Solidarity or Solo

Solidarity or Solo (Atlases)

Niels Schrader, Lauren Alexander

July 20, 2014essay,

Solidarity or Solo is a research and design project executed by third-year Graphic Design students at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague, initiated by the tutors Niels Schrader (Graphic Design), Lauren Alexander (Interactive Media) and Maarten Cornel (Philosophy). The project encouraged students to investigate their own relation to, and opinions about, the European Union by using mapping, archiving and referencing methods to formulate a refreshing and articulated view of what the EU means to a younger generation.

The Atlas of #Europe

Alyar Aynetchi, Sara Risvaag, Marinus Schepen & Sepus Noordmans

The Atlas of #Europe is an extensive collection of Instagram photos with EU-related hashtags that presents the new visual gestalt of digital Europe. Based on a radar chart, the authors developed a data visualization that combines 20 image characteristics to redraw the borders of the 28 current member states. By choosing Instagram with its self-curated user content as a source for visual research, this project’s aim was to present a collective “autoportrait” – or selfie – of the European Union.

The Dissociative European Atlas

Sanne Groenendaal & Max Lennarts

The Dissociative European Atlas is a collection of psychological tests that, similar to the Rorschach test, examine the distinctiveness of EU country shapes. Groenendaal and Lennarts asked randomly selected people to draw the EU’s borders as well as those of individual member states from memory. Naturally, this resulted in many unique and imprecise versions of the geographical space and disclosed the personal relation that interviewees have with the European Union. The authors then playfully re-analysed the drawings and were able to capture imaginative and striking revelations about the way the EU is perceiveed.

What if Ukraine Would Join the EU?

Nina Couvert

What if Ukraine Would Join the EU? is a thought-provoking atlas that evaluates the hypothetical scenarios of Ukraine either joining the European Union or the recently created Eurasian Economic Union. Couvert investigated the current political crisis in Ukraine by interviewing a fellow Ukrainian student and then juxtaposing her personal observations with what the Western public generally reads in the news. The question arises: Which viewpoint comes closer to the actual truth that of the individual testimony of a witness or the statistical data published by the media.

We All Live in Europe

Janine Terlouw & Eline van der Ploeg

Terlouw and van der Ploeg’s compendium We All Live in Europe investigates the cultural similarities and differences between European Union member states. Their extensive research was conducted entirely online to focus on the virtual presence of the EU. This Internet-specific data from image-based platforms like Flickr, Tumblr and Instagram then allowed the duo to compare factors such as the wealth, ethnicity, age and income of the EU member states. Family portraits, photographs of interior furnishings, food images and street views served as reliable indicators for such characteristics as e.g. social status and lifestyle choices.


Wilco Monen

Wilco Monen’s Europa documents the semantic evolution of the word “Europe”. He collected references to the word in images and texts over time, and then presented them in form of a logo gallery. The word originates from the Greek myth of Europa, the lover of Zeus and has since turned into a fashionable buzzword. Its positive and pristine connotations have, in recent times, led to its overuse in company slogans, mission statements, marketing communications and corporate branding. As a result words like “Euro”, “Europe” and “Europa” have become empty placeholders that have exacerbated Euroscepticism and have served as a backdrop for the projections of ultra-nationalists.

Crisis Situations and Unrest in Europe

Ieva Valule & Fedor Velyaminov

Crisis Situations and Unrest in Europe maps European conflicts over the past decade. Not only does it shed light on Europe’s current political flashpoints of a more global nature, but also offers insights into regional European disputes. Valule and Velyaminov compiled a total of 45 conflicts and documented them with the help of timelines, newspaper articles and encyclopaedic information.

Europe Utd.

Menno de Bruijn & Kasper Pyndt

Europe Utd. is an album of soccer-related imagery that deals with socio-economic issues such as nationalism, xenophobia, hooliganism, corruption and religion. According to De Bruijn and Pyndt, soccer creates a common ground of understanding that allows for a comparison of the highly diverse cultures of the European member states. In their atlas, the authors illustrate the overlapping values of sports-related communities and lay bare the interconnections between soccer teams, executives and supporters around the world. These connections were then added to the selected imagery in the form of page links, which create a dense network of thematically related topics.


Tereza Rullerová

Tereza Rullerová’s Sugarlands not only portrays the amount of sugar consumed in each European country, but also reveals the economic importance of sugar as a luxury item. The atlas gathers statistics on sugar-related topics such as health, nutrition and food habits. Moreover, the book also discusses the historical impact of sugar on the political landscape and its role as a “soma”. Rullerova coined the term Sugarlands and presents her findings in the form of 28 photographic sugar landscapes that refer to the individual countries using the visual appearances that are characteristic for each country.

A Look Into the Politics Behind the Tobacco Industry

Ines da Costa

What happens to the tax revenues that governments collect from the tobacco industry? A Look Into the Politics Behind the Tobacco Industry offers a peek into European smoking ban regulations, tobacco taxation, health-related spendings and hidden political agendas. Da Costa’s documentation is an eye-opening example of how the EU’s primary ambition of providing first-class health care for its citizens can turn into an over-regulated, bureaucratic dilemma.


Martyna Wyrzykowska

Unwaste presents a thorough investigation of waste generation in the EU, including what waste consists of and what happens to the waste we produce. Wyrzykowska compares recent statistics to discover that the financial crisis has actually led to an increase in waste production in the European Union. However, what is even more shocking is to discover that many EU member states continue to use landfill to dispose of their waste. The author documents waste treatment throughout Europe, in various industries and offers an overview of the environmentally friendly plans that are currently being implemented to combat the production of new waste.

In Varietate Concordia

Ilse Modder

This passport-sized atlas discusses the true meaning of the EU’s official motto “United in Diversity”. By using heraldic symbols, the atlas reveals both the importance of integration for peace and prosperity, and the necessity of autonomous, national decision-making to conserve distinctive cultural identities. Modder’s book reminds us that the European Union operates on the premise of any healthy democracy, that of maintaining a balance between giving and receiving. Freedom for the one implies commitment to the other, while privilege for the one implies responsibility to the other.

Een eenheid van verscheidenheid

Mike Kokken

Een eenheid van verscheidenheid (A unity of diversity) is a flip-over atlas that can be read from both front to back and vice versa. In one direction it displays news events related to the Netherlands while in the opposite direction it displays current affairs that affect the European continent as a whole. Kokken’s layout emphasises the interconnections between micro and macro levels, how incidents such as the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano can lead to a total paralysis of European air traffic and how the increasing popularity of low-cost airlines affects cannabis consumption in Amsterdam.

Niels Schrader (1977, Caracas, VE) is a concept-driven information designer with a fascination for numbers and data. He is founder of the Amsterdam-based design studio Mind Design and member of the AGI – Alliance Graphique Internationale. Next to his design practice Schrader has been lecturing at the Delft University of Technology, ArtEZ – Academy of Art & Design in Arnhem and Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam. Since January 2013 he is co-head of the Graphic Design department at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. In his work, Schrader plays the role of both a mediator and a designer. He considers communication to be an interactive process that requires participation through questioning. See further:

Lauren Alexander (1983, ZA) is a designer and artist. She teaches in BA and MA Graphic Design at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (KABK) and in 2019 she was a member of the KABK Research Group chaired by Alice Twemlow. Her collaboration with designer Ghalia Elsrakbi (1978, SY) initiated in 2009 has informed her practice and teaching. As Foundland Collective Lauren and Ghalia explore under-represented political and historical narratives by working with archives via art, design, writing, educational formats, video making and storytelling. The duo critically reflects upon what it means to produce politically engaged work from their position as non-Western artists working between Europe and the Middle East. Foundland Collective was awarded the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship for research in the largest Arab American archive in 2015, the outcome of which was presented as a video installation at Centre Pompidou in Paris (2017) and their short video, ‘The New World, Episode One’ premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival (2018). The duo have lectured and exhibited internationally including at ISPC, New York, Ars Electronica, Linz, Fikra Biennial, Sharjah and Tashweesh Feminist Festival, Cairo and Brussels. Their work has been shortlisted for the Dutch Prix de Rome in 2015 and Dutch Design Awards in 2016.  

Photography: Roel Backaert