Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dordt Alumni in Design: Paul Ten Haken

My post-Dordt journey started in 2000 after graduating with a graphic design degree. I moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and worked for two dot-com startups right out of the gate. Two years and two failed ventures later, I had learned some valuable lessons about life, business ethics, and how to unsuccessfully run a small business.

I took a job with an interactive development shop called Electric Pulp as a project manager and absolutely loved it. It was here that I decided the online space was my ideal fit. I ended up getting my MBA realizing that I was moving away from design and more into the “business” of marketing. It was also during that time I moved into the healthcare marketing field, anxious for the opportunity to combine online/offline strategy into a cohesive effort.

After spending three years at Sanford Health managing their online efforts, I realized there was a significant lack of knowledge in the marketplace on how businesses could effectively utilize the web. A gaping void existed in our marketplace for an online strategy firm. After much prayer and consideration, I started Click Rain, Inc. — an online marketing firm – and have never looked back.
Click Rain helps organizations understand digital strategies and how to properly apply them to their core business. We like to say we help businesses market smarter. Traditional media is dying a slow death. That’s not a biased statement from an online marketing guy… it’s fact. Unfortunately, many businesses are slow to respond to this technographic shift. Our services – things like web development, search engine marketing, social media strategies, email, and mobile technologies – provide tangible ROI that demonstrate the value of a polished online game. That sounds really “salesy”, I suppose. But that’s what makes online marketing so great – the trackable, traceable nature of it.

Click Rain does a lot of work in the political arena and is currently entrenched in several heated races for 2010, including a U.S. Senate race in Kentucky that is getting national attention. We’re also doing work in financial services, healthcare, and hospitality, to name a few. You can view some of our client work here.

While my graphic design chops are pretty rusty, I do break them out on occasion when duty calls. I designed the Click Rain identity, but have since relied on the much more talented design skills of my team for our interactive design work. My day is spent more on the operations of a small business, business development functions, and managing the online strategies for our larger client accounts.

While I wasn’t sure where my graphic design degree would take me in 2000, I am thankful to have a design background when dealing with my staff and clients. I am also appreciative of the moral base instilled during my time at Dordt, which has helped me through some difficult business choices and created the foundation for my decision-making framework today.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The time I asked Jay Doblin a question.

Mr. Jay Doblin was a professor at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and served as director of the Institute of Design for many years. One of his writings can be found in Dordt’s library, a book titled Perspective: A New System for Designers, published in 1955, fifth printing 1966.

Permit me tell you about the time I had the privilege to speak briefly with renowned industrial designer Jay Doblin (1920-1989). In 1983, the Society of Typographic Arts (STA) sponsored a conference, in Chicago, for design educators at the Illinois Institute of Technology and held in S.R. Crown Hall. On a superb October Saturday the conference was like a garden party with an impressive guest list of Who’s Who in design education. Sectional facilitators included Katherine McCoy, Gordon Salchow, Victor Margolin, Patrick Whitney, Dale Fahnstrom, and Michael McCoy. Conference attendance was not large and it was a small gathering for each breakout session. Jay Doblin, a dean of design educators, was the keynote speaker.

Doblin encouraged the audience to think of design education as fostering cultural transformation. He supported his thesis with a case history and discussion of the work of architect Ben Thompson. As he spoke he seemed to assume that we all knew who Ben Thompson was. Later, I was able to meet Doblin and I asked the question, “Who is Ben Thompson?” Doblin seemed embarrassed that I asked the question and went on to describe Thompson as a friend.

Thompson passed away in 2002 at the age of 84. And as stated in his obituary:
Benjamin C. Thompson, an architect whose exuberant re-creation of Faneuil Hall in Boston inspired festival marketplaces around the country and whose Design Research International stores have influenced home furnishings to this day. Conventional boundaries were not part of Mr. Thompson’s practice, for he was just as much an advocate as an architect of vital cities, human commerce, lively design and good eating.

‘For art to be part of our life we must live with it, not just go to museums,’ Mr. Thompson said in a 1963 interview in The New Yorker. ‘In a way, things like museums and Lincoln Center kill art and music. Art is not for particular people but should be in everything you do—in cooking and, God knows, in the bread on the table, in the way everything is done.’

‘It was food, it was the culture of food, it was the design of objects that surround us in our daily lives and the buildings that sold them,’ the architect Moshe Safdie said about Mr. Thompson’s career. ‘It was an extraordinary celebration of design, life, urbanism and all the things we tend to take for granted now. He was one of the forces that changed America in that respect.’ From
In 1966 Thompson’s essay, “Visual Squalor and Social Disorder,” advocated for an urban architecture that would promote joy and social life.

Thompson’s essay made me think about urban architecture from a Christian perspective of common grace. That is to say, creative designers can be the miracle workers, finding holy-spirited solutions to societal problems. Christian graphic design students and design practitioners need to ask this question: “How does my work help grow the kingdom of God?” In response, we can begin this work by cultivating a creative attitude in the community of Jesus Christ. As philosopher, Nicholas Wolterstroff eloquently puts it:
The task in history of the people of God, the church, the followers of Jesus Christ, is, in the first place, to witness to God’s work of renewal to the coming of His Kingdom. Its task is, secondly, to work to bring about renewal by serving all people everywhere in all dimensions of their existence, working for the abolition of evil and joylessness and for the incursion into human life of righteousness and shalom. Thirdly, it is called to give evidence in its own existence of the new life, the true, authentic life—to give evidence in its own existence of what a political structure without oppression would look like, to give evidence in its own existence of what scholarship devoid of jealous competition would look like, to give evidence of what a human community that transcends while yet incorporating national diversity would be like, to give evidence in its own existence of what an art that unites rather than divides and of what surroundings of aesthetic joy rather than aesthetic squalor would be like, to give evidence in its own existence of how God is rightly worshipped. And then lastly it is called to urge all men [people] everywhere to repent and believe and join this people of God in the world.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas P. Art in Action. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980. 197.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Cathie Bleck: artist | illustrator

Cathie Bleck’s “painting” titled Nature’s Myth (30 in. x 20 in., inks and clay on masonite) was commissioned for the U.S.A. Earth Day Poster 2007. This piece is also featured in Illustration Now! 3, which was published by Taschen last fall, 2009. Her work is found on pages 16-17 and 56-59.

A couple of weeks ago artist Cathie Bleck, kindly, posted a comment on our piece about Carl Regehr. Her comment referenced Milton Glaser while she reminisced fondly about Regehr as an exceptional teacher. Her blog is titled, The Artwork and inspirations of Artist Cathie Bleck. And in May 2009, she posted her interview with Milton Glaser for Communication Arts Magazine. The interview is very interesting and insightful.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tonya Harpenau: a follow-up

Still photography sequence is courtesy of Paul Hanaoka.

Graphic design entrepreneur Tonya Harpenau of Dezign Lines, which is based in Le Mars, Iowa, was the Dordt College AIGA student group’s first guest presenter of 2010. On Thursday evening, January 21, fifteen people came to Tonya’s presentation where her energy and enthusiasm for graphic design was very apparent.

Ms. Harpenau began by first "breaking the ice" with the group by handing out mini candy bars. And from there showed and passed around to the audience actual printed examples from her portfolio. It was absolutely delightful to see an early work sample of hand drawn “comps” and multi-layered mechanical boards with cut amberlith film for color separations. Tonya then proceeded to discuss transition into digital graphic design, art direction, and her personal vocational path. She was insightful when she conveyed what it's like to work for a variety of clients and being self-employed in Northwest Iowa.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Did “Booster” foreshadow airport security scanners?

Robert Rauschenberg’s “Booster” from the “Booster and Seven Studies” – 1967, color lithograph and screenprint; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, (1970). Image is from the website. (In this fine website, the history of design is highlighted with seminal artifacts with explanatory captions.)

The U.S. Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA) has started using whole-body imaging technology. Did artist Rauschenberg’s life-size lithographic print, Booster, foreshadow the new airport security scanners? Did he have a prophetic eye?

Apparently, after the X-rays were taken, Rauschenberg’s doctor told him, “I hope you don't get sick from all this radiation”.
One of the most successful of Rauschenberg’s collaborations has been with the Gemini GEL print workshop – a printmaking partnership that permanently changed the terrain of American printmaking. The artist’s highly experimental approach to print processes comes to the fore in the colour lithograph and screenprint Booster, created in 1967. For Booster, Rauschenberg decided to use a life-sized X-ray portrait of himself combined with an astrological chart, magazine images of athletes, the image of a chair and the images of two power drills. Printer Kenneth Tyler was a masterful facilitator for Rauschenberg’s ambitious project and the collaboration radically altered the aesthetic possibilities of planographic printmaking. Rauschenberg and Tyler pushed beyond what had previously been done by combining lithography and screenprinting in a new type of ‘hybrid’ print. The rules governing the size of lithographic printmaking were also ignored, and at the time of its creation Booster stood as the largest and most technically sophisticated print ever produced. Today, Booster remains one of the most significant prints of the twentieth century, a watershed that catapulted printmaking into a new era of experimentation.

Text taken from the National Gallery of Australia website.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Tonya Harpenau: guest designer

Tonya Harpenau, graphic designer, will be presenting her work this Thursday, 21 January at 7 pm. in room CL 1223. Tonya is owner of DeZign Lines in Le Mars, Iowa. Her clients include: AG Partners, Burgess Health Center, Plymouth Ice Cream Company, and others. All are invited to attend.

Burgess Health Center

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Friday, January 15, 2010

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within

For some time, I've appreciated the work and insights of Edward R. Tufte and one of his books is in my library entitled, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Dordt’s library has a copy… check it out. The book was required reading for one of my OEM clients in the 1990s.

Last semester, when we were implementing the Iowa e-Health Identity Project the design principals discussed whether or not to present to the IDPH panel with PowerPoint or with art mounted to large presentation boards. In the ensuing discussion about the pro and con of PowerPoint the decision was made to use the traditional black boards for the presentation (Madman style), which was a decision that turned out to be very beneficial. Anyway, I thought about Tufte’s, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within.

Someone wrote this about the book:

“In corporate and government bureaucracies, the standard method for making a presentation is to talk about a list of points organized onto slides projected up on the wall. For many years, overhead projectors lit up transparencies, and slide projectors showed high-resolution 35mm slides. Now “slideware” computer programs for presentations are nearly everywhere. Early in the 21st century, several hundred million copies of Microsoft PowerPoint were turning out trillions of slides each year.

Alas, slideware often reduces the analytical quality of presentations. In particular, the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis. What is the problem with PowerPoint? And how can we improve our presentations?”

For more about PowerPoint, here’s a sample from the essay:

PowerPoint Does Rocket Science—and Better Techniques for Technical Reports

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Thursday, January 14, 2010


Dear David Marc Versluis,

I found your contact information through the Student Groups section on the AIGA website and I would like to tell you about a non-profit student competition. Please find enclosed a PDF (and a teaser-image) for the call for entries of :output - the competition for students in design and architecture.

I would be very happy if you could help us to spread the word and make this information accessible by forwarding the attached pdf to the student body at your school. Especially since this year we will once again be presenting the :output Grand Prix for the best project of the year with a scholarship of 3.000 Euro (about $4,300 dollars).

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. To find more information, please visit

With best regards and thanks for your help,

Erica Gibson


Works carried out by students usually disappear into
drawers after presentation to a relatively small college audience.
There the work remains invisible.

We want to change that.

:output is the biggest international competition for students in design and architecture.
The works selected by the jury will be published in the yearbook :output.

:output Grand Prix: 3.000 Euro

Deadline for submissions: February 15 2010

> Juliette Bellocq (graphic design | USA)
> Elio Caccavale (product design | I/UK)
> Kate Moross (graphic design | UK)
> Florian Pfeffer (:output foundation | NL/GER)
> N.N. (architecture)

More information:

Florian Pfeffer

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

delightful harmony

For many years, designer Rick Valicenti has observed that graphic design has become commoditized. Valicenti is referring to industry’s perceptions that the main purpose or value of graphic design is to help sell products and that raw materials should be bought and sold at the lowest price possible. The term commodity in this context, obviously, has negative connotations among designers who resist seeing the importance of their work and art devalued or reduced to mundane commercial products.

In contrast, as a Christian graphic designer, I posit the Reformed view—which we think of art and design as an act of transformation and God-glorifying stewardship. This means, among other things, that we begin to view the word commodity differently. The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines commodity as “something (product or service) that people need and value and find useful” and, I would add, ecologically sustainable. Christian graphic design students, just like many other design school graduates, will very likely continue designing marketing materials used to sell products or services.

As they do so, Christian students, more than ever, need the ability to analyze how commodities (products or services) influence and shape graphic design—they need to develop a Christian perspective that sees how design and commodities can honor the compassionate rule of Jesus Christ. One way, to re-think commodity, according to architect Charlie Lazor of Blu Dot, is to value commodity as art and design that creates real human emotional responses such as delight and hospitality. Delight in this perspective could be thought of as delightful “harmony” and a normative design principle. In addition, other normative principles for graphic design include responsible technology and service, openness and communication, stewardship, justice, mutual caring, respect, community spirit, and trust. These principles should be our design brief, criterion, and incentives as Christian graphic designers.

What is the meaning of “harmony”?

“Harmony” is that spark found in a work of art or design, which makes it lively. In this case, harmony is not used in the technical sense, as in music. According to art historian, H.R. Rookmaaker, Dr. Herman Dooyeweerd said that harmony was at the heart of the aesthetic modality. In other words, “‘harmony’ is the very specific idea of the sense of beauty, ‘regulated’ by the aesthetic modality”. Rookmaaker further explains, “Every work of art can be analyzed, but, after everything has been said and seen, there is still left something that defies definition and it’s precisely that that makes it a work of art. It’s that “it” which seems to defy analysis… that “it” is what you may call the harmony”.

Blu Dot Real Good Experiment from Real Good Chair on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

the space between

figure 180

In Design Observer, last fall, Michael Bierut posted a piece titled The Figure/Ground Relationship and it made me think about Rudolf Arnheim. The piece hit home because of the amount of important class time I’ve given to students about the relevance of the in-between spaces.

I’d also like to credit, Professor Roy Behrens for piquing my interest in Arnhiem. Thanks also to Paul Hanaoka for his “inkblot” animated short completed in the motion graphics class last spring.

The following is one of Arnheim’s insights:
Painters take care to verify the shape of interstices by forcing their eyes to reverse the spontaneous figure-ground effect. This requires training, because the naïve observer sees such areas as shapeless parts of the underlying ground. He pays no attention to them, and finds it difficult and unnatural to do so. When individuals being tested were asked to copy the pattern of Figure 180 as accurately as possible, many reproduced the shape and size of the crosses and squares quite well but entirely neglected the fact that the inner edges of the squares lie on the same lines as the outer edges of the crosses. The relations were not seen as a part of a pattern. Even in the Rorschach ink blots, in which figure-ground reversal is facilitated by structural ambiguity, positive use of the interstices is said to suggest a diagnosis of negativism, stubbornness, doubt, suspiciousness, or even paranoid trends. The artist controls such areas in order to assure the unity of the work on the frontal plane and also to enhance the subtle interplay between the positive figures and the negative, half-hidden shapes, which, within their limits, contribute to the expression of the total composition.

Passage from the chapter on “Space” in Art and Visual Perception, a Psychology of the Creative Eye. Pages 190–192. Arnheim, Rudolf. Art and Visual Perception. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1954 / Fourth Printing 1964.

animation courtesy of Paul Hanaoka

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dordt Alumni in Design: Laryn Kragt Bakker

I graduated from Dordt in 1998, double majoring in art (graphic design) and computer science. I am currently Senior Designer at CEDC (The Center for Educational Design and Communication), based in Washington D.C., and I’ve been on the team here since 2003. Our tagline is “Social Justice by Design” because we are a non-profit that serves other non-profits in a number of ways, including through communications services such as web development, print design and logo/identity work.

The web was still quite new while I was a student, and the fields of graphic design and computer science didn’t cross in the classroom except in independent study. Since then, developments in the online world have exploded and there are a lot more ways to integrate the two.

I am an open source enthusiast, and over the last seven years I have expanded our web toolbox to include two robust and powerful content management systems (Drupal and Joomla). This allows us to design and build websites for our partners and give them easy access to add and edit their own content without having to deal with (and potentially mess up) the design of the site.

We also work on logo development and print design with our partners, creating everything from annual reports and brochures to posters and newspaper advertisements. One of the benefits of working for a small organization is that I generally get to be involved in the projects from start to finish, from the initial meetings with our partners through concept development, design and completion.

I also do some personal projects and some freelance design for entities that don’t fall under CEDC’s mission. I recently painted an original illustration for the cover and designed the cover and interior for my novel (Clutching Dust and Stars), which was recently published by *culture is not optional.

When you design, you have been hired to communicate something specific; you aren’t just creating art for art’s sake. I remember leaving Dordt with my degree in hand and being unsure where it would take me since I had no desire to head off to a traditional design firm and hawk Coca Cola or SUVs. I wanted to be sure that my energy was being spent and my skills being used in ways that were beneficial to others. I am grateful to have landed at CEDC and to be able to partner with such a variety of groups that are doing important work in areas of social justice, advocacy and education.

See the images below for a few examples of projects I’ve designed (and developed, in the case of websites). Click the images to go to a more detailed description of the project.

Clutching Dust and Stars. The cover of my novel, recently published by *culture is not optional, with an original illustration and design. Hello, Kiddies. A “Hello Kitty” parody advertisement for which ran full page in all editions of the Financial Times worldwide to call out the leaders who are blocking progress on the climate change issue.

Education for Justice. A member-based website with lesson plans and educational resources about Catholic Social Teaching.

CLINIC Legal. A member-based website designed to enhance and expand delivery of legal services to indigent and low-income immigrants. Our own website, which had been badly in need of redesign. I rebuilt it with a more colorful palette to represent the diversity of our partners and our projects. I also focused on Search Engine Optimization and we have definitely noticed an increase in our web traffic and digital inquiries.

*Laryn Kragt Bakker graduated from Dordt in 1998. He can be found online in a variety of places: his personal design site, his work blog, his informal blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Otl Aicher and Inge Scholl-Aicher: developers of modern design

Otl Aicher was a principal team member that developed the Rotis® font family in the late 1980s.

We’ve just finished watching Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005) a film directed by Marc Rothemund and written by Fred Breinersdorfer (Zeitgeist Films). Although not the primary theme, the drama conveys characters that express, profoundly, a religious faith and life from a Christian perspective. For instance, Mrs. Scholl, Sophie’s mother, at the end of the trial reminds her that it’s about Jesus. In addition, the scene during the interrogation process, mentions the name of Otl (Otto) Aicher who, after World War II, became renowned as a very influential German graphic designer and husband of Inge Scholl, Sophie’s older sister.

Otl Aicher and Inge Scholl-Aicher, a husband-and-wife team, were instrumental founders, along with Max Bill, of the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm (HfG). The institution was linked, in spirit, to the educational philosophy of the Bauhaus. An interesting local connection is that one of the students from the HfG program, Peter Seitz, practiced design in the Twin Cities for many years; you can read more about him here and here.

The book, Ulm Design, The Morality of Objects, Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm 1953–1968, (edited by Herbert Lindinger, MIT Press, 1991) gives these biographies:
Inge Aicher
Neé Scholl, born in Ingersheim (Württenberg), 1917 [died in 1998 in the Allgäu]. After graduating from girls’ high school in Ulm, where her father was in private practice as an accountant, she trained in her father’s office as an assistant auditor. In her spare time she pursued an interest in music, art, literature, and—especially—philosophy and music, in the company of a group of friends and her brother and sister, Hans and Sophie. An initial enthusiasm for the Hitler Youth turned to a strong dislike.
The decisive event in her life was the fate of Hans and Sophie, who joined the White Rose student group in Munich in active resistance against the Nazi regime and were sentenced to death and executed in February 1943. With the rest of her family, Inge was held by the Gestapo for several months, and her youngest brother, who had been drafted to the Eastern Front, was shortly afterward posted missing.
In Ulm, after the end of the Nazi regime she founded the Volkshochschule, in the Martin-Luther-Kirche, as one of the first colleges in postwar Germany for adult education, in the conviction that democracy had no strong basis unless the citizens were basically well informed. She ran the Ulm Volkshochschule from 1946 through 1974.
In the late 1940s, building on her experience of working in adult education in a devastated city, Inge Scholl began to work with Otl Aicher and a number of friends, including Max Bill and Hans Werner Richter, toward the foundation of a Hochschule für Gestaltung (the Ulm School of Design). As the person responsible for this independent, privately run college, she set up the Scholl Foundation in memory of her siblings. The United States High Commissioner, John J. McCloy was impressed enough by her energy and sense of purpose to promise her a million marks on the condition that she match that sum from German sources.
The following quote is from Inge Scholl’s briefing papers for her interview with McCloy, 1950: “The young intellectuals of West Germany, who feel themselves responsible for the age in which they live and want to assume that responsibility—a numerically small group, but one that is important for he whole—will have a decisive influence for good or ill on the spiritual, economic, and political future.

Here the College sees a great task to be accomplished. It intends to be a point of crystallization for a younger generation of thinking people who now lack a precise goal, or who can see no way to achieve the goals they have, and to assume their responsibility in practical terms.”

In 1952 she married graphic designer Otl Aicher. That same year she published the book the White Rose about her siblings, Hans and Sophie, and the Munich resistance group to which they belonged.

In 1972 the family moved to Rotis in the Allgäu. Since 1978, Inge Aicher-Scholl has been active in the peace movement and supported the Easter March movement. In 1985 she was arrested for protesting and blocking the American military depot in Mutlangen.

Otl Aicher
Born Ulm, 1922 [died in 1991]. In 1946 he began studying sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Started his own graphic design studio in Ulm in 1947, in Munich in 1967, and at Rotis in the Allgäu in 1972. He grew to be skeptical of the Nazi Regime. He was a school friend of Werner Scholl, from autumn 1939 he came into closer contact with his brothers and sisters, there developed a friendship with the Scholl siblings. He tried to align his life by the standards of St. Augustine (Christian faith as a basis of knowledge). He refused to join the Hitler Youth and continually resisted conscription into the German army during the War.

Aicher’s work greatly influenced on the appearance of West Germany after the War and advocated the precise optical appearance and coherence and of German design and German companies in postwar restoration.

An initiator and founding member of the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG Ulm). In 1954–66, instructor in the department of visual communication. In 1956–59, Co-Rector. In 1962–64, Rector. He was a guest lecturer at Yale and in Rio de Janeiro.

Aicher is one of the pioneers of modern corporate design and developed graphic identities for firms such as Braun Electric and Lufthansa. From 1967 to 1972 he was in charge of design for the 1972 Munich Summer Olympic Games, for which he developed the internationally widespread system of pictograms. He founded, in 1984, the Institute for Analog Studies, Rotis and helped develop the Rotis®–font family

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