Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Embracing the local colour

In the past, design was flavored by geographical isolation. Aesthetics were informed by the characteristics of the landscapes that people saw on a daily basis, whether sharp mountain peaks, or soft, rolling foothills. Hues from the landscape informed designers' palettes, and all of these factors made it easy to discern design that originated in Germany versus England. With the birth of the International Typographic Style in the 1960s, such clear delineations ended up muddled: influences were taken from around the globe, rather than being cultivated in a bubble.

A question that came to mind recently was this: in these modern, connected times, with endless scroll feeds informing an international aesthetic, what role does local culture play in a design practice?

We live in an isolated forest community in rural Quebec, tethered to the world at large thanks to the miracle of the Internet. As part of our creative process, we study our surroundings, drawing colour swatches and composition ideas from nature. It’s interesting to note that everything we see around us exists because their ancestors were successful when it came to adaptation and reproduction.

Flowers in particular have adapted over countless generations: the colours that we see are the most fit;, the tested and true that have found equilibrium after eons of attracting and dancing with pollinators.

The colour combinations and scintillating contrasts that exist naturally are there for the taking, so we have begun to use them, with reverence. In fact, we have recently undertaken some constraints in our personal design practice: within our process, we are only allowed to drawn upon the palettes that we've "unlocked" locally.

There is something rewarding about having to physically traipse through the forest on a colour safari, hoping to stumble across some new bit of fauna that will expand our palette. Factors such as the time of day and the camera we're using end up playing a role with regard to the hues being documented as well. Our intention is to represent truth in as objective a manner as possible, and reflect nature's sage counsel when it comes to colours.

In this manner, our work becomes informed by the local environment, with inspiration pipelined and swatched direct from Mother Nature herself. In some manners, we're plagiarizing her greatest works ruthlessly, but the act of being an imperfect conduit for her inspiration becomes an act of creativity: the noise on the line.

When shared back to the connected design community, our work can't help but reflect the environment we're living in, with colours and shapes native to the ancient forest that surrounds us.

You don't have to hightail it to the desert like a nomad to get inspiration (though thinking about it, doing so sure sounds pretty). Your neighbourhood's architecture and charm are real expressions of humans bringing order and joy to their environment. That impulse right there is pretty much the definition of design, so if you take what you observe around you and reflect it into your work, you can achieve that objective posture that so many Modernists sought: moving the ego aside, you can submit to the universe and become a perfect conduit to natural Order and Truth.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Farm the World Visual Identity

Farm the World is an endeavour geared towards teaching people how to grow their own food and medicinal plants in whatever space they have available to them, anywhere in the world. The site hosts articles about growing techniques, tips about heirloom and organic seeds, recipes, and herbal medicine-making tutorials, and offers products such as apparel, bags, and even art prints to help fund both the site, and its future seed box subscription program.

As the endeavour was inspired by both the Great Depression era and WWII "victory gardens", we created a visual identity drawn from rustic, vintage images and typefaces. The typography was actually based on rural signage, like the lettering found on milk crates and farm equipment.
 Colour inspiration was drawn from nature photos (a tomato held against the sky, leafy greens juxtaposed against compost-rich soil), with an overall aesthetic that speaks of wholesome self reliance and healthy foods.

For the botanical bags, we used vintage illustrations to evoke the imagery used on seed packets from the 1930s.

 There's also a series of bags, art prints, T-shirts, tanks, and hoodies that are solely typographic (on FTW colours), and use the typeface featured in the logo and website header.

All art prints and apparel are available via Farm the World's Society6 page.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sugar and Pith

We were approached to update the visual identity for a California-based, small-batch apothecary company called Sugar and Pith, and it was a complete delight to delve into the aesthetic they were looking for.

The client was hoping for an Art Nouveau type of look without too much fussiness, and since the items she creates are based on seasonal ingredients, the identity system needed to be such that she could create her own labels as needed.

The answer to that was to use a warm, hand-lettered typeface with Art Nouveau-inspired botanical ornamentation.

 Larisch is a hand-lettered design by the Austrian calligrapher and teacher, Rudolf von Larisch. The original was used for the title page of the 1903 edition of Beispiele Kunstlerischer Schrift (Examples of Artistic Writing). The typeface has an attractive, casual set of caps of even strokes with rounded terminals. Except for the terminals, it is similar in style to Kunstler Grotesk.

The designer (Larisch) taught lettering at Kunstgewerbescule (School of the Commercial Arts) and Akademie der Bildenden Kunste (Academy for Visual Arts), both in Vienna, and the care and craft he put into his work is evident in the type's warmth and humanity.

Aren't these labels sweet? We were lucky enough to get some samples of the products themselves and they really are fabulous.


Sugar and Pith display at a local farmer's market.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

TWIST 2016 - 5th Anniversary!

This year marked the 5th anniversary of the TWIST festival, and it was a blast to be part of the team that helped to bring it to life! The identity we created for this year's event was the brightest and most exciting yet, so if you weren't able to attend in person, scroll through festival's photos below to see what you missed!