Few artists have managed and consider their entire output like Martin Kippenberger. Although not formally recognised as a graphic designer, a legacy of Kippenberger are his brilliant posters that he produced for exhibitions.
OK-RM and Daniel Shea: Ex Nihilo, Commissioned by 1017-Alyx-9SM.
Held together by a rubber band, Ex Nihilo is a series of printed objects including a book, a set of six posters and plates that construct a fictional narrative around the construct of fashion.
Thomas Demand (born 1964) is a German sculptor and photographer. He currently lives and works in Berlin and Los Angeles, and teaches at the University of Fine Arts, Hamburg.
In 2005, MoMA described his work as follows:
Demand’s photographs can seem convincingly real or strangely artificial. The work of German photographer Thomas Demand achieves a disquieting balance between the two. Born in 1964, Demand began as a sculptor and took up photography to record his ephemeral paper constructions. In 1993 he turned the tables, henceforth making constructions for the sole purpose of photographing them. Demand pushes the medium of photography toward uncharted frontiers. His originality has won him recognition as one of the most innovative artists of his generation.
In their studio in somewhere between Hackney and Bethnal Green, we sat down with Oliver Knight and Rory McGrath, founders of OK-RM - a design studio that takes a collaborative and uniquely multidisciplinary approach to their work. They are the Creative Directors of quarterly magazine Real Review, in partnership with the Real Foundation, and are responsible for the identity and design culture of the Strelka Institute. They were part of the team that designed the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale (2016) and founded InOtherWords, an imprint which produces books in close collaboration with artists, writers, institutions and other cultural protagonists.
There is more content produced now than ever before. The emergence of multiple platforms of distribution has afforded an equity amongst brands and individual users which now holds an intrinsic monetary and social value in our culture and economy. This radical change over the past decade has led to unusual behaviour - people are adopting the mode of a brand in their own communication and at the same time, brands are imitating people in the pursuit of authenticity. Despite operating mainly in the cultural sector, it was clear when talking to Rory McGrath and Oliver Knight (OK-RM), that they were aware of how these emerging spheres of communication present new challenges for brands and consequently the role of design within them. On discussing a current project with fashion brand, Alyx, Rory explained:
“It was important for us to establish an approach which would place ideology, meaning and narrative at the core. Everything that comes after that - a design, a typeface or a book - responds to it."
With content holding a central focus in OK-RM's work, their collaborative projects with artists and writers - such as FOS, Shezad Dawood and Jack Self - have fed directly into their approach towards design. Being involved at a conceptual level within the arts and cultural sectors has led to how they consider the role of a brand.
“Exhibition design has definitely been important for us to question the potential of space and spatial design,” Rory told us. “We think about how to create an environment for content beyond a book or a website or a specific object - whatever that may be. You start to think about space and suddenly you’re really dealing with someone’s whole experience. That sets you up for questioning space in a more abstract sense - the space of a brand lets say.”
On this, Oliver highlighted how the emergence of new platforms for content has expanded our expectations and interaction with the brand as well as the scope of possibility. “Historically, a fashion brand would communicate mainly through advertising. There would simply be an image consistently in each magazine with a logo placed on or near it. Whereas now our interaction with a brand exists across a multitude of contexts: online, social media, in print, physically. You can’t just repeat the same thing over and over again (well, unless that’s the concept). We now have the opportunity to question how we create a narrative in an incremental way, we can open a more dynamic discourse with the audience. This is something we’ve been really interested in and have focused on with Alyx.”
It is a deliberate intention of OK-RM that a narrative can be felt in varying forms across their body of work. Whether it is felt subtly in the arc of a design culture, as was implemented during their time working with the Strelka Institute, or as an actual storytelling mechanism in Leviathan and Home Economics.
Regarding a current project, Rory explained how they were taking inspiration from other places to establish narrative in atypical ways. “We're commissioning an artist to make what you could call a ‘narrative project’, which is conceptualising a fictional character and he then undertakes that personality and travels the world, looking at things through this perspective. So in that sense, it’s very akin to filmmaking or storytelling in general. We’re using the character as a protagonist to articulate the core principles of the concept, it’s a kind of tool really. It creates a mood rather than a didactic point. It riffs on and has a discussion with the contemporary."
What became clear during our conversation was the potential that OK-RM see for creating meaningful content for those that they work with, and simultaneously being able to design the frames within which it exists. The form and shape of content is now infinitely wide in scope and it could have big implications for the relationship between brand and consumer, hopefully leading to a more experimental exchange. With particular regards to fashion, Oliver highlighted the utility of this outlook. “Fashion isn’t just about clothes, it’s often a broader cultural project which encompasses various clues to the culture and context in which it exists. The ability to work closely with artists within this framework is a way of creating authentic content which goes beyond commerce.”
When discussing their projects, there was the feeling that OK-RM were continually expanding the reach of design and that they had created for themselves (and their collaborators) a freeing space in which to work. The motivation for this expansive approach seemed to stem from a respect for communication and a continuous cycle of critique with regards to their practice.
“It’s driven by a genuine critical engagement, for instance with book making,” said Rory. “We have designed many books, some of which weren’t always commissioned with a huge amount of ambition to make the ultimate book. At the same time we were looking back toward the work of Pontus Hultén (who was director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in the 1960s ), we started to collect his books and realised that most of the time he was designing them himself, we started to wonder, how does he make such brilliant books? It was clearly because he was so intrinsically involved in the shaping of that content, likely closely with the artist(s).”
This was one of the significant realisations that led OK-RM to found InOtherWords in 2015, a publishing imprint creating books in close collaboration with the subject. It has served as a platform for reaching what Rory defined as “trying to create a ‘total book’ or ‘total project’”. InOtherWords has been a proponent for OK-RM to support artists, writers and collaborators to realise projects that otherwise may not have happened. As Oliver and Rory explained, in this way they are very much “protagonists of content”, occupying a role in which they are able to support a project from its inception to its end product. When referring to books and other items of design, they use the words 'Specific Objects' - a term eponymous with Donald Judd - somebody they cite as being an influential figure along with other ‘Total Artists’ Joseph Beuys, Sol Lewitt, Martin Kippenberger and Lawrence Weiner.
'Specific Objects' has also become a helpful delineation between the different strands of OK-RM's practice as they have expanded in scope over the ten years they have been working together. On the changes that have occurred in design over the past decade, Oliver reflected, "Its a lot more open, a lot broader, there are many ways of working. Personally we are having a lot of fun right now, we enjoy the opportunity to question what we are confronted with and extend our discipline outwardly from graphic design. In fact one of the things that’s important to OK-RM’s trajectory is that we work collaboratively across disciplines with inspirational practitioners and individual characters, like Jack Self and Hesselbrand, but also reoccurring artists, collaborators or clients. In that sense, I think there has been change because when we started OK-RM, we started to question who would be within our sphere and now we’re surrounded by inspiring creative partners.”
The quarterly publication Real Review is centred around the proposition 'What It Means To Live Today'. It is a key example of the collaborative core that runs through OK-RM’s work. In this instance, they work closely with Jack Self, director of the Real Foundation and Editor-in-Chief of Real Review.
One of the most impressive aspects of Real Review, beyond the content itself, is the realisation of placing content at the centre of the project. When discussing the simplicity of the design Rory pointed out that, "Real Review is simple but deceivably so." A key example of this is how the magazine differentiates between articles by changing patterns of text size. “That’s because we wanted to have this ease of hierarchy. You need to identify one article from the next and we wanted to do that with the most simple means possible. You have one big one and one small one big one etc. You don’t need other forms of hierarchy for the magazine to function.”
Much like InOtherWords, Real Review is emblematic of the experimental and reflective approach that OK-RM take towards design. This method of working not only results in a coherence across projects but serves as a dialectic for the role that design plays in relationship to form and content. There was a lasting impression that a key motivation behind OK-RM is to provide the cultural platform of which they have been a key proponent in defining over their 10-year studio practice. AG
The notion of daily practice represents the guiding theme of this book. Featuring hundred eleven individual artworks gathered around eight themes, it introduces the artistic practice of French-born artist Johanna Tagada. The publication present the versatile nature of Johanna Tagada’s work, which encompasses a broad range of techniques, materials, and media including figurative and non-figurative drawings and paintings, collage, textile work and sculpture.
Overview Below. Read more on MOS’ Website here.
This exhibition consists of 44 houses by 44 architecture offices.
The house has an exhaustive history within architecture. As a protagonist of formalism throughout modernism and postmodernism, it has been a recurring problem for urbanism. And, simultaneously, it has been considered a solution for urbanism and a problem for formalism (Levittown). The house has been at the center of phenomenological questions (dwelling), a frequent site of the everyday vernacular, and the primary subject of the digital/virtual. In this particular exhibition, houses were chosen simply because there are a lot of them circulating around the Internet, available to gather. And because nowadays the house has seemingly become more and more of a desirable design object, an image, a stage set, a thing, a product both in how it is made and culturally understood. The house is a receptacle for identity and technology, similar to our phones.
Maximage Colour Combinations explores how different colours and hues can interact together, and how they can merge from one to another. Without any chapters or formulas, colours travel from shiny to matte, blue to celadon, frozen to boiling, reflective to absorbent, dark light to brain grey, spectral to metameric, sunshine to neon, from Atlanta to Albertville, or from Leipzig to Juba via Napoli and back again, in an attempt to tell infinite stories. The reader will not find here this year’s hot colour nor the trends for next season. Rather, each page tells a different story that each user can relate to, reinterpret or reappropriate in their own way.
This book is a tool for designers, artists and printers who are interested in personalized and unique colour palettes. Created using between 2 and 5 spot colors, over 120 combinations were generated directly in the offset press by interfering with the ink unit. This unorthodox colour-mixing technique helped to create more than 450 spot colors evolving over the 500 different books, turning each one into a set of totally unique combinations.
This publication follows Maximage Formula Guide and Maximage Raster Guide, and is part of the Workflow Research Project (R&D). It was conceived and printed during a workshop at ECAL held by Maximage and the printer Thomi Wolfensberger, Zurich. Workflow is a research project at ECAL led by David Keshavjee, Guy Meldem, Tatiana Rihs, Julien Tavelli and is supported by the HES-SO/University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland.
33 × 23.5 cm, Softcover, 2018, 978-2-9701157-9-3
Fictional Journal is a platform and online publication investigating design’s involvement within society.
The first three issues have been themed around JOY, PROPAGANDA & UNCANNY.
Here’s some information about Issue 3: UNCANNY:
The will to automate material, be it from clay, expired flesh, marble or rubber, has long permeated the social imaginary of humans. Stories of desire and power – from Pygmalion’s awakening kiss upon the marble form of his ideal woman 1, to Sophia the Robot modelled on Audrey Hepburn, create a lineage of icarus-like tendencies to form autonomous intelligence from seemingly inanimate materials.
PUGMENT's current collection, along with the pieces featured in their March 2018 show at the Komagome Soko, have been documented by photographer Kenta Cobayashi. From the contemporaneous generation of PUGMENT's founders, Cobayashi's oeuvre is distinguished by heavy digital manipulation, with his recent work exploring a negative/positive inverse. The present publication combines Cobayashi's new photographic interpretations with a comprehensive compendium of Japanese fashion history, replete with text and images compiled by PUGMENT. A monumental genre-crossing compilation vaulting over the boundaries of lookbook, photobook, and Japanese fashion history archive, this volume is itself a work of art, completed by graphic designer Shun Ishizuka.
Published by Newfave, 25.5 × 18 cm, Softcover, 2018,
Casual Relationships explores the mechanisms at work in the construction of visual culture. By carefully curating and simulating photographs from contemporary vernacular sources, Max Creasy identifies the way these images are endorsed within social groups and norm circles. The sequencing and design of the publication articulate the associations and patterns discerned from this promiscuous collection of images.
Max Creasy is a half-Australian half-Norwegian visual artist living and working between London and Berlin. His photographic practice explores systems of meaning through architecture, the archive and still life.
His work has been widely exhibited at commercial and institutional galleries including the Centre for Contemporary Photography, West Space and the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
InOtherWords creates books and editions in close collaboration with artists and other cultural protagonists. Publications are crafted to the highest standard and with the utmost care. The imprint was established by London-based design studio OK-RM as a platform for its collaborative book projects.
Buy the book here.
Okuyama Taiki was born in Okayama in 1988. He lives in both Tokyo and Okayama.
On his website he states:
I am creating art direction in Tokyo, shops in Okayama, company in Hiroshima, graphic design in Internet. Regardless of paper, web, space, event, community and other media, we will establish a mechanism that creates communication based on design.
Below is the psychedelically-neon work he created for Japanese rock band Owarhythm Benkai.
Systemantics are a web and app development studio specialised on working with businesses and design agencies. Their work has a crisp and clearness, affording the subject matter or theme space within the web frame. Creating space on an online platform whilst still producing something that is visually engaging is easier said than done- as is applying principles of modernist design to create images and user experiences that feel timeless and different. When working in such a way the devil lies in the detail. Systemantics’ portfolio stands out for it’s consistency and quality across projects - view more of their work on their website: https://www.systemantics.net
Frank Wo is a design service based in Tallinn.
They sum up their practice by stating:
Our studio aim is to bring together transcendent visual experience that has a strong connection with the audience. Frank Wo creatives are practising different methods to deliver an extra touch of uniqueness. Diversity in solution is essential to stand out and stay viable. Bold clear twisted visuals in graphics and identity. Rad is the new black.
Enjoy some of their work below:
Find the Frank Wo website here.
Studio Lin is a graphic design practice based in New York. There work is imbued with a clarity and simplicity that makes complex information tangiable and places content at the forefront of the design.
Working in such a way ecentuates detail and guides the user/viewer towards appreciating nuanced discourse and new concepts. There are archetypes of information, columns and lists that are synonymous with digital word processing. Studio Lin excel in employing a restricted pallets of aesthetic language and finding the beauty within the display of information.
Darius Khondji is a titan of modern cinematography. He has worked with a staggering array of acclaimed directors and has shot some of the most recognisable films of the last half a century.
Synecdoche have released this retrospective book helmed by film critic Jordan Mintzer. Alongside a range of visuals, it includes exclusive interviews with directors, actors and technicians with whom Khondji has collaborated over the years.
The book has been described by synecdoche.fr as ‘one of the only books of its kind to be fully devoted to the life and work of a cinematographer, offering a journey through the past fifty years of cinema with one of the greatest directors of photography who helped revolutionize the art form through his work on both Hollywood films and art-house movies in Europe and Asia.’
Have a closer look and buy the book here.
Discover the excellent work of designer Ronnie Fueglister – in particular his exceptional and distinct approach towards book design. We’re pleased to say that an in depth conversation with Ronnie will be featured in Issue B of Cultural Bulletin.