Constructing a New Russia with Visual Imagery

Imagine a world without posters, adverts, screens, cameras and iphones. Imagine a place where meaningful relationships and community come first. Publishing your life through a lens is a surreal, abstract and incomprehensible idea. Welcome to Russia at the turn of the 20th century.

Industrialisation had positive and negatives effects on Russia. It created wealth, jobs, and the fast and cheap production of goods. In late 19th century the Tsar introduced policies that led to rapid industrial growth which encouraged peasants to leave their work on the land and go to work in new factories in cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow. They left in order to try to improve their standards of living or to survive. However, it was a trap from the Tsar who made them work for more hours, with little pay (or sometimes none at all). They lived in filth, squalor, sickening food and diseases. This made them realise that it was no better than working on the land.

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The ‘Russian Wedding Cake’ shows how society was formed before the 1917 revolution with the Tsars at the top.

Building Constructivism

In 1913 at a tumultuous time for the Russian elite Vladimir Tatlin, an architect, painter and sculptor planted the seeds of constructivism–an artistic and architectural philosophy which rejected the elitist idea that art is autonomous. They saw architecture, politics, society, art, technology and culture as unified and interconnected. A movement in favour of art as a practice for social purposes. Vladimir Tatlin wanted to bend art to modern purposes and to suit the goals of Russia’s communist revolution.

“In the squares and in the streets we are placing our work convinced that art must not remain a sanctuary for the idle, a consolation for the weary, and a justification for the lazy. Art should attend us everywhere that life flows and acts.”

–Vladimir Tatlin

The Russian Revolution

Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

–Karl Marx

By 1917 the bond between the tsar and the majority of Russian people had been broken. Governmental corruption and inefficiency were rife.

Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who were deeply influenced by Marx, lead the October Revolution which dismantled the old system, that before this time had more power than constitutional monarchs. The revolution lead to the rise of the Soviet Union which did away with the old form of social hierarchy.

Unlike today where we have adverts everywhere, the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg were bleak from the industrial factory smoke, which also produced the ink that allowed artists such as El Lissitzky and Malevich to speak to the masses through a new visual language.
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Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge. El Lizzitsky. Lithograph – Municipal Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

El Lizzitsky created this in support of the Red Army shortly after the Bolsheviks had waged their revolution in 1917. The intrusive red wedge symbolises the Bolsheviks, who are defeating their opponents, the White Movement (which included the republican-minded bourgeois liberals and the Kerenskyite social democrats).  It has also been read that the anti-communist White Army symbolises America and the West.

The Red Army has pierced the defences of the White Army. These dramatic colours, shapes and unusual typographical compositions not only create confusion within the space of the painting but they contrast heavily with the bleak and dark outdoor environment; the avant-garde painting would even stand out even amongst the competition of our poster-clad environment today. This powerful visual message spoke to a mainly illiterate Russia. Here’s a video that we made in response to the poster.

Kasimir Malevich was a painterart theoretician and originator of the Suprematist movement. Here are some of his abstract paintings; although they’re not articulating anything through realistic representations, they do communicate a new visual language and therefore concept.

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Dreams were 3D too. In the same year Vladimir Tatlin created Monument to the Third International. A design for the Communist International headquarters, it was realised as a utopian model but never built. It crystallised his desire to bring about a synthesis of art and technology.

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A few years later in 1929 Dziga Vertov created The Man with the Movie Camera which describes a new world through a lens through a chaotic and exciting montage with lots of cuts. It communicates a new way of seeing the world.

‘My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a new way, the world unknown to you’

–Dziga Vertov.

Even though other countries developed the camera, its use in Russia helped constructivism to promote a communist ideology.

Women and the Soviet Union

The early Soviet state wanted to remake the family; the religious marriage was replaced by civil marriage, divorce was acceptable and unwed mothers received special protection. All children, whether legitimate or illegitimate, were given equal rights before the law and women were granted sexual equality under matrimonial law, according to the 1968 law “Principles of Legislation on Marriage and the Family of the USSR and the Union Republics”, parents are “to raise their children in the spirit of the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism, to attend to their physical development and their instruction in and preparation for socially useful activity.” 

–Source, Wikipedia.

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Alexander Rodchenko, “Give Way to Women,” 1932

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Alexander Rodchenko. Women Fencers 1936

In the Soviet Union women were urged to vote and fight. Their strong faces seen against the background of the new environment in the following propaganda posters are realistic. Seeing these in stations, cafes, city walls and trains would have kept ideologies fresh in the mind of a society at all times, forming a collective consciousness. Like today’s advertising featuring people and products, it would have made it easy for society to identify with any of the given personas presented to them, reinforcing the message and building a new society.

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Meanwhile in the West…

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Continue reading “Constructing a New Russia with Visual Imagery”

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The Paisley Leaf and Rock ‘n Roll.

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When you see a Paisley print, what do you think of? Do you think of the town in Scotland which gave it the name? Do you think of the sixties with its flamboyant prints? Or do you think of the cowboys out in the midwest with their handkerchiefs?
The symbol that we now call Paisley has had a much longer history.

It has travelled the silk routes from East to West, adorned the bandanas of cowboys and bikers, been adopted by the 19th Century bohemians, popularised by the Beatles, and has become an emblem of Rock ‘n’ Roll. In this blog we look at how the symbol took its name from a Scottish town.

A Bit of History

One thing about Paisley and Psychedelia is to do with the retro revival of older Victorian and art nouveau styles in the early 1960s as a backlash against the purity of clean simple modernist approaches. Going back to the past was in part a heresy to the future-oriented values of modernism, as well as psychedelia being deliberately ‘over decorated’ and frivolous.

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Nice Shirt, John.
Rewind to a couple of millennia, during the agricultural revolution, in 4000 BC, the Date Palm tree was cultivated in Mesopotamia, Iraq. In 3000 BC valuable jewellery was found in the Royal Cemetery, Iraq, belonging to a Puabi (a woman of great importance).

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 12.59.28Courtesy of The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Small ornaments thought to represent a grain and bush formed the shape of what is today known as a Paisley leaf.

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During the Mughal Empire, it was taken to Agra, India. In 1050 the Kashmir Shawl originated (Not paisley decorated). However, paisley patterned shawls became popular in 1575.

The Mughal empire covered most of India during 1600 – 1700 (Chronology of Paisley can be found here) and from 1757–1858, the Brits enjoyed Company rule in India.

Other research suggests that the shape represents an assemblage of a floral spray and a cypress tree, which is a Zoroastrian (one of the world’s oldest extant religions) symbol of life and eternity. All research suggests the Paisley leaf originated in Persia.

During the height of the British Empire the British saw India as an investment opportunity. Rule over India guaranteed new revenue streams. During this time we took clothes, spices, textiles and other items to sell for profit. Imagine never having seen other visual art except for English and then visiting the Great Exhibition of 1851 where displays of Indian art and design were everywhere.

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 17.56.26Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and three of their children at the Indian Pavilion of the Great Exhibition, oil painting, Prosper Lafaye, 1851-1881. Museum no. P.9-1966

The fig or almond-like form of the Buta (Persian) was the key symbol of the Mughal Empire. Imports from the East India Company in the first half of the 17th century made the Butah and other Indian patterns popular. These oriental designs were printed onto pots, jugs, rugs, shawls, and all sorts of other artefacts and textiles.

During this time, the people in charge of the V&A believed that Indian handmade design was unquestionably better than British factory made design. Ironically this was at the same time that the British administration in India was attacking and dismantling Indian textile production in order to allow British factory products to be exported to India, so there were a few double standards!

Frances Robertson, Lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art.

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More shawls can be found here

Paisley comes to Paisley

In true British colonial fashion we adopted the design and thereby renamed the Butah, the Paisley after a Scottish town.

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Paisley, in West Scotland, was a centre for textiles and this is where paisley designs were produced during the industrial revolution. In fact, The Scottish town is now bidding to be UK City of Culture for 2021.

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Arthur Lasenby Liberty was an early enthusiast of paisley in the UK (Credit: From the book Liberty of London Treasures: Colour, Design, Print by Carlton)
From around 1800 to 1850, the weavers of the town of Paisley became the most prominent producers of Paisley shawls by weaving in the design to their material. By the 19th century, the paisley pattern was being printed, rather than woven, onto other textiles.

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A British veteran of Waterloo and his Wife. Taken around 1850.

 

Woodblock printing with the Paisley in India

 

Woodblock printing the onto textiles was and still is the main method for mass producing in India. It is a slow process but often results in innovative solutions that you can not get with weaving. The process is necessary to create designs for the Indian caste dress and as well for modern Indian style.

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Woodblock, India, about 1900’s

 

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Woman doing Block Printing at Halasur village, Karnataka, India.

Contemporary production and use of block prints, along with the social and historical roots of the craft are outlined in the book ‘Block printed textiles of India: Imprints of Culture, Erward, Eiluned (2017)’. Further reading on block printing can be found here. You can buy wholesale Paisley blocks here.

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The Paisley Leaf, Fashion and Rock ‘n Roll

“One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art,” said Oscar Wilde, who loved nothing more than to lounge in a silk paisley smoking jacket. Wilde and his friends loved the paisley pattern because it symbolised opulence and was a status symbol. Could this also mysteriously be linked to the pattern’s original meaning of it being a symbol of life and eternity? Who knows; we love the idea that nothing ever has meaning until you give meaning to it and that the success of the pattern could simply be down to it being pretty to look at.

After two dramatic world wars, Fashion had a resurgence. The Paisley became identified with psychedelic style. It was worn by the Beatles and the style was particularly popular during the Summer of Love in 1967.
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Prince paid tribute to the rock and roll history of paisley when he created the Paisley Park Records recording label and established Paisley Park Studios.

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The Paisley Leaf and Modern-day Subcultures

 

The hanky code (also known as a flagging is a system) was invented by Gay and Bisexual men in the 1970s. They are all decorated with the Islamic influenced Paisley leaf and are now used among queer communities and male casual sex seekers or BDSM practitioners in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe, to indicate preferred sexual fetishes. Hanky codes let observers know what kind of sex they are looking for; whether they are dominant or a submissive.
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The immortal print has recently been enjoying yet another peak of fashionability at the catwalks of London, New York, Milan and Paris, which have all seen a flutter or flash of it in recent seasons. It’s also used widely on corporate ties, so yea, a very potent symbol in many different subcultures and classes.

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Copyright © 2013 infinitas. Article Photo for Denim Jeans Observer http://www.denimjeansobserver.com All brands, product names, corresponding products, supplementary materials, graphic or photographic images, licenses, registered trademarks, trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

Gucci, 2016.

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In Business

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 23.26.27Nice tie, Sugar.

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Money Well Spent: How to Live a Rich Life in the Age of Uncertainty

For those with not much to spend, experiences are the way to spend it.

This article was written by Semiotic London and Illustrated by us. It first appeared on THOUGHTFUL: https://www.thisisthoughtful.com/3677/well-spent

Put down the knitting, the book and the broom

It’s time for a holiday

Life is a cabaret, old chum

So come to the cabaret

I’ve always loved the film Cabaret. I’m grinning and singing along as a female drag queen covered in tattoos belts out the title track while straddling two members of the audience, turning them into a makeshift motor buggy. It’s Thursday night in London, I’m sober, I’m seeing something I’ve never seen before, and I’m laughing my arse off. The previous week I spontaneously attended a book launch. Next week I might check out a science lecture I found out about on an events app, or some experimental fringe theatre someone gave me a flyer for.

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Illustration: Alexandra Lunn Studio

I used to feel guilty every time I spent money I’d earned on things I enjoyed, but now, in a time of lingering austerity and mounting alternative facts, I’m starting to revel in it. Like the 1920s Berlin of Cabaret, my city feels unstable and unpredictable in 2017. And as a result, I’ve changed my approach to money; I want to enrich my life by enjoying the urban experience to the fullest for as long as I can.

At the age of 29, nine years after the global financial crash, I’m realising that my entire twenties have been spent expecting things—money, education, housing, liberalism—to get better. And sometimes they did; only to become even more precarious in the next moment. University had been a grace period of hedonism, despite minimum-wage jobs and unpaid internships; but once final exams were over, a hovering drizzle cloud of expectation nestled in.

It wasn’t long ago that spending on anything beyond rent, bills, work travel and groceries felt frivolous, naughty, like I was letting someone down. Anything that deferred from the pitiful savings account was a treat that I had to convince myself I deserved. Every advertisement, family member and friend’s five-year plan seemed to be telling me to sacrifice ‘now’ for ‘then’ and the debts I’d no doubt have to pay for who-knows-what. I never knew when ‘then’ was or what it would require of me, let alone how much.

This year the guilt has lifted, and there’s a feeling of elation that comes from spending time and money on things that bring me joy and enrich my life—courses, shows, exhibitions, good food, moments with mates. This is quite aside from salary fluctuations; in fact, I earn less today than I did a few years ago. But now, once the necessities are covered, I seek to experience the city I live in as best I can.

It’s not about squandering money. I don’t go to the most expensive anything, and I still put something aside into savings. But the way I feel when I spend is wholly different. A friend mentions a drawing evening, a sword fighting class, a science lecture in a pub… I go if I can, because these are things that interest me, things that help me grow. And importantly, I enjoy the moment and the aftermath.

Mindful, joyful spending is about understanding what we have, what we can do with it, and using our time and money on experiences we can enjoy now. It’s not about throwing caution to the wind. If anything, we’re more aware of our money than ever before. User-friendly banking apps track our spending and help us set targets. Bare-it-all money diaries online help us understand how other people split their earnings. But apps and websites don’t judge us, and we don’t judge others for spending on experiences, because those are memories and comforts, bought for their own enjoyment, rather than for others to see and be jealous of.

So don’t despair for me or my generation’s prospects of significantly less security. There may be social, political or economic trouble ahead, but I don’t feel unlucky. I feel fortunate to live in a vibrant city at a time of massive change. I have the supreme privilege to enjoy its creativity, its novelties and yes, even its cabarets. I wouldn’t want to spend what little I have any other way.

What good permitting some prophet of doom

To wipe every smile away

Life is a cabaret, old chum

So come to the cabaret

 

How Traditional Mongolian Craft Influences Current Textile and Graphic Design Practices in Mongolia.

The nature and types of graphic arts found in Mongolia were influenced by the nomadic heritage of the steppes. We look at how nomadic visual culture influences the present design from….Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 09.38.36

Visual Art

Before the 20th century, most works of the fine arts in Mongolia had a religious function, and therefore Mongolian fine arts were heavily influenced by religious texts. Thangkas were usually painted or made in applique technique.

Silk applique’ thangka depicting Arhat Nandimitra. Mongolia 19th c.

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Under the Mongolian People’s Republic, socialist realism was the dominant painting style.

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Feeding Lambs” —This poster attempts to demonstrate solidarity with ethnic minorities in China. 

 

Does culture and language affect Typography?

Khalkha Mongolian is the official language and is spoken by 90 percent of the people. Minor languages include Kazakh, Russian, and Chinese. Khalka Mongolian is part of the diverse Uralic-Altaic language family, which spread with the ancient Mongol Empire and also contains Korean, Manchu, Turkish, Finnish, and Hungarian. Each of these languages features a highly inflected grammar. Khalkha Mongolian may be written in traditional Uighur (vertical) or Cyrillic script.

We now interview Tengis Type on his work and practice. 

 

 

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What language do Mongolians type in?

在蒙古国、中国、俄罗斯还有蒙古历史路线上的国家里都有持同一语言、书写却 不同的蒙古人。中国和蒙古国有过苏联化的时期,即是将母语的字母换为基里 尔字母的运动。但在中国的蒙古族仍然使用传统字母至今。

There are many different Mongolian people around the world, like in Russia and Mongolia, after the Soviet era they started to use Cyrillic Alphabet, but in Inner Mongolia of China, we still use traditional Mongolian Alphabet.

What do you get taught at university in Mongolia? Is it conceptual or purely technical?

我在大学选的专业是油画。

My own major in university is Oil Painting. and after graduating, I taught some visual classes in university here in Hohhot for a while. It is more technical.

How long have you been running for?

2013-2017

What influences your design?

目前的设计环境,更重要的是蒙古族自身的性格。

The current design environment and most importantly, my nature and character of being a Mongolian.

What attracted you to typography / graphic design?

其实并没有很新颖或者很特别的原因,我觉得被视觉表达所吸引的原因还是它 本身的语言特征。

Actually, there is no particular reason, I think, the linguistic feature is the main reason of me being attracted to expressing through visual elements。

Are the type designs you create purely for craft purposes and decoration or did they have any other deeper meanings?

文字很特别,即是工艺(工具)又是表达视觉概念的素材,所以两种情况都会接 受。

Type is very unique, it is a tool or an instrument, it expresses meanings, but at the same time type itself is a visual element too. So I care about these two features simultaneously.

What are the main building blocks of Mongolian history and culture that have lead to contemporary typography in Mongolia today?

文字都是伴随政治与宗教来强化自身,蒙古文也是。例如书写「国书」蒙古秘史 的政治需求以及后来兴起的佛教、基督教典籍的排印需求都改变了蒙古文。

All typography is strengthened by super powers like politics and religion and so it is with Mongolian Typography. Politics need to find someone to write their History books like The Secret History of the Mongols. And later on, the typesetting requirements of buddhist scriptures and bibles are the influencing factor of contemporary typography in Mongolia today。

Are current designers now influenced by western design as well as traditional Mongolian design?

会受到西方设计的影响,与此同时,蒙古人的情感驱使他们不得不去反思自己, 反思自身的传统历史文化和现代生活的转变、反思自身独有的情感与视觉之间 的关系。

Yes, designers are all more or less influenced by western design, but as the same time being a Mongolian people they all reflect on their own feelings, reflect on their history ,unique culture,and modern life, reflect on the relationship between their unique feelings and visual elements.

How does traditional Mongolian folk art influence your practice?

不像学院派的学科品味,蒙古民间工艺艺术深植在每一个普通蒙古人的审美系 统里面,进而蒙古设计师也不例外。蒙古设计师们会充分利用蒙古民间工艺艺 术的大众化特性,发挥其价值。

Not like scientific knowledge or academism, Mongolian folk art to me is more like a built-in thing, and to other Mongolian designers. We are trying to make the most of the universality of Mongolian folk art, make it count.

Tengis Type can be found here, here, here and here.

Here’s one of Tengis’ editorial work on Nomadic Fashion

Because it is supremely well-adapted to the conditions of life on the steppe and the daily activities of nomads, Mongolian dress has changed little since the days of the empire. The applique technique as shown below are from Michel and Amazonka’s Spring / Summer 2016 collection.

 

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What are the main building blocks of Mongolian history and culture that have lead to contemporary design today?

Nomadic culture and its information is conveyed through mostly oral means. So the pattern designs had to have deeper meaning and strict rules. These rules and meanings were integrated into legend and folk tales. Today we are not fully aware of the extent of our cultural heritage as it was almost completely destroyed during the 30’s by killing every educated people who held the knowledge. Also the Buddhism played huge role in patterns usage.

How long have you been running for?

2.5 years

What attracted you to design?

The sense of identity is very strong in Mongolia so it is something that we cannot neglect or leave behind.

What influences your design?

The current trend in the fashion industry, our identity, customers, and muses; we always keep eyes on current trends and fashion shows to not make similar designs. Also we take elements from our traditional clothes.

What has influenced the beautiful patterns that can be found in the traditional textiles and prints; did any social order/way of life influence the designs?

Unfortunately, we do not have written information about the creators of this culture as many times in our history foreign invaders made sure to destroy evidence. But lately, discoveries from old tombs revealed few of the clothing culture that was once trendy.

 

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Live Instagram Feed.

How was the cloth created?

The resources that Mongolians could find locally were cashmere, wool and felt as they were living a nomadic lifestyle where you cannot settle in one place to create factories and workshops. But their political power enabled them to bring silk and other delicate materials from all over Asia to create clothes. Also, they brought artisans from China, Korea and India to create fabric in Kharkhorin the ancient cultural and political centre of Mongolian Empire. But since the downfall of the empire such places disappeared and again we became dependent on import materials. From 1911, under Russian influence and the communist regime we created factories where cashmere, wool, leather and cotton materials were processed and manufactured. Today we do have these factories but are all under private company management and used for their exclusive designs.

Were the designs purely for craft purposes and decoration or did they have any other deeper meanings?

All patterns used in traditional clothing have respective meaning and used in different purposes. There specific patterns that are used for royal ceremonies, weddings, children, in accordance with ranks, regions and even funeral.

Are current designers now influenced by western design as well as traditional Mongolian design?

Mongolian designers always to use traditional designs in their creation. But most contemporary designers use European style as a base and decorate it with traditional patters or use a part of it.  

Few of our models and celebrities become our muses for creating certain designs.

How does traditional Mongolian folk art influence your practice?

We use patterns mostly with techniques such as printing, embroidery and beading. Our policy is to create designs for 2 different segments. One is traditional clothes for the local market and European style designs for a wider audience. The choice of pattern carefully selected considering cultural values of different ethnicities in the country.

What do you love about your job? Are most of your clients national or international?

The sense of creating something new is really rewarding. It has many challenges but in the end you create something new that has wow effect, it can be rebellious, it can be revolutionary, it can be innovating and the satisfaction you get from it is unparalleled. We would say 90% are local clients and the rest are international clients.

Where have you exhibited? Have you been featured anywhere else?

We’ve participated in several fashion show abroad. Usually organize 1-2 fashion shows annually in Mongolia and sell our products locally too. So far we’ve presented our collections in South Korea, China, and Russia

Michel and Amazonka run their own shop at Zaluus Melmii, Building-17, Peace Ave-28, Ulaanbaatar 15172, Mongolia

#MichelAmazonka

For more amazing work, please visit:  http://michelamazonka.com/ or their Facebook page.

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Graphic Design in Ghana 🇬🇭

Ghana background

 

This month, we interview Daniel who runs his own studio in Ghana.

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What’s your background?

It started when I was about 6 I make images out every shape and my family and teachers were encouraging me. After Junior High I was convinced that what I can do best

I used to work at a sign sign centre where we design and construct billboards. Before I arrived, they have a collection of fonts they use in their design, the layouts are almost fixed (the have about 4-6 layouts they keep repeating). The colours were almost the same all the time and there was no space to try new things.

Some preferred styles:

– Bold and Rigid 

 -Raw colours 

 -Circles & Squares

– non elegant forms

Most unfortunately I was carrying things around most of the time 😃

What inspires you the most? 

Nature.

What and where did you study? Was the course heavily conceptual or was it focussed on teaching technical skill? 

I studied Visual Visual Arts in Senior High School 

(Textile Design, Graphic Design, General Knowledge in Art…) – 3 years (70% conceptual)

Computer Technology Fundamentals – 1 year in Bachelor of Arts (Graphic Design) at the University – 4 years (it was 65% practical)

Why did you start your company?

I decided to start my our business because there are very few companies to employ artists. 

I was employed after uni but they pay very little and most disturbing was that they kept me to do things they believe are good. Doing the same thing everyday the same way is boring. I felt I was wasting my talent.

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Who are your main clients?

The business is good, as the population is buying into the idea of advertising their product. However, most of the work more about functionality than aesthetics purposes.

My clients are the general public, the Market Men/Women, Offices, families etc. (Most people do not own private printers as in in parts of the world so we take care of their secretarial services.

Work includes:

Web Design

Design and Print                           

Poster and signs

Souvenirs

Branding 

Photography 

events Coverage

Fashion

Portraits

Textile Design

Batik Dyeing

Screen Printing

 Functionality is my thing due to what my clients require; but also love aesthetics. So a combination. My clients so far are local; I grew up in the Volta Region and so I thought it wise to work with the people who I understand the most.

Which brands do you admire?

I like the Ghanaian Elcarna Studio (mainly their cartoons and animation).

My favourite Ghanaian Artists: are S.K. Amenuke and Dr. Dog be.

What did you study at university?

We studied Art History where we understood the life and works of artists and Art forms. 

-Albert Duree, Micheal, Picasso some Ghanaian Artists etc. 

-Artforms such as Pre Historic, Art Nouveau, Sub Sahara Art, Japanese , Bahaus etc.

What did you like about their work?

We didn’t have the option to like or dislike their works. We read about an artists’ Life – birth, birth place; what kind of artist – Painter, Sculptor etc. Description of some the works – Inventory of items, Mediums used, Technical Qualities Influence (personal, physical and cultural factors that can influence the artist) Appreciation (talking intelligently about the work without passing judgement).

How important is concept in your work?

Concept is evident in everything I design, sometimes unintentionally.

What do you love about your work?

The processes involved in doing the work makes me feel the work as part of me. The fact that it starts with the thought of making it, doing the work with my hands and the satisfaction.

What kind of work do you want to make? What are your hopes for the future?

I would like to make works that are beneficial to the society – anything at all.

I hope to get the right equipment for my company so I can offer the best graphic design services targeting the local content.

What does Ophisa mean?

My mother thought I will make a good cop so she called me ‘officer’ as in police officer, but our dialect accent made it ‘Ophisa’.

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Daniel is open for collaboration and can be found here:

Kpando, in the Volta Region, 3-4hrs drive from Accra

or you can email him at danieloftat@gmail.com

 

Japanese Design

Do you know to which companies these logos belong?

 

 

Actually, they are 14th century Kamakura Japanese crests and emblems for the Maruni Chigai Takanoha and Kikuchi Clan.

Japan is a progressive part of the world, especially in design. Their appreciation for spiritualism and harmony makes Japanese culture unique, deep and profound. Because of these circumstances, the visual culture is elegant and intricate. However harmonious and spiritual, the island culture is a multi-layered and complex system that has been developing within itself, forming new layers for thousands of years.

What do you first think of when I say Japan?  Geisha? Technology? Teatrading? Cars? Tamagotchi? and perhaps opium houses? We are ignorant of the multifaceted culture which, like any other country, has developed over millennia. We do not pay attention to how this complexity affects their elegant and minimal art and design. It seems that we value its beauty at face value and perhaps that says more about western attitudes to aesthetics than how we perceive other cultures.

This article will briefly take a look at some early artefacts and objects created by natives, then we will move on to look at how other crests from the middle ages resemble contemporary western logo design.

We’ll then briefly visit some of the other periods, including the 20th century and we will finally take a look at how the rest of the world has influenced the island’s current 21st century visual culture.

The country’s prehistoric Jōmon period ran from 14,000 – 300 BC. At this time the people were hunters and gatherers, but soon reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity. This was followed by the Yayoi period 300 BC – 250 AD, where new technologies introduced from Asia made it possible for this strange object to appear:

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Dancing Girl, Copper, Location: Mohenjo Daro.

Many more periods followed, including the Kofun period 250 to 538 AD, which is characterized by a Shinto culture which existed prior to the introduction of Buddhism. Here are some interesting artefacts produced during this era:

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Haniwa (Hollow Clay Sculpture) of a Boar with Bound Feet – Earthenwear

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The Asuka period 538 – 710 introduced Buddhism from China which marked a change in Japanese society. This period is also distinguished by the change in the name of the country from Wa 倭 –  meaning harmony, peace, balance to Nihon日本 – meaning “State of Japan”).

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During the Kamakura period, 1185–1333, before the emperors, Japan had a system of clans, each made up of people that were related to each other by either blood or marriage, and a common ancestor.  Shinto was practiced by the people of Japan, and is based on love for the beauty of nature and ancestors. During this time the Mōri and Hōjō clans were identified by these emblems:

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It wouldn’t be surprising to see similar visuals in modern Western contemporary art  and some forms of commercial design .

Before the Azuchi–Momoyama period (1568–1600), Japan had very little contact with the outside world. In 1543 three Portuguese travelers aboard a Chinese ship drifted ashore on Tanegashima, a small island near Kyushu. They were the first Europeans to visit Japan. In 1548 Francis Xavier, a Jesuit, arrived from Goa to introduce Christianity to the Japanese.

Thereafter streams of Portuguese traders and Jesuit missionaries came to Japan. The Japanese called them nanban (southern barbarians) because they sailed to Japan from the south. Portuguese merchants brought tin, lead, gold, silk, and wool and cotton textiles, among other goods to Japan, which exported swords, lacquer ware, silk, and silver. Evolving in a closed, beautiful island, untouched by the rest of the world could have influenced the strikingly beautiful visual culture. 

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Arrival of a Portuguese ship, one of a pair (Nanban screens), Six panel folding screen, 1620-1640. Japan. Ink, colors, and gold on paper, The Avery Brundage Collection.

In 1600 – 1868, during the Edo period, the shogunate was officially established and brought with it even more economic growth, strict social order, foreign policies, and popular enjoyment of arts and culture. These new circumstances brought new materials such as ink from the West, allowing for The Great Wave Off Kanagawa to be produced by the ukiyo-e artist Hokusai.

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There’s a current exhibition on at the British Museum about Hokusai.

By 1870, during the Meiji period, labelled as the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ the Japanese flag was created.

 

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A year later in 1871, R.A. Patterson created the lucky strike logo.

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The Shōwa period 1926–1989, for Japan was chaotic, disastrous but also influential on Japanese design.

Pre-1945, Japan moved into political totalitarianism, ultranationalism and fascism, culminating in Japan’s invasion of China in 1937. This was part of an overall global period of social upheavals and conflicts such as the Great Depression and the second World War.

Defeat in the Second World War brought about radical change to Japan. For the first and only time in its history Japan was occupied by foreign powers, which lasted seven years. Allied occupation brought forth sweeping democratic reforms. It led to the end of the emperor’s status as a living god and the transformation of Japan into a democracy with a constitutional monarch. In 1952, with the Treaty of San Francisco, Japan became a sovereign nation once more. The post-war Shōwa period also led to the Japanese economic miracle.

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Illustrations from the late Showa period:

 

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Modern, contemporary Japanese culture is an industrialized, built-up mess and is the result of the redevelopment after WW2 and influence from the West. This provides a fascinating contrast to its minimal and delicate design aesthetics which give the impression of simplicity and tranquility.  

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Japanese popular culture not only reflects the attitudes and concerns of the present day, but also provides a link to the past. The escapism found in modern japanese cultural activities such as virtual partners, films and games all provide an escape from the industrial world.

More reading:

A Comparison of Traditional Japanese and Western Aesthetics can be found here.

In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizak is an essay on Japanese aesthetics.

Another good one: Japanese Aesthetic by Donald Keene

ありがとう、またね !

 

Mt Fuji

 

 

Process led design

We all think more often in images than verbally. Think of Barclays Bank, Coca Cola, McDonalds. Without their logos or identities do you think that big brands would be where they are now?

We understand that small businesses have a need to get an idea off the ground quickly. However, we argue that it is always worthwhile to employ a good graphic designer or an agency who will understand your business and tell your brand’s story well. A logo that captures the essence of your business is so much more than choosing typography, colour palettes, symbols or icons according to what you like. Elegance and aesthetics of the design is what comes naturally from a thoughtful design process.

When we create a logo for a brand, the client and the studio follow a creative process flowchart. In the first free consultation we ask questions such as: Why did you start your company? Why do people choose your company over your competitors? If your brand were a person, how would you describe him or her?  And many more. This allows my client to get back to the drawing board and have a good think about what they want to project.

Understanding what their product is we consider their market. Is it local, national or international? What do they need? Increased market share, to become known outside the local area? And who their audience? Luxury, young and / or international?

Now we have established who we are communicating to, we move onto stage two of the creative process. Here we create several different designs for our client to choose from. These designs, typography choices and colour palletes are all based on the information gained from the initial consultation as well as the secondary research that we carry out on their behalf.

Here are a few examples that show the evolution of a logo that we recently created for Skin Aesthetics, who are a non-surgical cosmetic clinic who put their client’s needs first. We took care to listen to Qian, the founder of Skin Aesthetics, to find a way to communicate themes such as honesty, care and reliability that are central to her business ethos. Colour scheme, typography choices and visual style were all considered in great detail to communicate everything that her brand is about. Qian came to us just for a logo. However, creating a logo that has substance is so much more important than just whipping something up; how can you talk about your visual identity confidently without telling a story?

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We decided on using blue for her identity and a Roman inspired typeface Trajan Pro. In his book Writing & Illuminating & Lettering (1906)  Edward Johnston wrote that “the Roman capitals have held the supreme place among letters for readableness and beauty. They are the best forms for the grandest and most important inscriptions.”–This fits with Qian’s wish to project herself as an authentic brand and toward a luxury market. The next images show how all of the previous elements were put into place:

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Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 16.55.22Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 16.55.14The turn around time for this project was just one week. We hope that the examples and thought process description above provides clarity on how it is to work with our Studio.