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Unlocking the Alphabet
The Genesis of Rob Stolte's Journey

Language: it's a system of general agreements that govern our interactions, aimed at avoiding failures and misunderstandings. Yet, what happens when the intricacies of sentence structures seem nonsensical, and the codes leave you lost in a maze of formal rules? For Rob Stolte, a visual artist with a unique perspective, the answer lies in the very foundation of our linguistic world: letters.

Discovering Letters as Art

Language is our most fundamental form of expression. It's a set of agreements that keep our world in order, a system we take for granted every day. But what if those agreements are a labyrinth of confusion for some? This was the reality for Rob Stolte, who, from an early age, struggled with spelling and writing. His primary school years were marked by teachers who labeled him a "lazy student," failing to see the challenges he faced in grasping the intricacies of formal language.


Stolte's notebook from school, 1990

However, what he lacked in formal literacy skills, he made up for in drawing. Offering an easier way to communicate his thoughts and feelings, it became his chosen form of expression. It was during his formative years that his interests in skateboarding and graffiti started to intertwine, sparking a fascination with spatial typography. In a world where formal texts failed him, the street became his canvas, offering a far more natural medium of expression. After completing the MAVO and the Graphic Lyceum, the opportunity arose to study at the art academy. During this period, Stolte, together with others, founded international award-winning graphic design studio Autobahn.

Re-imagining the social significance of letters

But Stolte's journey wasn't limited to the thrill of creating visually arresting designs for clients. His quest took him on a deep dive into the historical origin of letters, uncovering the fascinating fact that these seemingly mundane symbols are, in fact, abstractions of 4000-year-old drawings. These drawings were more than just symbols; they held a profound significance, representing crucial objects deeply embedded in their social context. Armed with this newfound knowledge, Stolte saw an opportunity to transform his weakness into a formidable strength, utilizing letters in a way that was more tangible and impactful.

Over time, the shapes of letters gradually lost their original meanings. As reading skills waned, our culture became increasingly enamored with visuals over letters, and the digital revolution ushered in an era of heightened sensory deprivation. In this shifting landscape, Rob Stolte couldn't help but wonder: Could our seemingly meaningless letterforms regain the social significance they once held?



Development of the Latin alphabet

Stolte's artistic exploration revolves around a profound examination of letters, language, and communication in the modern world. What sets him apart is his unrelenting curiosity about the psychological aspects of this process. Through a plethora of materials and tactile experiences, he endeavors to stimulate not just the visual sense but the entire spectrum of human senses and intellect. He pushes the boundaries of literacy, creating multimodal information experiences that distance the user from existing associations and open doors to the rediscovery of communicative forms through play and exploration.


A is for Ox workshop, 2018

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