Brand design agency Design Bridge has created a bright, eye-catching yet resolutely history-focused new campaign for the National Archives of the Netherlands, billed Their past. Our present.”
Design Bridge, which has studios in London, Amsterdam, New York and Singapore, was brought in to the project to mark the opening of the archives’ new major exhibition The world of the Dutch East India Company, and looked to design a campaign that would “capture the public’s imagination by revealing the influence this vital part of national heritage has had on shaping Dutch life today.”
The team initially undertook a lengthy research process, using the archives to garner a more rigorous understanding of the 17th Century trade network established by the Dutch East India Company (VOC as it’s known in Dutch). Underpinning their findings was the impact of the VOC on today’s world: according to Design Bridge, the company was “considered the first multinational corporation in the world and the most valuable corporation in history,” and so the campaign looks to communicate this sense of legacy.
The posters were designed as showing two distinct halves, that “allow the past and present to collide through provocative statements and visuals based on historic facts, often with surprising and striking results,” says Design Bridge.
“One of the more provocative posters is “No business without battle”, which pits the portrait of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, one of the most brutal Governor-Generals of the VOC, against a contemporary suited businessman,” explains Design Bridge executive creative director Claire Parker. “The arresting image suggests that capitalism and business as we know it today is a direct result of the VOC’s often-aggressive dominance of spice trade routes with the East."
Another poster in the series, No Delft without China, highlights that Holland’s Delft pottery tradition was only possible after Chinese ceramic techniques reached Europe via the VOC.
The campaign will be used across all platforms including online, on social media, and on print posters displayed across Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and in train stations.