Irma Boom

Irma Boom is a Dutch graphic designer. She was born in 1960 in Lochem, the Netherlands. Her family life consists of her being the youngest child out of nine. Although some may say that digital graphic design is becoming more common and perhaps eventually taking over print, Irma Boom seems to keep going. Her career has been extremely successful. She has worked closely with big names such as Chanel, Rem Koolhaas and the Rijksmuseum. She has even received the Gutenberg Prize in 2001, she is actually one of the youngest people to ever receive such a prize. Additionally, she has received the Leipzig Book Fair gold medal. As of 2014, she received the Vermeer Award. Boom holds 50 pieces at MoMa in New York. The rest of her works are stored at the University of Amsterdam. Some of her first jobs were with the Government Printing and Publishing Office that were very intrigued with her design work and decided to hire her to be able to reach larger audiences. Since then she has been working as a graphic designer for three decades. She does this by organizing her week into hard working hours. More specifically, she plans out her week as such: 12 hours a day over 7 days in dedication to her projects. This determination as granted her the title of being the queen of books with her many other important achievements.

She went to the 1984 AKI Academy of Art & Design in 1987, where she had planned to become a painter which inspirations such as Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin, but eventually did not play out. Boom was inspired by Abe Kuipers, who taught her about books.  In her third year there she decided to look for an internship and applies to the Total Design in Amsterdam. However, they rejected her because she had mixed so many sans serif typefaces. She combined so many because she believed there was a benefit in design by doing so. Once she got rejected that is when she decided to turn her attention over to the Government Printing and Publishing Office. Despite what she gained by working there, she thought it was very dull. By working there, she learned how to make books and provide them with identities. She found to have a lot of creative freedom while working at the Government Printing and Publishing Office. After she worked there, she found Studio Dumbar where she really found her passion for graphic design. This studio was very well known and groundbreaking at the time. Once she had finished her studies she went back to the Government Printing and Publishing Office for around five and a half years. There, she thinks back at her projects and how she did the jobs that no one would take. By doing so, she was allowed to experiment and truly find what she liked to do, graphic design wise. Boom was instantly a team leader while working here. As many who first start out become very unexperienced, she was the opposite and saw herself officially as a designer. This is a great advantage she had as many do not have that now. Her experimenting got her more controversy and negative comments, however. Boom looks at this as a good thing as many got to at least hear her name. Projects that got negative backlash did the opposite of what they intended to do, instead these projects were what really helped Boom get big. In 1987 was when she created two volumes of postage stamps. This was the very project that helped project her name everywhere. This was because opposers were not interested in how she utilized Japanese style binding. Even within her own department only one colleague did not like this approach and overall look. Everyone else did like her idea so she decided to stick with it. This colleague even took it upon themselves to report her, but failed to destroy the idea.

In 1991, Irma Boom opened up Irma Boom Office in Amsterdam. She stands by how her stubbornness has lead her so far and how when she is discussing her vision for a project with a commissioner she solely focuses on the concept. She always has ideas in her mind but will have the commissioner will  have to trust her. By sticking to this value, she is a very reliable graphic designer. Her goal for graphic design consists of creating beauty and  helping the reader understand, content and form come together. She also stands by incorporating a sense of smell with her book publications. Boom takes time to also consider the finishings of paper. For example, coffee filter paper ties into how Boom incorporates smell but also changes up what type of paper she uses for her books. Additionally, this could also play into the overall text. In one of her projects, Chanel No. 5, Boom did not use ink at all but instead simply embossed everything, text and images. This project also radiated the smell of roses, going back to her key element smell. A key thing that Boom does for her projects is creating small models of the books. She practices this in order to check how the book will be structured. Whether that is the text of images, she claims it is just the easiest to see.

Boom talks about how she relates her book making very closely to architecture. She is an advocate for books, she acknowledges that the book industry may taking its toll but stands by the fact that books themselves do not need any fixing. However, because of the digital world’s uprise her commissioners, as she refers her clients to, may expect a decrease as well as a decrease in her materials. Despite this possibility she still takes on commissioners that have a passionate vision, especially a story. With each new project it is like she is remaking what a book really is. There is so much she has done so far, but still has room for new discoveries. Boom currently teaches at Yale and always reminds her students of her passion for what she does.



Miltenburg, Anne. “Eye Magazine.” Eye Magazine | Feature | Reputations: Irma Boom, 2014,

“Page 6.” Readymag Stories : Irma Boom,

Riechers, Angela. “Book Builder: A Conversation with Irma Boom.” Designers & Books, 27 Jan. 2014,