Typecrafter and graphic designer from Rotterdam

Script, serif, sans, shadow lettering; Bijdevleet masters them all. His weapons of choice include brush pens, brushes, ecoline ink, pencils and fineliners. We first came across Tim’s work at the Opperclaes Yard during 24Uur Cultuur, where he teamed up with Resuk on a crispy clean design for a lightbox. We hooked up at his former studio in Rotterdam West and talked about his love for type, graffiti and Rotterdam.
Tell us something about yourself; who are you and what do you do for a living?

My name is Tim Bontan, a freelance graphic designer and lettering artist from Rotterdam. I live here with my wife, son and daughter and my studio is based in the center of Rotterdam, but I’m working for clients worldwide.

Recently I founded; a place where we are going to sell type-based goods and prints. Limited runs, quality materials and print work, all hand-signed and numbered. It’s all about craftsmanship. will be launching very soon.

Can you tell us something about how your passion for illustrating began to grow?

As long as I can remember, I was always drawing as a kid. I guess it all started from the day I could hold a pencil in my hands and put lines on paper.

The love for letters and typography really took off when I started doing graffiti. My style has changed a lot since the days I went out to bomb at night; the passion for lettering and typography only became bigger.

Why did you choose the name Bijdevleet?

I started my freelance design studio back in 2004. I started out working for Dutch clients only, so I really wanted a strong and unique typical Dutch name. ‘Bij de vleet’ is a Dutch saying, meaning ‘galore’ or ‘plenty of’. I like to think that Bijdevleet represents the amount of passion, quality and effort I put into my projects.

Can you tell a little something about your drawing technique?

I’m a self-taught letterer; not sure what to tell about that haha. I really like to mix up styles (script, serif, sans, shadow lettering) and use different tools and techniques such as brush pens, brushes, ecoline ink, pencils and fineliners. These are my basic tools.

Tim’s tools.

What’s the biggest or smallest piece you’ve ever made?

I’m not sure about my smallest piece, but the biggest type piece I’ve done goes back to the days when I was bombing graffiti on trains; a One Man Whole Car.

What do you consider your own personal masterpiece?

Haha, my son & daughter!

'I’m a real meat eater, so I’m always down for a real nice burger or steak!'
— Tim Bontan
Where do you catch your daily inspiration?

I get my daily inspiration from different sources, but the internet is a huge source of inspiration. Instagram is awesome for my daily inspiration; so many great designers, photographers and illustrators who are sharing their work, but also their daily life. I love to see the person behind all the work. Rotterdam is also a great source of inspiration; when you bike around the city there is so much inspiration all around you. The people, old (and new) architecture, bars, restaurants, concept stores, the harbours, bridges, parks. Inspiration is everywhere.

What kind of music do you like working to?

I don’t really have one kind of music I like to work to. The music I listen to is going from jazz, funk and soul to reggae, dub and hip hop. I’m really into Brooklyn Radio lately; they have a great selection of hiphop, soul, funk, reggae, and dub mixes!

Some artists; Blundetto, Tommy Guerrerro, David Bowie, The Menahan Streetband, Miles Davis, Shahmen, Curtis Mayfield, Kendrick Lamar, King Tubby, Bob James, Sublime, Cymande, Joy Division, Duke Ellington, Bootsy Collins, Lou Donaldson, Eek A Mouse, Slightly Stoopid, RJD2, Ray Barbee, Lee Moses, Joe Thomas, Grant Green.

The Firm – Can’t Stop

Do you have your own workplace in Rotterdam or somewhere else?

I started out with a home studio, but moved to a shared studio a couple of years ago. I’ve worked in 2 studio’s before I recently moved into a new awesome studio in the centre of Rotterdam, together with (clothing) designer and Illustrator Resuk.

Would you like to stay here in Rotterdam or do you have any plans on moving out?

I really love living and working in Rotterdam, I can’t imagine moving to another city in the Netherlands. But outside of the Netherlands there are some cities I wouldn’t mind living and working for a while; cities like New York, London and Paris. Or somewhere near the beach with good waves… Maybe some day, who knows.

What are some of your favorite spots in (and around) Rotterdam?

There are so many awesome spots, it is really hard to choose! I’ll start of with Harolds; this is the place where I get all my art goods. Nice coffee places to get some work done; Ontbijtbar (which is gone now unfortunately), UEB, Lebkov, Picknick and Hopper. For some food and drinks I head over to Aloha Bar, Biergarten and Pizzeria Da Adriano (best pizza in town!). Don’t forget about the Nieuwe Binnenweg, Witte de Withstraat and the Kunsthal Rotterdam for some good art and music stores!

Next to illustrating, what are your other hobbies?

I have always been into action sports my whole life; skating, surfing and snowboarding. I recently picked up surfing again with my buddy Nick; we are super stoked and always on the lookout for some surfable waves (which is pretty hard here in Holland). Nothing beats a good session in the water with friends! 

Describe a perfect day in the life of Bijdevleet.

A perfect day in the life of Bijdevleet is my daily routine! Waking up early (next to my kids) and have a nice family breakfast. After breakfast I’ll bring my son to school and head off to the studio. At the studio I’ll start the day with a nice espresso while putting on some vinyl records. Now it’s time to get some work done for a few hours on some typography projects. It’s warm and sunny, so I’m having my lunch at the studio’s rooftop overviewing the city center. Time to get some more work done and wrap up some projects before heading home. At home, I’ll spend time with the family by having a nice dinner outside, before putting the kids to bed. When the kids are sleeping I’ll go out with my wife for some drinks.

Tell us about your favourite food. What are you having when you really want to treat yourself?

I’m a real meat eater, so I’m always down for a real nice burger or steak! I love all the food festivals at the moment.

Do you have any brand or person in mind whom you really like to collaborate with?

There are so many cool brands and persons, it’s really hard to choose! I’ve done some projects for Nike, but it would be awesome to design a worldwide campaign for Nike. Or maybe some of my work in MoMA someday, haha! Gotta have dreams right?

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

I hope I’m still living and working in Rotterdam or a warm place near a beach, in good health and enjoying everyday life with my family and my typographic work.