231 Free and Beautiful on Template Culture

Marlon Harder

There is more than one definition of the word template, the term is used in a number of fields. It’s a pattern, a mold, a stencil, a molecule, a structure or a system. It’s made of metal, plastic, paper, wood or code. And it helps us cut shapes, paint letters, create documents with a similar layout or generate designs for a website without any graphic design or coding knowledge. Templates are the predefined form that requires content; be it paint, clay, text or image. A modelbord that determines the shape of its copies.

What all these examples have in common is that they set a standard. Standardization is a firmly fixed aspect of modern life, recognizable from the ISO standard paper sizes (like the A4) used for printing to what qualifies as a ‘free range’ product. Templates function just like standards in that they facilitate repetitive tasks or situations. Those who use them need to conform to a set of standards, because one size never fits all. Just like the standard, the template –in all its iterations– has become a prominent aspect of contemporary life. The Dutch word for template, sjabloon, affirms this notion. Its etymology stretches the meaning of the word a little further. A sjabloon is not just a physical object used as a stencil, but can also be defined as the conventional model.

Pick and choose, generate, select, customize and insert your content here. This current template culture is highlighted in its promise of control: the template as an easy-to-use and flexible device that helps to edit or optimize life.


Marlon Harder [NL] studied Graphic Design in Arnhem. Her fascination with digital culture led to a graduation work about the viral workings of the Internet. At Piet Zwart Institute, during her two year master, she further developed these interests. Her projects touched on topics such as peer-to-peer file sharing, ASCII-art, Instagram and templates. Marlon aims to raise critical questions by recontextualising the visual elements of the web, while still exploring all the possibilities of graphic design. She forms a studio with Lasse van den Bosch Christensen: http:www.template01.info