shown. But this was not considered a real problem, since they were exceptionally beautiful and often won design prizes. Next to receiving these, Gert also took it upon himself to initiate a few prizes: the Zeebelt Prize for promising young talent, and also a prize called the Prix-de-P, which had the shape of a gold-painted brick, split lengthwise – which was alternatively labelled as the Paardenlul (i.e. "horse cock"). This was an annual award for the building that most effectively managed to make The Hague more ugly than before.

     

    It is no secret that Gert is a man who likes women. He has always been in awe of his wife, of whom he has had at least four. Admittedly they all look uncannily similar, like identical quadruplets; they are: Leonie, Emilie, Eugenie and, last but not least, Geneviève. However, his interest has not extended itself to all women. They certainly had to meet certain criteria. An important point which interested Gert was whether there was enough inside the blouse. He always had to look into this essential question indirectly, since he dared not really face the music of it himself. Gert not only loves women but has secretly wanted to be one himself. In the, now legendary Zeebelt cult-film production The Titanic -- a biography of the other founder of Zeebelt, Abe van der Werff -- he played an old prostitute with big toilet rolls in her blouse. In addition, in one of the first shows at Zeebelt, he appeared as a stunning prima ballerina with a pink tutu and a live chicken on the head.

     

    During the years we worked at Zeebelt, Gert could barge in at any time, often in a sensitive stage of an artistic process -- always happy to promote loosening up and embracing irrationality. It may have been disruptive, but it worked wonders! Wine helped too, since, besides women, Gert likes his liquor too. After a performance, the visitors used to linger until Gert called out: ladies and gentlemen, free drinks are mandatory. This was very nice, of course, but it almost caused bankruptcy. No worries though, because there was straf- or penalty-sponsoring: a proviso he created for those companies which received commissions via Studio Dumbar. They had to donate a percentage of their profits to Zeebelt, completely voluntarily, as goes without saying.

     

    Hanna Boender & Judith Schoneveld

     

    •••

    Gert's first-ever email

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Gert wrote his first-ever email to the studio to announce that I was going to leave the Dumbar family. It goes like this:

     

    Dear Studio Dumbars,

     

    This is a very nice, a nice and not nice message to all of you.

     

    The not-so-nice message, because that's how it always starts, is that I have to announce on behalf of René Toneman that he will be leaving us on the 1st of January 2002.

    Michel, Henri, Vincent and I regret this especially since René has been with us for such a long time and has more or less grown along with our agency. René is a 'representative product' of St. Joost from the time when the Graphic Design department was still so flourishing. Nevertheless, we wish him a successful future and certainly a lot of fun at Job's wedding in Australia. If I could give him a grade from the Dutch government, he would get an eight from me; I repeat an eight! Many of you will not come close to that any time soon.

     

    The good news is that René is returning from his vacation to celebrate his farewell party (which is also the studio's Christmas dinner) on the 19th of December at 7 p.m. in Café Rotterdam (behind the KPN light wall). General announcement Djoeke's birthday is the 18th.

     

    The really cool news is that this is my first email to and within and for the studio.

    Even more exciting: I am also sending it to Bela with the kind request to translate this email for Tanja.

     

    Warm regards,

    Gert (more girls at the studio)!!!

     

    I often think back to the inspiring years I had with Gert, the studio and all the colleagues and friends I met and worked with. For years I kept it in my email archive as a memory and as an example of how Gert puts his personal spin on occasions like this. But also how difficult it was to let go and say goodbye to such a warm, sincere and quirky family. Thank you Gert!

     

    Rene Toneman

     

    •••

    Ahúm...​

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Indonesia born, Socially curious, Leonie, Royal Academy, Summers in France, Surprise, Classic motorbike collection, Entertainer, Proud, Red or white, Mentor, RCA, Visionary, Small shiny grey-blue eyes, KPN, Zeebelt founder, Alcohol, Professor, Loud laugh, Japan, Tel Design, Engaged, Teacher, Parties, Camp, Anti authority, Laurien, Staff, Gossip, Talentscout, Long hair and bald, Kitty, Design, Peugeot, Riouwstraat, Aegon, Good food lover, Man with charisma, Venice biennale visit, Restaurant, Grey chest hair, Celebrate every day, Papier-mâché, Improvised speeches, PTT, Belly over belt, Ootje, Encouragement, Family, Cultural, Derk, Nineteen-forty, London, Wine, Explore, Shirt, trousers and leather shoes, Bold, Authority, Cheers, Studio trips, The Hague, Jokes, Drinks, Likes sharing, Art, Lick finger and turn page, Provoke, Father figure, Disruptions, Bankaplein, Helvetica hater, Theatrical, Eau de vie by the local farmer, Intuition, Witty, Logo doctor, Look over reading glass, Tabletop photography with Lex, Fun, Handmade dotted tie from Italy, Perspective, Trust, Needs attention, Prix-de-P, Kiss good designs, Inquisitive, Dordogne, Michel, Peanut butter shoe, Daar zou ik het wel op kunnen, Informal, Fad fingers, Thans..., Studio Dumbar, Show man, Inspire, Freedom, Happiness, Dog posing on head, International scope, China, Lets' go for lunch, Police, Inventiveness, Performer, Bar, Influencer, Charming, NS, Storyteller, Creativity, Prague trip, Playful mind, Dutch, St.Joost, Marketing hater, Stylistic sustainability, Presentations, Authentic, Explore, Confidence, Burgundian.

     

    Joost Roozekrans

     

    •••

    Carthago

    Posted January 31, 2021

     

    Gert maintained faithful friendships with quite a few printers. Ando, Rosbeek, Spruijt were amongst his favourites. If ever a mistake was made, they were always forgiven. He didn't bear grudges. This attitude worked. These companies carried out many innovative projects, and they were always willing to push the envelope for us, in performance and in price.

     

    Persuading clients to contract these 'friends' was a habit. It worked often enough but not always. The bigger the client, the more challenging, certainly when a committed print buyer was involved who made us deal with his preferred suppliers. Plantijn was one of those, but that clicked, so in the end, Plantijn became one of the friends. With others, that would never happen. Among the most reviled ones were NijkampNijboer and VanderMost. N&N were specialised in rolling out house-styles at high speed. Their services caused the designers to lose those jobs plus the quality of design was of secondary importance to them. Not the way to make friends with Gert.

     

    VanderMost appeared to be the kind of entrepreneur who takes up anything just for a profit. Printing bulk quantities of envelopes was one of those things. After once meeting the guy Gert loathed him for life. And just like Cato the Roman Senator, whose famous last words were on every occasion: "... furthermore I think that Carthago must be destroyed," Gert would do everything in his power to extinguish the 'enveloppenboer' as he called him.

    Although the 'Dumbar' got his way in many things; not in this one, at the beginning of this century expanding international business forced NijkampNijboer to change their unpronounceable Dutch name to VIM Group. The 'enveloppenboer' somehow managed to acquire the Royal status and are now Royal VanderMost. Life can be unjust.

     

    Kit de Jong

     

    •••

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  • Add your story

    Do you want to join in? Did you also work with Gert? Was he your teacher? Were you a commissioner? Share one or more funny anecdotes with us!

     

    It works like this:

    - Stories are short with one main topic

    - Maximum of 300 words (no longer!)

    - UK English only

    - You are responsible for correct spelling

    - Start with an intriguing title. End with your name

    - No images

    - By participating you approve publication without further notice or claims

    - Email your story to Joost Roozekrans

     

    A big thank you to everyone participating!

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  • Initiators note

    A cocktail of creativity, hard work and parties

    The idea to collect stories about Gert Dumbar started during a conversation between San Francisco and The Hague over a glühwein glass at the end of 2020. We worked for Studio Dumbar in the 1990s and got to know Gert as an inspiring, witty person with pleasant anti-authoritarian quality. A Burgundian that celebrates the day.

     

    Gert very much defined the studio's culture he was heading up in The Hague, the Netherlands, together with his business partners Kitty de Jong and Michel de Boer. A unique studio culture, and a cocktail of creativity, hard work, and parties. Diverse in its population, with talented designers from around the world. Confidence and responsibility were given to young designers and support when needed. Drinks (mostly wine), food, conversations, loud music, parties and studio trips. An exceptional place that many of us will not easily forget.

    Gert also left a trail of inspiration, disruptions and bottles outside the studio, with commissioners, the many students he was teaching and others.

     

    This publication attempts to capture Gert's colourful personality and the unique studio culture in words, put it in an empty bottle, and let it wash up somewhere in the world, for those who were involved, are curious and want to be inspired.

     

    Marc Shillum & Joost Roozekrans

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  • Collector's item book

    A unique limited edition publication (image above) with over seventy stories and anecdotes collected on this website is put together in a hardcover book and signed by Gert Dumbar, with casual wine stains and a key to the secret bar. Thirty-five books were custom made for those who signed up. The first copy was for Gert for his birthday.

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  • Contact

    For questions, remaks or new stories please contact Joost Roozekrans

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    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any other form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owners. Every reasonable attempt has been made to identify owners of the copyright. Any errors or omissions brought to the attention to the publisher's attention will be corrected in subsequent editions.