A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

In Memoriam: Piet Westendorp

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.

His page at the TU/e
In memoriam at STIC (Studiekring Technische Informatie en Communicatie)
Tributes at InfoD-Cafe
Obituary at TU Delft (here)

Update 8 dec ’08: His partner sent a picture of Piet.


Piet Westendorp at the Delta Hotel

Piet Westendorp at the Delta Hotel

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.


SF: Philips RobotSkin Shaving Lady


Tokyo Toy Show 2008


  1. After being close friends for almost twenty years, Piet and I lost contact about ten years ago.
    Hardly a week passes without me saying at least once: Piet used to say this or that about this subject.
    Thoroughly original thinking individual, he was.

  2. Froukje Cleton

    Today I heard the terrible news that my dear friend Piet Westendorp died at the 19th of November. We were good friends for 27 years. In my memory he will live forever as a very intelligent, sweet, honest and true friend. When we met it was always good and inspiring. I think he knew me better than I knew him. He had mysterious ways. That was his choice. And I respect that. I am sad. I will miss him very much.

  3. Piet painted his Victory Boogy Woogy as exact as possibel like the original in my studio, during the painting lessons. But he wanted to finih it. (the original is not finished). In the beginning he could not understand why the government had paid so much money for a simple painting like this. He often went to the Gemeente Museum in Den Haag to look at it and to control the colours he used. It took about 4 years. More talking than painting. All working and studying he (and we) develloped an understanding for the art of Piet Mondriaan. We visited many exhibitoins even in Paris together with the other students. Yesterday we remembered him with other friends In Hoek van Holland Haven, a place he liked very much. I will miss his against the grain way of thinking and humour, which I always very much enjoyed. And his caring and helpfull caracter.

  4. Giovanna

    Piet was the most beautiful person I have ever met. In his deep understanding of people there was a joyful dimension of life. We used to play together: observing people in a pub to see what animal they looked like; spending hours sitting on a beach at night to watch ships go by; going to the airport and carrying me on a trolley as if I were a suitcase and being stopped by the police … and so on. He liked to visit places at night: just arriving in the dark when there was almost nobody around and get the impression of the place and then next morning leave. Deep and light. Close and yet aloof. He would come all the way to Leiden without even knowing whether I was there and then throw small stones at my window …

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