"Don’t let your creativity

be limited by your profession,

let it be limited

by your own capacity."

photo by Bas de Graaf


Joris van Elk on design



Together with Paul Postma and Jacques Koeweiden, Joris van Elk

has been responsible for the redesign of the ADCN identity

and has been asked to do a lot of (re)designs on several corporate identities.


After having won the Dutch Design Award he has been asked to join several (inter)national design juries to share his perspective on design

in a broader context.


In 2019 Joris did the redesign of D'66, one of the biggest political parties in the Netherlands. What started as a revision of the digital content, ended up in a total rebranding and communicationcampaign for years to come.

What’s the similarity between design and advertising from a creative perspective?


They both start by thinking things over thoroughly instead of acting blindfolded. Dig into your subject like a hungry wolf and hunt for that one unique idea that can be executed in a leading concept or a visual translation. Within design as well as advertising you try to get to that certain point where your unconsciousness takes over and overrules ratio. That’s where the exciting stuff happens. And that mindset can expose itself in shapes, forms, patterns, concepts, headings, visuals or any other form related to communication. It’s the balance between uncontrolled freedom and plain common sense.



And what’s the difference?


I think people who are more into design are a bit more extraordinary and carry a little bit more intellectual weight, probably because their field of interest is the art, while the best advertising creatives have the knowledge to make something complex very simple. To accomplish this, you need to have both feet solid on the ground. I have to admit when it comes to judging at festivals for example, I really like to be in the design juries. The level of discussion is extremely high while the egos are less big. There’s not that much pushing and pulling and a lot less politics, which I think is a blessing. Advertising people can be more fun, but in the end they will always do things from their perspective, while design people tend to look at the work a little more.



So you would rather be active in design than in advertising?


Nope. I prefer the mix. Best of both worlds. And I see a lot more creatives looking for that balance between 2 professions more and more. It’s a certain freedom you can obtain at a certain level in your career. Don’t let your creativity be limited by your profession, but let it be limited by your capabilities. Just make sure you are good at what you are doing and contribute to what is needed out there.



And what is needed out there?


When it comes to advertising you need a certain flexibility. The concept for a brand that’s invented today will be executed in unknown media tomorrow. So you need to adjust yourself to that constant movement and shifting within today’s society.

Good design doesn’t need that. It needs to be distinguished and aesthetic in such a way that it will stand the test of time. The stuff David Carson did in the 90s is still considered very beautiful and outstanding today. That’s what good design does. It’s always progressive and yet timeless.



David Carson seems to be one of your all-time favorites, while your work shows no resemblance at all. How come?


The moment you start to copy your heroes is the moment you lose your own creativity.

Of course you can be inspired by designs or other people’s creativity, but if the work is outstanding and unique, one can show true respect by keeping it unique.



Working in advertising won’t last forever, while designers seem to have a longer career. Is that also a reason you tend to move over to design?


It’s a comforting thought that design will offer me as a creative the ability to do what I really like to do for many more years to come, but it hasn’t been a reason for me to focus on design more. I’ve always loved design and especially the power of clean typography. I think it has to do with my first love, which was music, and the design of all the band logos and the covers that were made for vinyl in that era. Holding a cover of Outlandos d’Amour by The Police, looking at the simple design of those three faces staring directly at you with that limited color effect and that slightly rotated logo, while listening to that impressive music made a magical connection that is hard to describe. And I’ve always loved the most simple, yet most outspoken design the best. Jazz by Queen; Alladin Sane by Bowie; Kill ’m All by Metallica. Graphic masterpieces that are imprinted in the minds of generations. That’s the true power of design.



So: design or advertising?


For me that’s a Sophie’s choice. So I’ll stick to both as long as I can.



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