Tragic news reached me today through the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. Piet Westendorp has passed away, much too soon, on november 19.
He was a great scholar, writer, and allround human being, who gave me and many other students a lot of support. He shared his great experience as willingly as his many views on a world of topics. As an example, he made a wonderful analysis of the painting Victory Boogie Woogie, together with Willem van den Hoed. He also wrote Open here: the art of instructional design with Paul Mijksenaar, which brought him world fame. A more recent book was Interface Design & Document Design.
We shared an interest in illustrations of pointing gestures and of the movement in gestures. He specifically collected illustrations of gestures to study the arrows used in instructional images. It was one of those many things that Piet was very enthusiastic about. He loved the arrows in the Gebarenwoordenboek voor kinderen.
Pictures of SLN signs that had ´lovely arrows´, according to Piet. (source)
Piet worked at the TU Delft and the TU Eindhoven, but I like to think he worked as an independent ´free thinker´. He seemed to effortlessly combine a very pragmatic attitute towards the world of research with a passion for ideas. As a senior figure at our department he always reached out to newcomers. Through his example he inspired people to keep an open mind, and stay young. To my memory, at least, Piet will always be a generous, brilliant, and somewhat rebellious boy. Provocative and curious. He will be sorely missed.
Update 8 dec ’08: His partner sent a picture of Piet.
In the background you can see the lights of the harbour and the industry at Vlaardingen. We had dinner there with a group of colleagues, at the Delta Hotel, which is a beautiful place in an interesting setting. It was in memory of Piet, who came there regularly. His analysis of Victory Boogie Woogie still managed too trigger a heated discussion…
Update 22 december: Elif sent me this link to a video where Piet talks about his specialty, the design of visual information.