A recurring challenge in any creative career is assessing when to put independently beautiful ideas on hold, in order to focus on a body of work that tells a more cohesive and impactful story. Though creating a high-level narrative can be daunting for visual designers, collections with a clear thread resonate more with an audience by evoking emotion and leaving viewers with a more lasting impression to ponder and discuss over time.
So, the question that arises: how can you tell a unique and cohesive story through each collection, without losing your individual artistic voice?
Below are three examples of artists and designers who employ different visual and conceptual systems, which allow them to do just that.
1. Jamie Wei Huang
Jamie Wei Huang, Nibbana Collection, Spring/Summer 2016
Jamie Wei Huang is an independent contemporary designer who created a name for herself after winning ELLE Taiwan New Talent and becoming a finalist in the Vogue Italy International Talent Award. Through her collections, she strives to express what it’s like to be a woman through her choice of imagery, cuts and materials.
Jamie Wei Huang’s Nibbana collection feels like an emotional and psychological display of a woman’s day-to-day life. The works symbolize a woman with an unconventional mind and edgier spirit.
Huang purposefully chose materials that are not commonly available in mainstream womenswear such as metal, grommets, and hooks. Her decisions in these materials reveal a certain air of darkness that Huang wants us to be aware of.
Nibbana was established with a cohesive subject matter but none of this could be possible without the visual forms within the construction of Huang’s work. Every detail down to color palette, use of contrast, lines, and the geometric properties are in a back and forth dialogue. Each garment has a strong relationship with the other.
Her design decisions unfold into a perfect rhythmic consistency and this is the consistency that often leaves the world in awe.
2. Kenya Hara
Kenya Hara, Pages from MUJI Corporate Advertising Magazine, 2003-2006
Kenya Hara is an illustrious Japanese graphic designer and art director of the lifestyle brand, MUJI. Hara describes himself as one who has learned to embrace emptiness, rather than a lover of simplicity. This emptiness he refers to is not only a visual practice but it is also a philosophical way of life deeply rooted in Japanese culture.
Hara has raised attention to a movement that seeks to birth endless possibilities out of the emptiness that post-modern minimalist culture praises. Embracing emptiness is a meaningful practice of design that involves carefully calculated decisions which evidently leads to the awareness required for a cohesive story within design.
The example above shows a comparison of the way different pages are treated through the strategic placement of text, images and subject matter yet still convey a nearly identical emotional message.
This example portrays how Kenya Hara has mastered the practice of unity through iterative works of design. We are looking at three pages housing different content yet still constructed in the same language. This language is released through how subtleties in difference and overarching similarities are balanced across the series.
There is a clear distinction page per page in the orientation of type, placement, size, and the manner in which elements inhabit their space. The subtleties of difference also work toward emphasizing the relationships each page shares.
3. Doris Salcedo
LEFT TO RIGHT: Doris Salcedo, A Flor De Piel, Rose Petals and Thread, 2011-2012; Untitled, 1,550 Wooden Chairs, Installation for the 8th International Istanbul Biennial, 2003
Doris Salcedo is a Colombian-born sculptor and artist whose area of focus is in postminimalism. Salcedo’s intent is set on honoring the pain of others. Her works invite us to honor the lives of those who have been repeatedly oppressed, silenced, and marginalized.
Her installations and artwork are approached with a great depth of political intent. Salcedo’s work also serves a call-to-action to the viewer and initiates the first steps toward their own journey of healing.
Doris Salcedo’s Untitled project built for the Istanbul Biennial is composed of chairs piled within a space that is not meant to hold such a large capacity. She describes how she set out to recreate a “topography of war” which surpasses any specificity of historical events and the human experiences.
“What I am trying to get out of this piece is an element that is common is all of us…I don’t think it’s important to know the event, I’m not narrating a particular story, I’m just addressing experiences.”
A Flor De Piel is an installation of preserved and flattened rose petals sutured together into a massive sheet. These preserved found items of nature symbolize the space between life and death. Once again the installation serves as a symbol of pain and loss.
A Flor De Piel was specifically brought into fruition after Doris Salcedo learned of a nurse who went through great troubles in her life to achieve her success only to have been kidnapped and tortured to death. Salcedo explains that “A Flor de Piel started with the simple intention of making a flower offering to a victim of torture, in an attempt to perform the funerary ritual that was denied to her.”