The graphic design for the 8th Tallinn Applied Art Triennial was created by Marje and Martin Eelma from the design studio Tuumik Stuudio. Their design blurs the boundaries between materials and environments and features fragments of exhibited artworks.
What were some of your first associations with the theme of the triennial, translucency?
Layers, steam, water. Diving into other materials. Or perhaps even parallel worlds that haunt you after reading a book or watching a film, worlds that are inside or layered on top of one another or as a grid. In order to evoke translucency you need more than one environment and these environments need to come into contact with one another, yet still remain separate. When they blend, translucency is lost.
What did you start the design process with?
The exhibition concept of the curator Stine Bidstrup and our initial conversations with the exhibition designer Kärt Maran led us to think about water as material and a surface of reflection. These ideas became the basis for the design. We also thought about the location of the exhibition, Kai Art Center just by the sea, and this, too, contributed to the further development of these ideas. Water is transparent matter, completely different from air. In places where water and air meet, light makes possible situations, where water is both transparent and reflects back into our world. Water can be quite dynamic, which results in dynamic images. Water or other liquids can also have a hue to them yet still be transparent to great depths.
The design also uses photos of artworks we will see at the exhibition.
We included artworks in the conversations about the design early in the process and that remained an important element, so we had to make these layers complement one another. On the one hand, a fluid and reflective surface layer that was expressed as a fluid and steamy typeface and beneath that, selected works or details of artworks. To conclude, the design was created in collaboration with the triennial’s team – we were discussing several directions that were more or less focused on the same theme but using various graphic elements. Finally, the design that expressed a common understanding of the theme the clearest was chosen. Reflections of water are not so clearly visible anymore, however, the steamy translucent typeface still evokes undulating water.
Could you talk about how you chose the four photos featured in the design?
First, we looked if the photos fit with our chosen typeface, the steamy and fluid typography had to be visible against the background. Not all photos supported that. In the end, we chose photos that worked best with the typeface.
The graphic design of the triennial features the following artworks: Wang & Söderström “Flatscreen“, Sandra Vaka “Jugs (bitter lemon)“, Eeva Käsper “Enclosed Secret” and Grethe Sørensen “Lillebælt III“.
The visual identity of the 7th Tallinn Applied Art Triennial is created by Marje and Martin Eelma from the graphic design studio Tuumik. We asked them a few questions about how the triennial’s visuals were developed. And they also share a couple of their own favourites.
The visuals for the Tallinn Applied Art Triennial is really colourful and eye-catching. How did you arrive to that? Is there a story behind it? What were you inspired by?
We started off with the theme of the triennial, “Ajavahe. Time Difference”. When we got the initial brief, it featured a description of the Italian jewellery artist Giovanni Corvaja’ painstaking years long work “Golden Fleece” that seemed to defy all (contemporary) rational thinking – he is creating fur-like ritual objects of gold. The objects are made of gold wire with a diameter of 1/5 of a single stand of human hair and they feel soft as fur. This took our breath away and made us think how different the concept of time can be for people. The theme of the triennial also spoke to us, time is something we think about often. Images from our own past also started popping up: Marje studied in Tartu and had to go back and forth between Tallinn and Tartu, either by train or bus, so she always wondered about the many lit windows she passed in the complete darkness 90 km/h and the stories they could have told.
When we were creating the visual identity, we thought about the passing of time, how we perceive things differently, to what extent it is possible to go deeper when the tempo alternates – you notice bigger things when you move faster, details when you go slower. If the tempo is set for you by someone else and it is not what you are comfortable with, a certain shift occurs – you see your surroundings, but it seems different, your perception of reality is warped. Your own state of being changes how you see the world.
At first we were playing around with colourful surfaces, divided them into bigger and smaller sections, trying to convey different speeds with surfaces of different colour and size, according to the amount of information they displayed. Then we moved on to using a programme that worked in a way that you could shake, rotate or move around your tablet without even knowing what happens with the colours and shapes on the screen. The colours and shapes began shifting, the programme shook up reality and a whole other world appeared. We liked that it really related to the theme of pace, the passing of time.
Tuumik is a recognised graphic design studio, so you can surely choose your own clients. What inspired you to work with the triennial?
For us the number one concern is the people we work with, but also the project itself – is it necessary, does it have an idea behind it? It has to be consistent with our own view of the world. And the concept is also really important for us when creating the visuals. We also take on clients from outside the field of culture, although this field is particularly close to our hearts. It is important that we would find the work exciting.
We do not want to take on too many similar projects, it would not be interesting to us. We try to find projects that are new to us and we have not done art events like the triennial before. We were attracted to the fact that it is an international event. The participants seem fascinating and by working with them we can definitely get a more thorough picture than just by going to exhibitions. We love it when we get to know new things while working on something.