Funfunfun of the Autobahn

Autobahn is named after the fictitious band in the movie ‘The Big Lebowski’. During their study, Jeroen Breen, Maarten Dullemeijer, and Rob Stolte started a band but soon decided that they’d better stick to designing.


The project that had the most influence on their design thinking after they graduated from the School of the Arts Utrecht (HKU) in 2005 was Freshfonts. Autobahn was invited to attend to a Pecha Kucha night. Pecha Kucha is a presentation format where young designers show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. Autobahn decided not to give a portfolio presentation but to use the opportunity to start a new project. The idea was to use gravity to generate fonts that would be less and less readable. The result was a series of experimental type made with toothpaste, tomato ketchup, and hair gel. The project turned into a bigger success than was foreseen but most important: their slumbering love for typography was awakened and fueled with a new mentality.


In 2008 Autobahn was part of the GDFB Poster Project too. Autobahn then took the opportunity to expand to their new experimental mentality for typography by adding their interest for grand gestures and love for soccer. They designed a type based on the lines on a soccer field. With the help of a chalk cart, they wrote the quick brown fox is jumping over the lazy dog on a soccer field and photographed by Jaap Scheeren. This poster ended up winning the Utregse Diezijn Prijs 2008 and got a bronze award for the European Design Awards (EDA) 2009.

We are at the base of the digital era that brings a new dimension to the way we deal with media.

This year they wanted to collaborate in an early stadium. They invited the urban poet Ingmar Heytze to write a poem about the theme de-coding for which they will design a poster. In the future Autobahn likes to collaborate and react to the creativity of others more often.


They don’t think decoding has a specific role within their own work. But the role that decoding has on graphic design, in general, is binary, says Rob Stolte. When looking at history you see that humans are better at understanding short messages. Beforetime there were beautiful emblematic illustrations in books called emblemata. These pictures would reflect a certain moral lesson, for instance, the seven deadly sins. They were illustrated so that the people that were illiterate could understand the image. Underneath the image, the meaning was explained in the form of a poem. It was said that the picture was subject to numerous interpretations: only by reading the text could a reader be certain which meaning was intended by the author. Nowadays people are used to decoding messages trained by a fast visual culture. We are at the base of the digital era that brings a new dimension to the way we deal with media. This adds numerous ways for Autobahn to experiment and innovate by decoding.


By Roos Giethoorn for the publication “Decoding” of the Graphic Design Festival Breda 2010 (now Graphic Matters)