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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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