- 27th International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno 2016
BB The Werkplaats Typografie (post-graduate school of graphic design in The Netherlands), has been awarded a Honorary Mention at the 26th Brno Biennial 2014. The jury has awarded this prize on the basis of your work, which has been selected for and exhibited as a part of the International Exhibition: Student Work. Could you tell us a bit about what that school meant for you and the influence it had on your work and practice?
GB & IC & AH & CN Our view on graphic design was definitely influenced by our time at the school, its structure and non-structure, and its communal participatory nature. Perhaps a few know by now, Werkplaats stimulates a two-folded practice – one that is centered around commissions and one’s own research and projects. Everyone can choose how to calibrate their focus. Arnhem is a rather secluded place, so it offers a lot of time to spend with each other and/or alone. Precisely this time is a huge catalyst in conversations about/around design, that eventually produces physical results – visual language. This language, without doubt, is also influenced by a broader context and history of Dutch design.
BB You all work independently (Anna, Goda, Ines) or as a member of a small design studio (Corina). Can you tell us a bit about the, fairly recent, transition between the school and the practice in the, so to say, real world?
GB & IC & AH & CN The four of us already had some design education and also work experience before studying at Werkplaats Typografie (WT) (as most participants do). The fact that while studying at WT one is already working on practical assignments but also dedicating time on self-initiated projects probably helps on one hand to start a network and on the other hand that the transition from school to the ‘real’ world does not feel like a big jump but a continuation of how one learned to work.
BB We have asked you to use the collection of graphic design of the Brno Biennial as a point of departure for your exhibition. Did you come across any surprises? What are the differences between graphic design now and graphic design of 50 years ago?
GB & IC & AH & CN The archive of Brno Biennial is spread around different locations in town, so getting hold of the actual material can be quite a task. You could say it has many points of departure. And it’s definitely how it can feel when you start discussing the question posed regarding the differences in graphic design.
Eventually, we relied on the catalogues of the past Biennials to provide us with the most complete (and compact) overview of what is/was out there. Browsing through the material shown in the biennial catalogues, what’s shown appears somehow flattened, serial, out of context and with its origins obscured – in a way equivalent to images on an Instagram account or a Tumblr page – yet the details of the designs still speak to us. That friction between the flat and vivid is fascinating. But we wondered what do these decisive details reveal of the origin in a thinking process?
In order to make that ‘conversation’ with the archive more alive, we decided to use its details to begin an examination of our own respective practices, clashing the material from the biennial’s archive with our own work, ultimately asking questions about the kind of decisions we make as designers: on a formal level; on a conceptual level, and in response to the social, cultural, economical and technological conditions of our times.
You could say that it became an introspective process, that finally took the shape of the exhibition. It’s definitely a subjective take on the material of the archive or history of visual language, which looks at the examples of reproduction of form and ways of thinking.
BB Have you discovered something for yourself when working on your contribution to this Biennial, and when going through its archive?
GB & IC & AH & CN While going trough the extensive collection of posters from the archive we discovered we could relate to many designs and graphic ideas while comparing it to our own practice. Although running four different studios we came to the conclusion we could almost always agree on whether a design still works for us or not. Since we were looking to (mostly) black & white representations of the real posters, the selection was taken very intuitively. Still, we agreed. This is where we thought about our time at Werkplaats Typografie as a shared experience – it felt like we weren’t four different designers having different opinions but one body, selecting one body of work.
BB This edition of the Brno Biennial responds to the metamorphoses and the state of contemporary graphic design; its multitude, variety, vagueness and apparent superficiality. Can you identify some of the basic parameters, current themes or motivations of contemporary graphic design?
GB & IC & AH & CN Graphic design and visual language spreads so fast these days, it can hardly be traced back to one place, school or person anymore. That’s also why we choose to look into the catalogues of the Brno Biennial as an equivalent to an infinite stream of new visual material, from which we can extract formal details that we find still relevant today. What was difficult to find out when looking at the catalogues were the ideas and concepts behind the works – which we feel is similar as perceiving graphic design when browsing on the web.
By talking to each other about our own concepts and designs in comparison with the archive images, we developed one linear story, told by one voice. The collection of extracts is shown in the exhibition space as ‘one body of work’ crawling through the exhibition space as a linear associative chain of posters. By combining extracts from the historic archive and our own contemporary visual language and ideas, we want to open a dialogue on what represents graphic design today.
Goda Budvytytė is a Lithuanian graphic designer, currently running her practice between Amsterdam, Brussels and, occasionally, other cities. She graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie (Amsterdam, NL) in 2008 and the following year became a participant at Werkplaats Typografie where she concluded with her Master degree in 2011. She works in a wide range of formats within the cultural field, exploring how different types of content can be translated into books, publications, identities, exhibition designs and other legible narratives. She develops her projects in close collaboration with artists, curators, photographers, architects, and fellow designers, often being involved with editorial design.
Ines Cox is an independent, Antwerp-based, graphic design studio founded in 2014. She graduated at Luca School of Arts (Ghent) in 2009 and received a second master’s degree from the Werkplaats Typografie (The Netherlands) in 2011. Around 2010 she founded the studio Cox & Grusenmeyer, with Lauren Grusenmeyer. After 5 years of working together Ines Cox started her individual practice. Cox’s experience comes from a wide variety of projects including publication and book design, exhibition design, brand identities, web design, installations, teaching and workshops. Clients range from independent artists and galleries to brands, schools and museums. In 2014 she started teaching typography at the Royal Academy of Antwerp.
Anna Haas works as freelance graphic designer and illustrator in Zurich. After graduating from HSLU in 2007 she worked as a freelance illustrator in Berlin. From 2009 to 2011 she was a participant at Werkplaats Typografie and received her Master in 2011. Having worked in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, in 2011 she chose Zurich to set up her studio. Since then she works in a wide range of cultural fields, with a specific focus on book design and editorial illustration. Since 2014 she has taught at Lucerne University of Applied Science and Arts (HSLU), department of visual communication.
Corina Neuenschwander is a graphic designer based in Zurich where in 2014 she and Simone Koller founded the graphic design practice Studio NOI. After graduating from Zurich University of the Arts in 2006 she has worked from 2007–2009 as a senior designer for the studio Value & Service in London and as an independent graphic designer in London, Amsterdam and New York. From 2010–2012 she was a participant at Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem where she has concluded her Master degree. Corina Neuenschwander’s work ranges from editorial design to visual identities, digital applications and exhibition design in the fields of art, culture and commerce. Her work was awarded twice with the Swiss Design Award, she was nominated for INFORM: Award for Conceptual Design and shortlisted for the Walter Tiemann Award.
Short interviews with collaborators of the 27th Brno Biennial, authors of its exhibitions, jury members and Biennial Talks speakers.
Interviews and graphic design: Radim Peško Radim Peško (1976) is a graphic designer based in London. He works in the field of type design, editorial and exhibition projects. In 2010 he has established his RP Digital Type Foundry that specializes on typefaces that are both formally and conceptually distinctive. His work includes identity for Secession Vienna, typefaces for identities of Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Aspen Art Museum, Fridericianum, Berlin Biennale 8, various work for the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Bedford Press London or a long-term collaboration with artist Kateřina Šedá. He has lectured at many schools including Gerrit Rietveld Academie Amsterdam, ÉCAL Lausanne, HFK Bremen, KISD Cologne, École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Lyon, Sint-Lucas Ghent, University of Seoul. Since 2011 he is part of the curatorial board of the International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno., Tomáš Celizna Tomáš Celizna (1977) is interested in graphic design in connection with new technologies. He is a founding partner of design studio dgú in Prague (2001 to 2005), recipient of J. W. Fulbright Scholarship (2006), and holds MFA in graphic design from Yale University School of Art (2008). He currently lives and works independently in Amsterdam. Collaborations include, among others, OASE Journal for Architecture, Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Since 2011 he is a lecturer in graphic design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, and a member of the curatorial team of the International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno., Adam Macháček Adam Macháček (1980) is a graphic designer. Following studies at the AAAD in Prague, Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and ÉCAL in Lausanne, he co-founded in 2004 studio Welcometo.as in Lausanne and is a member of 201∞ Designers collective. His work includes publications, exhibition catalogues, illustrations and identities. Collaborations include, among others, the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Théâtre de Vevey (seasons 2003–2012), Galerie Rudolfinum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Chronicle Books, Editions Pyramyd, Museum of Czech Literature, Brno House of Arts, California College of the Arts, Airbnb. For Brno Biennial he initiated and organized exhibitions Work from Switzerland (2004) and From Mars (2006, together with Radim Peško). Since 2011 he is a member of the curatorial team of the International Biennial of Graphic Design in Brno. He lives and works in Berkeley.
Translation and copy editing: Alena Benešová, Kateřina Tlachová
Production: Miroslava Pluháčková
Printed by: Tiskárna Helbich s. r. o.
Print run: 2000
Published by the Moravian Gallery in Brno, 2016