thinkornamental designer crush #1: Marian Bantjes

Marian Bantjes is a well-known Canadian graphic designer who is known for her complex, highly patterned and ornately ornamented graphic style.  Graphic designer & design educator, Denise Gonzalez Crisp, coined the term: “decorational”, which compliments Bantjes’ graphic style. While decoration and rationality aren’t normally paired with one another, within this concept of the “decorational” – both concepts seem to be symbiotically intertwined, with each part informing the other. Or as Crisp says, “function is completed by ornament.”

Twemlow also notes that “The intricacy necessary to make patterns or to construct ornament suggests that a real attention is being paid to the craft of making and to detail.” This statement perfectly describes the complex design aesthetic of Bantjes.

There is an expressiveness, excessiveness, and freedom that is allowed within the realm of ornament, yielding unique and beautiful outcomes.

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Wabi-sabi, Jeremy Scott for Adidas, and ornament.

A few weeks ago in my history of  graphic design class, my teacher was sharing the japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”. Wabi-sabi as a concept used in design, seems to be an opposite aesthetic from modernism. While modernism tended towards clean, symmetrical, fluid and smooth design, wabi-sabi finds beauty in imperfection, irregularity, asymmetry, and roughness.

Which then reminded me of Adolf Loos’ rant against ornament being a waste of labor, resources, time and money. Loos is someone who would prefer to buy objects devoid of detailing and decoration and would also prefer to pay more money for something lacking ornamentation.

Loos says “The evolution of culture is the is synonymous with the removal of ornament from utilitarian objects.”

I stumbled upon fashion designer Jeremy’s Scott’s sneaker collaborations with Adidas while browsing the web. His designs are the opposite of Loos’ argument. Devoted sneakerhead fans currently pay specifcally MORE for an ornament of a stuffed animal attached to their sneakers, rather than less, for an unadorned shoe, plain Adidas shoe. “Form follows function” is often quoted as a mantra for good design, but there is really no “function” that enables a sneaker to improve its performance by “sticking a bear on it”. But the whole point of this particular shoe, is the ornament.Image Continue reading

A visual companion to “The Decriminalization of Ornament”

In Alice Twemlow’s essay, The Decriminalization of Ornament, there are several references to designers, galleries, etc., that I was not familiar with. Here’s a handy all-in-one visual companion with links to go along with that essay.

From top left to bottom right

1) Tord Boontje garland light: http://tordboontje.com/

2) Room in the Volkswagon sponsored Project Fox hotel and a video of the hotel’s launch

designers chosen by Die Gestalten

3) Exposif Wallpaper  curated by the Maxalot gallery in Barcelona

4)  Geneviève Gauckler

5) Laurent Fétis

6) a page from a book designed by W.A. Dwiggins

7)a page from Owen Jones’ Grammar of Ornament (1856)

8) Goudy typeface by Frederic Goudy

9) Book cover design by Enid MarxEnglish Popular Art

10) textile design by Hella Jongerius

A heads up on the next few posts…

I’m going to share some images of designers mentioned in Alice Twemlow’s essay, The Decriminalization of Ornament, originally published in 2005 in Eye Magazine, which I will eventually tackle after the eye candy posts.

It just gives a good visual background of the designers she mentions who use ornament in their work and the visual manifestions of contemporary ornamentation.

Arts + Crafts live on ….through wallpaper

Although we live in a society that loves bare, simple, midcentury modern dwellings and furnishings, the Arts and Crafts spirit of William Morris lives on –  through contemporary wallpaper. We need the wallpaper as a warm contrast to our stark, minimalist, modernist furniture from Herman Miller…I mean Ikea.

Judit Gueth is a designer from Toronto, specializing in creating designs for wallpaper and rugs. Her style is very reminiscent of the arts and crafts era due to her use of simple, graceful “natural” designs, but also has a contemporary feel to it. Check out her website at http://www.juditgueth.com

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The Origins of Thinking about Ornamentation

Initially, I was intrigued by the concept of “ornament” and “ornamentation” in graphic design while reading Seymour Chwast and Steven Heller’s Graphic Style – From Victorian to New CenturyWhile reading about the Arts and Crafts movement in England (the mid 1800s-early 1900s) and the Bauhaus school in Germany (1919-1933), it was interesting to note that they both held similar ideals and were reform movements, but with different visual outcomes. Both schools (perhaps initially for Bauhaus) strived to remove the boundaries between craftsmanship and art. The Arts and Crafts movement in England was a reaction against the negative, poorly made goods produced in the industrialization era. This movement set to bring attention to creating beautiful, handcrafted functional works, often decorated with organic flourishes. Stylistically, it is less ornate and fussy compared to the typical Victorian aesthetic of the time, but much more embellished in appearance compared to Bauhaus. On the other hand, Bauhaus was initially modeled after William Morris’ art and craft workshops, fusing together fine arts and crafts. While initially not having a uniform style, Bauhaus’ output leaned more in a stark, unadorned and geometric direction, which laid a major foundation for the modern movement. The initial intent of both movements may have been similar, but the visual outcomes seem completely contrary.

A few examples of works from the Arts and Crafts movement in England:

The Nature of Gothic by John Ruskin, printed by William Morris (1890s)


Strawberry Thief Textile design by William Morris, 1883

Poster for Bauhaus Exhibition by Joost Schmidt, 1923

Herbert Bayer’s Universal alphabet, 1925