1. ssssttieeenn is the rearranging of the letters of my full name which is 'Stien Stessens'. I'm a graphic designer.
2. (...) Susan Sontag said: 'The mask is the face', Patricia de Martelaere said: 'There is nothing outside language' and Dom Sylvester Houédard said 'form = content'. One day I said 'graphic designer = writer' because why not: you give meaning to (letter)forms, you communicate by signs and words are just letters are just shapes to begin with.
3. Books can be brilliantly written and have awful covers + badly spaced typography at the same time. Or the other way around: some things look amazing, but when you think about them, they turn out to be rather dull. What does this mean for our understanding? Can we judge a book by its cover? The concept that 'form' and 'content' are not at all the same, is deeply ingrained in our language, in the way we read and understand the world. (...)We apply it to literature, art and other humans as well. Someone can be ugly, but that doesn't matter, because it's the inside that counts. Conceptual art focuses more on the 'content' than on the appearances. And even if a word is put in bold to highlight it, we'd still agree it means the same. To think outside this divide, proves to be really difficult.
(intermezzo) In beauty I walk / With beauty before me I walk / With beauty behind me I walk / With beauty above me I walk / With beauty around me I walk / It has become beauty again / It has become beauty again / It has become beauty again / It has become beauty again (...) The Navajo Way Prayer and Blessing - Walking in Beauty, read in a Krazy Kat comic.
4. But, what if a designer and a writer worked closely together from the beginning of the book? That's what we did with 'A House for the Mind'. Caroline Voet came to the Grafische Cel with a large stack of research about Dom Hans van der Laan and the wish to explain his ideas to a broad public. I did my best to understand van der Laans vision, mathematical system and the way he cared about the human sensitivity for proportians and spatialty. (...) I translated his mathematical rules to every aspect of the book. The proportion 3:7 or 175:245 mm, turned out to be a really harmonious book format. The page margins follow the same mathematical logic and I decided on 3 useful page-layouts where all content was put in according font-sizes. Van der Laans color and material sense were translated to the paper choices. He thought a lot about how people move through spaces and how a building can gradually guide you through it, by making use of see-throughs and non-symmetric positioning of walls, doors and windows. After experiencing his architecture physically on visits to the Roosenberg abbey, I wanted to achieve the same. We arrived at a book that evolves like a mindful walk through all the different aspects of his vision: his writings, his buildings, his sketches, his beliefs and his calculations.
We were happy to receive recognition from the Deutches Architekturmuseum, when the book was selected as one of the 10 best architectural books of 2018. The judges called it "A book that seems to come from a different age" (...) and they also said: "The print space and typography are intuitively arranged and overall the publication, an exhibition catalog, is characterized by restraint. The use of OTA binding for the catalog is just as pleasing as the sensitive choice of materials, which already makes the book seem prize-worthy when touched with closed eyes.", which is such a nice compliment to receive. Special thanks to Inge Ketelers, who helped with the execution of the design. Published by Flanders Architecture Institute with KULeuven and Luca School of Arts.
5. Or take this website: I'm writing, designing and coding simultaneously. Basically I'm trying to say this one thing — in all these different languages.
6. And my graduation project, which was called 'o=ndtiwcehrtpeerr' (...) or 'd=epsoiegtner', where I decided that everything I made during that year, was a poem indeed. I ended up with a posterpoem, a partypoem, an ode to the letter s, a diamondpoem, a lot of rejected poems and a thesispoem. You can find it back here.
7. One might ask: doesn't it end up as the same, a poster or a posterpoem, what's really the difference?. And you're right, it's not that the things I (want to) make look so different then other things that are being made. It is possible I just picked this motto 'designer = poet' to amuse myself. It does.
8. Me and Isis Tweepenninckx choose to play as well, our field was the pavement and we called ourselves conveniently 'STOEP'. (...) (= the Dutch for pavement.) We went outside and talked about how we could 'do' graphic design without access to the habitual spaces or institutions (a school, a studio, a job, a client…) Can a pizzabox be a billboard for the ants? How to draw with tape on the street? Can a mistake from our side in an important comission become a joke? What does a meeting on the pavement in the summer look like? How many funny wordjokes can we make starting from 'stoep'? (...) stoepioezen. stoep peots poets. trottoir accessoire. stoepel. oepts. stoeppoep. We have a lot of fun with this and take it very seriously.
9. Being a graphic designer is just this one part of who I am. I'm also a vegan feminist and I often think about what I can do to make my surroundings better for everyone. In 2015 I made a publication with the subtle title 'Everyone should be feminist' and I have just digitalized part of it: here. I was also very happy to contribute a poster to the 'Furora x Posterwomen' event in Berlin back in December.
10. I am currently working half of my time as a freelancer in Ghent, Belgium, so if you have an idea, a project, an opportunity, a question, an answer or just a feeling, let me know.
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