the holland festival code

thonik translates online to real life

This is the third edition to be shaped by Amsterdam­ based design collective thonik and Holland Festival, which is now celebrating its 70th anniversary. But neither party wished to take a safe or retrospective approach to this year’s visual voice of Holland’s most important cultural event. “Compared to metropolises like London or New York, Amsterdam is just a village, but thanks to HF it feels grand and happening. We are happy to contribute in our own way to that feeling of greatness,” says Nikki Gonnissen (the woman who puts the ‘nik’ in thonik). “This year’s theme of democracy is also right up our alley. I think what links HF and thonik in a very essential way is that we both feel that culture is needed to guide social and technological changes.”


In collaboration with Ruth Mackenzie, artistic director of Holland Festival and Norbert Bode, marketing manager of Holland Festival, thonik has pulled out all the stops. “We took a radical approach by using a digital code and taking our inspiration from the online world instead of the other way around. Normally you would make a design and then translate it to both print and digital – we decided to break that habit and use code as a resource.”

The code is an idea by Falco van Burg – one of thonik’s designers – and transforms a website URL into a color spectrum that not only looks like a fluid, breathing thing, but actually is. All aspects of Holland Festival’s identity are created in line with code. The website translates all information into a marbling of color, but this process represented a challenge as well. Due to the inversion between print and digital, thonik was left with low resolution images, typical for the online environment. Research showed that by zooming in on the spectrum it was possible to extract stills that were both beautiful and decorative and to translate these into print. “The code works like a machine that makes particles of data – a hugely democratic process that fits right into the theme. It links colors together the way people are linked together in a democracy.”


“Holland Festival has a tradition of innovation, putting culture front and centre. Not only by providing a platform for the pinnacle of international performing arts but also by using culture as a way to communicate with their visitors. For 70 years they have used amazing graphic design to create culture.”

Ruth Mackenzie, artistic director of Holland Festival: “We love the way thonik, like the Holland Festival artists, invents new ways of empowering and exciting our audience – this year from digital interactions to a tram!”

Holland Festival 3 – 25 June 2017
For more information visit their website:
Due to the novel nature of thonik’s graphic design for Holland Festival 2017 the posters will be displayed on digital screens in stead of traditional billboards.


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