This article was written in 2013. It might or it might not be outdated. And it could be that the layout breaks. If that’s the case please let me know.

Rijks Vasilis

A few months ago, in a Dutch video podcast I create with my colleague Peet Sneekes, I said that I think the new website of the Rijksmuseum is probably the best website ever. They truly understand that sharing all the works in their collection on high resolution on the web is just an excellent idea. Very refreshing in this day and age where rights holders only seem to care about owning and protecting their stuff. This attitude towards content is liberating. But the site is not just conceptually nice, it’s also nice to look at and to work with. I was lucky enough to attend a presentation about how Q42, the company that built the site, worked with these enormous images and still kept things preforming. Extremely nerdy and extremely clever stuff. So I also complimented Q42 in this video, and I said that they are the best nerd company in the Netherlands. Which is still true. Some people think it’s weird to say nice things about your competitors. I don’t.

There are more competitors I admire and love.

A few days ago I returned late from a board meeting with Fronteers. On one of our walls was a new work of art: a big triangle of 28 QR-codes, pointing towards the words RIJKS VASILIS. My wife, Katrien, was standing next to the work, acting like an art connoisseur, elegantly pointing towards the work and not explaining a thing. What the fuck, hahaha! Who would make a thing like that and send it to me? It had to be someone who knows me. They have to know that I love the Rijksmuseum site and they have to know that I think QR-codes are ridiculous and ugly. So it couldn’t be Q42 since they don’t really know me. (They did use my quote the best web site ever! on their site though!)

Site down

Katrien wouldn’t say anything. I had to download a QR-code scanner (all terrible ad-driven pieces of evilware). And I started scanning. The QR-codes linked to works on the Rijksmuseum site. But the site was down. The best site ever was not working on the only moment that it really, really had to work! So Katrien explained.

The wonderful people of the wonderful agency eend sent this work of art. We had been discussing web art, and the lack thereof, a few times on Twitter, and they decided to create some.


I’ve been scanning the QR-codes the last few days to try and figure out why they created this RIJKS VASILIS site. I think it’s mostly because they enjoy making great stuff, and we enjoy each other’s company. A while ago we had a fantastic night out in a sushi restaurant. Many QR-codes seem to refer to this evening: they link to beautiful old Japanese prints. The Rijksmuseum has an amazing collection of these prints. Other codes link to cucumbers and salads, obviously hinting towards my growing collection of photos of salads.

Some pictures are about fighting. A painting of a ferocious swan, a painting of a wonderful, colourful loudmouth, and a painting of some sort of godlike figure who is both the creator and destroyer of the world might very well refer to my often polemic and loud attitude when discussing design on Twitter and my desire to destroy the old way we design for the web. I hope the picture of the battle of Waterloo is about the victory of good web design and the defeat of the crappy things we used to do. This painting in particular could very well symbolise many other things, though.


Some pictures seem to tell me to chill the fuck out. Drink some tea. Burn some incense, meditate like buddha. Sit down and enjoy a plateau de fromages. Enjoy some time with my loved ones, have fun, and drink some beer with friends. I do enjoy good food, I love being at home with my family and I enjoy drinking in good company. And I’m really looking forward to doing that again with the wonderful people of eend. We could discuss the symbolism that I didn’t find and understand.

Thank you very, very much, Robert Jan, Marrije and Maaike, for this fabulous, personal museum!