imomus (imomus) wrote,

Graphic energy: Zak Kyes

A new graphic designer has popped into my ken -- or rather, I've pinned a name (Zak Kyes) to a sensibility I was already being influenced by via his exhibition of "critical design", Forms of Inquiry. I saw that show twice over the last year, once at London's Architectural Association (where the Swiss-American Kyes is Art Director), once at Casco in Utrecht.

The reason he's popped up on my radar (with a name this time rather than just a sensibility) is that Ingo Niermann, who's editing my Book of Scotlands, went to London last week to work with Zak on a book he's producing about the Great Pyramid, and also to get a generic look-and-feel (choose typefaces and so on) for the series he's currently putting together for Sternberg -- the series my Scotlands book will be part of. That means that the Scotlands book (which I illustrated last week with a scratch sleeve of my own -- I'm already a bit embarrassed by it) will come out with a design by the man who put the Forms of Inquiry show together. Call me a design nerd, but that makes me very happy indeed.

I'm also happy because Kyes' work really excites my eye. He gets a sort of "funky textbook" look, a sort of harmonious clutter which stays one step ahead of habituation -- in other words, these are designs you want to look at, not just efficient information-packaging or visual shorthand for pre-existing sensibilities.

Kyes manages to combine an appetite for quirky typefaces (see his Flickr photostream for many odd bits of lettering he's observed on his travels) with a controlled balance between simplicity and complexity, order and chaos. There's a taste for cheapness, for exoticism, for the ephemeral-yet-serious energy of '60s and '70s art catalogues, for Fluxus. There's an obvious appetite for intelligent, critical, non-standard printed matter.

I've become a maker of books -- a mediaform I've sometimes found fusty and ugly. It's very important to me to know that the books I've been writing recently will have the graphic energy so apparent on Zak's website, and that this embrace of literary culture won't mean having to turn my back on the best of visual culture: in fact, it'll be right there on the front!

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