Saturday, November 19, 2011

Henk Krijger: designer of the Trinity Christian College Logo

The Trinity Christian College Symbol was designed by Henk Krijger in ca.1970. Above left: Krijger’s two-color original logo for TCC (courtesy of Peter Enneson). Right: The TCC logo in subsequent years redrawn as a one-color “blue” version.

Today, 19 November, is the anniversary of the birth of Henk Krijger, a Dutch artist and graphic designer. He was born in 1914 and died in 1979 at age 65. [1]

Trinity Christian College is located in the south Chicago suburb of Palos Heights, IL. When Dayton Castleman, a current art professor, came to Trinity he was very enthusiastic about the art of the Trinity logo. The astute Castleman saw the correlation of Krijger’s design with that of minimalist modern art. In 2008, Dayton said this about Trinity’s mark:

Regarding the logo’s uniqueness among Christian colleges, there was a recent college president that apparently disliked the logo, and added a more traditional college seal to the school’s graphic representations, but the three-bar logo is the most common, and seems to be the most easily identifiable with the school… the artist of the logo is unknown… [2]
Here’s part of the story about the origin of the logo from a pretty good authority, Dr. Calvin Seerveld:
Yes, David. Trinity still uses it, and Henk Krijger designed it in 1970-71. There is probably a faculty minute on it. It was not the result of a ‘competition’ for a logo, since Krijger was our art prof (part-time) at the time. [There were efforts] to get others to produce designs (quite cluttered and old-fashioned), but failed to stop what Krijger produced at the faculty request. [3]
The three rectangles within a “classical” golden section square indicates an essence of form that is usually associated with a modernist graphic design 20th century international style. The square format contrasts with the geometric triangle, which is the traditional Trinitarian symbol — perhaps Krijger’s Trinity symbol of the three-in-one concept is more theologically accurate than the triangle configuration. When a logo design has to go through a group and variety of opinions in the selection process, not always is the best design chosen. The uniqueness of Trinity’s mark is the result of great trust in the work of Krijger and the apparent distinctiveness of Trinity’s faculty and students in 1970-71. The Trinity mark is still fresh and memorable even after over forty years of use. That’s remarkable.
  1. de Bree, Jan, ed. Hommage à Senggih: A Retrospective of Henk Krijger in North America. Toronto: Patmos Gallery, the Henk Krijger Estate, 1988. 67. Print.
  2. Castleman, Dayton. “Trinity Logo – Painter Edition.” Dayton is Not in Ohio. n.p., 3 July 2008. Web. 19 Nov. 2011.
  3. Seerveld, Dr. Calvin. “Henk Krijger and the Trinity Christian College Logo,” Message to the author. 11 Nov. 2011. Web.


  1. Great to see this mark celebrated and contextualized.

    To the Brice Marden post-and-lintel etching Dayton Castleman highlights on his 2008 blog entry ( I could add the design for a sculpture that Krijger designed in 1965 for the campanile of a church in Den Haag. See:

    As to its composition, actually the square is just a square. “Golden Section” formatting probably applies more naturally to individual pairs of bars (bars 1 and 2; bars 2 and 3). See my graphic: Each pair of bars is in golden section with itself, making 2 overlapping golden rectangles. This brings the suite of bars into tight formation. They are internally bound together in hidden ways, not just externally related or comfortably juxtaposed.

    Moreover, I like to think of the bars as manual marks, or strokes in a bounded but open field, rather than as just shapes inside a well-defined and articulated frame. Thinking of the bars as strokes strokes in a field or on a surface is consistent with Henk Krijger’s aesthetics, love of writing, appreciation for materiality, and orientation to typography and type design.

    Thinking of the bars as bold, dimensional, successively written strokes, internally bound together in hidden ways also makes the image seem active, inscrutable, stable and alive, like the realities the marks are intended to represent, like the reality the whole is intended to illuminate.

    In these ways the logo becomes true in the sense elaborated in Dordt College alumnus Lambert Zuidervaart’s tightly argued, excellent book Artistic Truth: Aesthetics, Discourse, and Imaginative Disclosure.

    Also of interest is the following news item on the Trinity Christian College website

  2. Thanks very much Peter for the thoughtful comment.

    Regarding the square format of TCC’s logo—perhaps I was also thinking of what Prof. Kenneth J. Hiebert said about the square format in his book, “Graphic Design Processes.” Hiebert states on page 78, “…the square is the most basic and universal format, against which image dynamics are most effectively contrasted.”

  3. Absolutely!

    The perfect square and the golden section have an interesting relationship as Robert Bringhurst points out in Elements of Typographic Style. “Each time a square is subtracted from a golden section, a new golden section remains. If two overlapping squares are formed within a golden section rectangle,two smaller rectangles of golden-section proportions are created, along with a narrow column whose proportions are [...] the Extended Section.”

    This is not to say Krijger worked this out in designing the logo, but part of his explicit aesthetic is mindfulness of the rules / laws / principles of design and proportion.

  4. I had to find out exactly what a ‘golden section square’ is (see David Versluis’s original post). Using google I found that a golden section square is the square formed by the golden section lines of a perfect square. See:

    The golden section lines are found by inscribing 2 vertical golden rectangles within the square, one flush to the left side, one to the right, and also inscribing 2 horizontal golden rectangles within the square, one flush to the top, the other to the bottom.

    There are two golden section squares in the TCC mark: one formed by inscribing the golden rectangles in the logo's ‘bounding’ square; the other formed by choosing the square formed by just the bars as a group and inscribing golden rectangles in that unit. You'll see what this reveals!

  5. Krijger’s intuitive approach to design or the constructional aspect in his artwork implies a notional grid. However, I was hesitant to discuss the TCC symbol as suggestive of the golden section until I read Peter Enneson’s essay in the anthology titled, “Pledges of Jubilee: Essays on the Arts and Culture, in Honor of Calvin G. Seerveld.” Enneson’s essay is a very insightful analysis of Krijger’s "The Survivors" from 1972. In Peter's essay he states, “It [the second panel in the composition] is placed squarely across the golden mean of a golden section.” 238.

  6. Notional grid -- nice! I also agree with ‘intuitive approach.’ But now I see better where you’re coming from with your golden section square comment!

    That leads to this:
    Note the conventional suggestion of the trinity that arises from step 2 of the instructions for construction of the golden rectangle.
    I can almost see Henk Krijger drawing a square, inscribing a golden section radius based triangle in it, and then hanging a more conventional equilateral trangle from that, then making a stroke inside the combination of the triangles with a stiff wide brush, followed by one on either side.

    This makes the gestural action not from left to right but from the centre out.

    I can’t say this is how it was done, but it does show how the mark can be thought of as transformative.

  7. Creation Story
    1) HK is asked by students to design a ring based on his love of jewellery.
    2) He is thinking: three visual elements one totality.
    3) Somehow this puts him back into the creation of the Raffia Initials. Three strands.
    4) The numeral 1.
    5) Henk takes his broad stiff brush, dips it in black wash and writes three times the numeral 1 in parallel adjacent strokes. They seem to coalesce into a square. He likes where this is going
    6) Now he starts to 'work' the image (dutch: doorwerken; Hubert Damish [Huit thèses pour (ou contre ?) une semiologie de la peinture]: "le travail du signifiant"). Henk draws a largish square; considers conventional representations of the Trinity; draws in a triangle based on a golden section radius. See: from the comment just above. Draws in another triangle, this time equilateral, but hanging from the same point. He spots in this complex a position for his marks. Starts with the middle one; works out to the other two.

    Like all creation stories: a shot in the dark.

  8. Peter,

    Your lyrical comment, above, sounds plausible — very interesting / fascinating research.

    From your study it seems that Henk Krijger was inventive (playful) with the notion of the "classical" golden section and not dogmatic about it. Obviously, you are taking the TCC mark to esoteric levels, but it's worth the effort I think.

  9. Thanks David, but you started it. I was only trying to get inside the thing. Your “classical” golden section square comment gave me a place to start.


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