The Brno Biennial was established in 1963, making it the oldest exhibition of graphic design in the world. Every year an international jury selects the winners from a list of hundreds, whose works are then presented in the main exhibition space in the heart of the Czech city.
This year’s 27th biennial was judged by Oliver Klimpel, Serge Rompza of NODE, Tereza Rullerova of The Rodina, Lubica Segecova, and Will Schmid, who chose 46 works from the 878 entries. Part of their unique approach to this year’s selections was to question the boundaries of what can be considered graphic design (NBD), so in addition to featuring what’s conventionally associated with the discipline, the exhibition also provocatively included a range of works including tapestry and comic book illustrations. Posters are a continual staple of visual communication, and naturally the main exhibition was filled with striking contemporary examples of poster design. As this was an exhibition that deliberately aimed to subvert, these pieces also articulated the questioning nature of the brief.
For this month’s installment of Poster Picks, we’ve selected five of the strongest posters spotted at this year’s Brno Biennial and spoken to the designers behind them about their concepts.
“The whole campaign (including the posters) is built around the experience of the graduating students in their final year, as well as the experience of the graduation show’s audience. By using a number of divergent and contradictory word pairings, we tried to create a certain state of mind that both students and exhibition guests can identify with.
“We decided to use a North Korean typeface that would normally be considered unuseable because of its horrible spacing, inconsistent baseline, and non-existent kerning. We then paired this typeface with a loud palette of colors and a simple, yet distinctive, typographic approach. Readability is overrated!”
“The Palace of Typographic Masonry is an imaginative architectural structure, completely dedicated to graphical abundance, poetics, and detours. It increases little by little without an overall plan. Each new part of the project is devoted to an aspect from the realm of typographic masonry, and is constructed with specific building bricks enriching language and meaning. These building bricks are depicted on a (real) poster that is made as a printed illustrative reminder of the corridors, rooms, courtyards, and galleries created in the building.
“So far, I’ve made six posters for the project. This one, “The Masonic Lobby,” is all about this idea of typographic masonry. A lobby is usually adorned with art works relating to the activity of its institute, so I’ve made this poster to depict the lobby of the imagined palace and the items you’d find on display there.”
Yale School of Art Lecture Series poster by Stefan Thorsteinsson
“The starting point for the poster series was a typeface that I made and developed week by week. The unfinished typeface was being used as an open structure to house other typefaces, and for every poster the unfinished characters of the typeface were being swapped with ones from a chosen typeface, appropriate to the content of the lecture.”
Experimental Jetset exhibition poster for RIOT by Jurgen Maelfeyt
“As well as running the studio, I also co-run APE (Art Paper Editions) and RIOT. RIOT is a gallery and bookshop in Ghent, Belgium that we opened at the end of 2014. The font we used for the identity, NTS, was created by Josse Pyl, one of my former students at Kask and our intern at the time. The poster I made for the current Experimental Jetset exhibition was created only using this NTS font.
“Unlike other posters, with this one, there seems to be no focus. It’s just a message on the wall.”
The Long Goodbye by Stefanie Leinhos
“When working on The Long Goodbye I was searching for a printing technique that would do justice to the brief movement of a hand waving goodbye. It’s a moment that’s both fragile and brutal at the same time. Lithography felt like the perfect choice, since you can draw directly on the plate without having much chance to do corrections. You just have to let it happen.
“After the printing, the plate gets cleaned, so your original drawing vanishes. What’s left is the original print. I like this tension between having a copy and an original. It’s like saying goodbye.
“To fold the poster was a narrative decision—you usually don’t do that to a lithography. I like to question these kinds of rules, and I also don’t believe in numbering the posters or putting signatures on it either.”