Wild Plakken, formed by Frank Beekers, and Rob Schröder in 1977, had a definite social and political mission: it created designs for clients actively working for meaningful social or political change. The designers closely collaborated on each project. The name Wild Plakken can be translated as “Wild Pasting” or “Unauthorized Bill-Posting.” The name was thrust upon the studio in the early 1980s because it illegally pasted posters in the center of Amsterdam; Schröder was jailed several times for illegal posting. Wild Plakken accepted or rejected commissions based on the client’s ideological viewpoint; the group believed a designer should match his or her beliefs to the content of his or her graphic designs. Their work addressed such issues as racism, the environment, abortion, women’s rights, and gay rights. Clients included trade unions, left-wing political parties, women’s rights organizations, museums, and performing-arts groups.
In its formative years Wild Plakken used clear, straightforward images that might be called closed texts because viewers could only interpret them in one specific, carefully controlled way. As its work evolved, Wild Plakken offered viewers what might be called open texts, giving viewers greater freedom for imaginative interpretation by introducing surrealist imagery, photomontages using torn and fragmented images, and brightly colored shapes. Its work projects a raw power when juxtaposed against the refined photography of conventional print advertising.
Wild Plakken did virtually all of its own photography because the designers then felt free to experiment in the darkroom or cut, tear, and combine the images unencumbered by the need to maintain the integrity of another photographer’s work. Wild Plakken designers believed the way a design looks should be determined by the nature and content of the subject. They thought designers risk becoming superficial or mere reflectors of fashionable trends if they are not deeply committed to the design process, clients, and content. After eleven years of close collaboration, Beekers left Wild Plakken to launch his own studio.