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Jaap Biemans: Print will be the future of online

Words by: Print Power
Love comes in many different forms. In the case of multiple award-winning art director Jaap Biemans, a passion for magazines has become a career, as well as a lifetime obsession. And he gives short shrift to the idea that paper is on its way out.
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It is often said that you can tell a lot about a person from the space they work in. A quick look around Jaap Biemans’ office at Dutch publisher Volkskrant would suggest a love of magazines, an eye for design and a healthy dose of chaos. On the wall is a gallery of iconic, eye-catching magazine covers from all over the world, the curation of which was clearly a labour of love. In short, it’s pretty much exactly how you’d expect the workplace of one of the leading names in the industry to look like. Biemans comes across as someone who could have been born with a pencil in his hand, but the environment he grew up in would also help form the artist – and person – he has become, he says. “In my youth, drawing was the thing to do. That’s what I did all the time. Basketball and soccer followed when I was eight, but my parents really encouraged free-spirited stuff like drawing, painting and art lessons,” Biemans says. “My dad was a carpenter, he custom made tables, chairs, stairs, now I think he was a very creative person. There’s this line of his that he repeated 1,000 times – ‘Everything in life is possible if you treat others the way you’d like to be treated.’ I cherish that line. My parents always emphasised accepting responsibility and to have a mind of my own. That really builds confidence.”

The sense of confidence instilled in him by his parents would prove to be a great benefit to Biemans as well, not least in the earliest days of his career. Biemans’ roles have changed over the years and he has moved slightly away from graphic design into art directing. He may have changed his ways of working, but the fundamental guiding principles remain the same. “Storytelling is key for magazine designers. Always start with the story, that’s the most important thing. Step two is trying to make connections, metaphors, visually striking approaches. Designing covers is an intuitive way of thinking, a way of observing and questioning the subject. Choosing to avoid or emphasise preconceptions. This creativity is king and perfect for magazines to stand out.”


Biemans’ next plan will take the paper-digital-paper journey full circle. “The first thing now is to publish a book – the cover bible. I asked about 250 creatives, tastemakers from all over the world, what their favourite covers are and compiled them into a top 250. It’s going to be a celebration of creativity but also a historic canon. A great read for students, professionals and people who love magazines. Keep an eye out for it, it’s going to be ace!”

The plan for the book also underlines Biemans’ continued love for print. “Print will be the future of online. I love to turn that around. Enough of the ‘print is dead’ stuff. Who likes the obsessive doom scrolling in their own bubble agreeing with their own opinions?”

The text is an excerpt from article Cover Star, written by Geoff Mortimore, featured in PAPER #4. Images by: Jerome de Lint