Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Designing Mind for Inquiry

My work now follows my heart and my interests
with the guidance of my ego to create work
that is mutually beneficial to myself and the client.
This is heresy in the design world.
The ego is not supposed to be involved in graphic design.
~ Marian Bantjes, Graphic Designer

If you've never heard  Marian Bantjes speak, you are in for a treat. The Canadian is an artist, designer, typographic illustrator, writer, and educator. She's also self-assured, funny, blunt, dramatic, quirky, and astonishingly creative — whether she's designing storefronts, hand-drawing 150 unique valentines, writing mysterious fragments as love letters and sending them to friends, laser-etching wood, or crafting a magazine from aluminum foil.  

Below, in her talk before a TED audience, Bantjes talks about her "transformative personal story", her conceptual approach to her art, her "struggles" with the commercial design world, and her sources of inspiration. 

I've captured from Bantjes' presentation a few quotes that I particularly like:

✭ "I'm slowly coming to understand that the appeal of what I do may be connected to why I do it.

✭ "I find that, for myself, without exception, the more I deal with the work as something of my own, as something that is personal, the more successful it is as something that's compelling, interesting, and sustaining.

✭ "I tend to be interested in more ethereal qualities, like: Does my work bring joy? Is there a sense of wonder? And does it invoke curiosity? 

✭ "The things that interest me when I'm working are visual structure, surprise, and anything that requires figuring things out. . . I'm particularly drawn to systems and patterns [puzzles, genetic diagrams, for example]. I'm also interested in working with unusual materials, and common materials used in unusual ways. [Bantjes uses, for example, sugar, fun fur, pasta (for a book on "honor"), household tin foil, crayons, wall papers, nail polish, copper. She also employs more traditional tools, from pen and ink, to wood, to oils.] . . . My goal, ultimately, is to create something unexpected.

✭ "I'm very interested in wonder, in design as an impetus to inquiry. To say I wonder is to say I question, I ask. And to experience wonder is to experience awe.

✭ "I think that one of the things that religions got right was the use of visual wonder to deliver a message. I think this true marriage of art and information is woefully underused in adult literature. And I'm mystified as to why visual wealth is not more commonly used to enhance intellectual wealth.  

✭ "What is worthwhile? What is it that's worth spending my time on and my life on in this way? . . . What makes something worthwhile for me [are] the people I work for or with, the conditions I work under, and the audience that I'm able to reach. So I might ask, who is it for, what does it say, and what does it do?

✭ "I've come to believe that truly imaginative visual work is extremely important in society. . . I also think that work that is interesting, unusual, intriguing, that maybe opens up that sense of inquiry in the mind . . . is seeding the imagination of the populace. . . Inspiration is cross-pollinating. . . [T]his isn't something you can quantify or track or measure, and we tend to undervalue things in society that we can't measure, but I really believe that a fully operating, rich society needs these seeds coming from all directions and all disciplines in order to keep the gears of inspiration and imagination flowing and cycling and growing."

In October 2010, Bantjes' book I Wonder is scheduled to be released by Thames & Hudson in the United Kingdom and by Monacelli in the United States. (It will be available through Amazon.) Bantjes spent 15 months on the book. To learn more about it, go here. It promises to be a remarkable book or, as Bantjes describes it, "a feast for visual gluttons. . . food for the mind and the heart as well."

When you have time, go here to engage in the wonder of Bantjes' many projects. Her personal favorites are here. This article she penned is also a very good read. You can view page after page of images of Bantjes' work, beginning here


Lou Belcher said...

Thanks for the great post. The video inspires.

Deborah Barlow said...

Thanks for this Maureen. She is definitely worth the following although I think she could use some coaching on her speaking skills. The best TED speeches IMHO are by people who figure out how to be engaging and confident but not arrogant. I found her tone off putting. Her work can speak for itself.

M.L. Gallagher said...

"Does my work bring joy?"

How powerful is that!

Thanks for this -- I don't have the luxury of time this morning to watch the video - that's my evening treat to come!

M.L. Gallagher said...

PS -- I couldn't help but spend a few minutes browsing through her favourites and ended up on the I Wonder preview.

gotta love...

Saskatoon Saskatchewan is my hometown. Paris of the prairies.


Now that's funny. :)

Saskatoon is a pretty enough town but it's no Paris!

She is quirky.

and those Valentine cards are amazing -- what a great idea for old Christmas cards -- some of them, as she admits, are just plain ugly.

Kathleen Overby said...

May I say....this was needed today? Perfect timeing. A post that can turn the day around with light and encouragement is a gift post. Thank you with many hugs, Maureen.

Kathleen Overby said...

The incredible metaphor of Valentine's coming from Christmas almost 'done me in'.

L.L. Barkat said...

She sounds delightful.

I liked this...

"I tend to be interested in more ethereal qualities, like: Does my work bring joy? Is there a sense of wonder? And does it invoke curiosity?"

Makes me wonder... what am I interested in? Maybe some of the same things...

A. Jay Adler said...

"I'm slowly coming to understand that the appeal of what I do may be connected to why I do it."

I think there is much to understand in that, of work of any shade or vision - about the authenticity and passion behind the work.

M.L. Gallagher said...

I came back and watched...


I'm going to have to get up an hour earlier just to watch adn take in all your finds!



S. Etole said...

"Visual wealth" for adults ... yes!!!