Jan van Toorn [Tiel, The Netherlands 1932] studied graphic design at the Amsterdam school of printing [1949-1950] and the Institute of arts and crafts [later Gerrit Rietveld Academy], Amsterdam [1950- 1953]. He has been a freelance designer in visual communication since 1957.
He lives and works in Amsterdam.
Doctor hc, Royal College of Art, London.
The emotional charge of van Toorn's designs stems from his interest in investigating visual meaning and the social role of the profession as opposed to purely practical requirements. His radical teaching and practice were highly influential on the younger generation of Dutch designers. For many years he taught for graphic design and visual communication at various academies and universities in The Netherlands and abroad, including Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam [1968-1985], the Institute of Art History at the University of Amsterdam[1981-1982] and the Department of Architecture of Technical University Eindhoven [1982-1983]. He was the head of the Multi-media department of the Rijksacademie, Amsterdam [1987-1989]. From 1991 until 1998 he was director of the Jan van Eyck academy in Maastricht, transforming it into an international postgraduate centre for fine art, design and theory. In this context he organized ‘Design beyond design, critical reflection and the practice of visual communication,’ a conference devoted to the discrepancy between the socio-cultural and symbolic reality of the information-economy . He was associate professor in the MA programme of graphic design, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence USA, from 1987 until 2008. External examiner MA typo/graphic studies of the London College of Printing [1997-2005] and associate professor at North Carolina State University, Raleigh USA [2000-2001]. Van Toorn is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale since 1972.