"If we only care about our own work
being recognized and exposed,
it will get very chilly and unpleasant
at CREATIVE gatherings."

photo by Bas de Graaf


Joris van Elk on annuals



From 2013 on, Joris van Elk made the last 5 annuals for the ADCN.


The first one together with Floris Hülsmann, 2014 together with
Marcel Kampman, 2015 together with Paul Postma and Jacques Koeweiden, and 2016 together with André Dammers, Bert Teunissen. and 3 academies. He made the final annual by himself, which from
a production perspective was the most difficult annual to realize.


The 2016 annual was the first annual to be launched with an exposition at het Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the final edition was launched in the library of and presented to the Rijksmuseum.

You are the only Dutch creative who has ever made 5 ADCN annuals. What’s up with you and the annuals?


It’s simple: I love the annual. It’s that one magic piece every year that makes our volatile work last forever. But let me get one thing straight: it wasn’t my intention to make 5 annuals in a row. Making an annual isn’t just having a brilliant idea. It’s countless hours of hard labor. The design, the execution, the corrections, the printing process. If you want to do it the right way, it takes at least 250 hours. So we simply couldn’t find anybody anymore who was willing to spend that number of hours for free. But I was convinced we needed an annual. So I did it myself. Along with some brilliant co-creatives.


In my opinion making an annual is not only an honor, it is also giving time and passion to the industry. In the end that will always be rewarded. We are a profession filled with massive egos.  If we only care about our own work being recognized and exposed, it will get very chilly and unpleasant at creative gatherings. We work for the masses and tend to know what is social. So let’s try to socialize a bit more by giving a little more to our own community. And the annual itself? I wanted the tradition to be saved and the work to be exposed within the annual. For me it will always be the book amongst books.



A book that even ended up in Het Stedelijk museum and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.


I have to give Dinesh credits for those ones. As we worked very close on the annuals we challenged each other every day. What can we do next? How can we make this bigger? If you push hard enough you get into a mood where nothing is impossible. So the 2016 annual resulted in a book that was co-created with the 3 major art academies. We asked them their vision on the future of creativity, visualized with hundreds of polaroids that each added a unique piece of art to every cover. All these polaroids were part of the exhibition at het Stedelijk during the vernissage. It gave us the oppertunity to do something spectaculair and the students the abbility to kickstart their carreer with an exposition at one of the moste rewarded musea in the world.



Still you agreed with the decision to stop printing annuals and have all the work exposed in an online platform.


I didn’t agree at all and fought for the annual for months, but in the end the others on the board convinced me. It was a hot topic the moment I finished my first annual. Most people on the board said: ‘This is it; this is the final annual. We go out with a bang, no more ink!’ But this was an ongoing phenomenon. It happened every year. When we started with the last annual, things really changed. The work was getting too diverse and too difficult to be captured by paper and ink. So we asked a lot of members: is there still a need for the annual? And most replied: not in this form. At that point you know you have to call it quits.



So you decided to go out with an annual that is pretty remarkable to say the least.


Yep. You either love it or hate it. But it was a design decision that was well thought-out. And a design that could only work if it would be the prelude to the new platform. Some people considered it a statement. But it isn’t. It’s an idea that is part of our culture and part of the ADCN, which has a lightbulb as its icon. Even the brightest idea will eventually fade to black. For ideas, just like brands, have a lifecycle too. That’s why we decided to have the book fade to black, step by step, page by page. It’s a concept without compromise, executed to perfection. The hardest book to make and the most daring one.



Do you think the ADCN annual will ever be printed again?


Maybe. Who knows? The D&AD kept their annual, although they are by far the most innovative creative club out there. Still, we made a democratic decision, and, if a new annual will ever be made, it will be from the perspective of nostalgia. For now, the platform will do, although I will miss the excitement of the vernissage and having another annual on the shelf.




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