Design can be a powerful tool to inspire change, promote thought and raise awareness. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with acclaimed graphic designer and typographer Marian Bantjes. The recent AGI inductee provides insight into her recent poster series “Design Ignites Change” and gives with a glimpse of what is to come in 2009.
VC: What sparked “this change” you speak of 5 years ago to do more personal inspired work?
MB: I was just worn out by the daily grind of working in the regular model of graphic design, doing merely good work, running a studio etc. I was sick to death of it and wanted out. I desperately wanted to do something that was more connected to me, more artistic and personal.
VC: Your overall work has a certain signature to it, but at the same time has a nice range. Tell us a little about your process and how your work has evolved over the years?
MB: I’m afraid my process is very dull. I sit around thinking, ideas spring into my head, I work on one sketch, maybe three at the most, to get that idea from my head onto paper, and then I finalize it, either by hand or on computer. I’m interested in so many different things, it’s hard for me to get it all out. So I’m constantly leaping from one thing to the next, making notes on ideas and trying to find the right home for them. The difficulty is sometimes dragging clients along with me. They want me to do something I’ve done before; I want to do something I’ve never done.
VC: Tell us a little about your Design Ignites Change series with AED. How did it come about? What initiated the technique of laser cutting for Version #1 of the poster and silver foil on copper paper for Version #2?
MB: They started it last year with a poster from Luba Lukova. When they approached me this year, I of course said yes. Any design brief which is “do what you want with these few words” is the kind of brief I like to have (provided the words don’t suck). I sat around, I thought about it, and the idea of the laser-cut thing sprang into my head. The way it changes when you look through it; the way the paper is Ignited… it was perfect. The only problem was it was expensive. So I ran it past them and offered my fee back to pay for the laser cut and they agreed.
Somewhere along the way we started looking at different papers and drooling over other possible techniques, which is when we decided to do both: the silver foil on copper paper, following the laser cut. They’re both bitchin’, and the sale goes to a good cause.
VC: Will there be a Version #3 using a different printing technique?
MB: No, we’re done. I’ve referred them to Eike König of HORT in Berlin to do the one for next year. He’s amazing; he’ll do something really great.
VC: The DIC posters were part of a series to promote the importance of design in development work. Do you see yourself doing more work geared towards social and environmental initiatives?
MB: Well… I’ll be honest, it’s not something I seek out. But I like to do it; I would like to make more beautiful things that could be sold to help good causes. At the same time, I’m just me, I have no studio or helpers who can make other things to pay the bills while I’m doing good works. So I usually accept things which come my way (provided I get carte blanche for the design), but a gal’s gotta make a living too.
VC: What’s in the horizon? Is there anything you are currently working on that you would like to share with us?
MB: I am essentially taking 2009 off to work on my own book. I don’t wanna say too much about it, but if it turns out the way I intend, it’ll be great. It’s not a monograph; it’s something else. So I’ll be turning down pretty much everything in 2009, unless it’s a really exceptional opportunity or worth gobs of cash. But I really need all the time I can get for the book.
VC: Working virtually and living off the coast of Canada, How do manage you stay connected to the design community?
MB: I go to conferences (often to speak), or judge design. I have a huge virtual life, with friends all over the US and in Europe, so I’m connected via computer. And I tend to go to New York around 3 times per year.
VC: You’ve met with much success as of late, in addition to being inducted into AGI in September 2008. With all the recognition you’ve received in the few years, what do you do to stay grounded?
MB: Um, I look around. Most of the time I feel unworthy of the accolades. I look at other people’s work and I think “I’m not so shit hot; look at this!” Sometimes I’m so grounded I’m 6 feet under.