The Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Art 1996 was awarded to graphic designer Karel Martens for his entire oeuvre.
The committee responsible for awarding the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Art recognizes Karel Martens as a versatile designer who has created a firm niche for himself in graphic design in the Netherlands. His products are characterized by traditional workmanship and simplicity. Glamour is not his style - he prefers to exploit plain, honest techniques and materials, a feature which is always evident in his choice of paper, letter type, colour and format. At the same time, Martens enjoys the confrontation between form and contents which always results in an exciting product, bearing the hallmark of quality and care.
Among his clients have been the publishers Van Loghum Slaterus (Arnhem) in the 1960s, and the SUN (Nijmegen) in the years 1975-81, PTT Nederland, and various government institutions.
In 1993 Karel Martens was awarded the H.N. Werkman Prize for the design of the architectural magazine Oase. In 1996 he received the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Art; as part of this prize, a monograph on his work was published: Karel Martens: Printed Matter.
His work has been nominated three times at the Design Prize Rotterdam: 1995, for the design of the standard series of telephone chip-cards for PTT Telecom (this received an honorary commendation); 1997, for the book Karel Martens: Printed Matter; 1999, for the design of the façade of the Veenman printing works at Ede. In 1998 at the Leipzig Book Fair, Karel Martens: Printed Matter was awarded the gold medal, as the best-designed book 'in the whole world'. Over the years his books have featured regularly in the annual Best-Designed Dutch Books competition.
Karel Martens (born 1939) finished as a student at the Arnhem School of Art in 1961. Since then he has worked as a freelance graphic designer, specializing in typography. Alongside this, he has always made free (non-commissioned) graphic and three-dimensional work. As well as designing books and other printed items, he has designed stamps and telephone cards. He has also designed signs and typographic façades for a number of buildings.
Karel Martens has taught graphic design since 1977. His first appointment was at the Arnhem School of Art (until 1994). He was then attached to the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht (1994-99). From 1997 he has been a visiting lecturer in the graphic design department at the School of Art, Yale University. In the same year, together with Wigger Bierma, he started the Typography Workshop for postgraduate education within the ArtEZ, Arnhem.