After running a piece early this year on some of the genius ways designers have repurposed their rejected works, we’ve decided to keep exploring the topic. In fact, why not provide a platform ourselves, asking some of our designer friends to share designs that, for whatever reason, ended up in the reject pile? You’ll find new examples here, every month, as well as in the very first issue of our Eye on Design print magazine, where we decided to devote an entire section to resurrecting the rejects.
Previously, we spoke to Amsterdam-based agency Thonik about a failed attempt to brand the Netherlands government and Mario Hugo of NYC studio Hugo & Marie about a Beck album art commission that—at least at first—involved no music. Today, Erik Brandt of Typografika tells about a recent labor of love that he entered into a German poster competition but which was rejected by the jury. While this might feel like a kick in the stomach to some, Brandt interprets rejection as more of a blessing. As the designer explains, to him, a failure can be like a reminder that despite being a long time practising professional, he’s still learning, growing, and evolving as a designer.
“Rejection is everything, and invariably positive. It means you have a future! I remember a colleague of mine openly saying that he really wanted to fuck up, because he thought it would end the endless invitations he was receiving to be this person he didn’t feel like he was—a ‘star’. I was really impressed with that perspective.
“Rejection is a part of growing, of moving forward, of getting better—much more so than ‘acceptance’. I have said elsewhere that I want to be an old designer, still learning, still experimenting, still making at a very advanced age. This would be more rewarding than anything, and I think rejection is a part of that path. The wanting is better than the having.
“My most recent rejection was a poster I submitted to a poster competition: the jury didn’t select it. The competition is called the Anfachen Award, and last year in 2017, it was in its second year. I didn’t enter the first year, but in this second year I was really keen as the winners were to receive 10 A0 prints AND the public exhibition was to be in Hamburg, a city I partially grew up in and have very fond memories of. The winning posters were exhibited all over the city.
“The brief was fairly simple: ‘The participants are free to choose any personal, political, aesthetic or formal point of view in their approach to the assigned topic of ‘Tolerance’.
“I actually very rarely enter competitions. Early on in my career, most competitions had an entry fee (and other hidden costs) and I found that both prohibitive and distasteful. Thankfully, many competitions these days have waived this type of requirement. I think it’s quite exciting to send something in, but, without any false arrogance, I am more than satisfied with response and critique from colleagues as opposed to the recognition some of these competitions bestow.
“For my poster, I tried to work with both definitions of the term ‘Tolerence’ in German and English, and tried to find a way to resolve this typographically. The term has seen its fair share of use in poster competitions of this kind, so I quite consciously focused on the typographic element first. In the end, I focused more on the second definition of the word (‘an allowable amount of variation of a specified quantity, especially in the dimensions of a machine or part’) as a way to highlight traditional problems with the issue through a typographic and formal play within the various apparitions… Here, I thought it was intriguing to experiment with how much could be removed from the various letterforms and still preserve its meaning and apprehension, but also, how interesting it was to resolve this phenomena in both languages at the same time.
“The cones I then used are revised versions of hand-drawn studies I made in 1997. I had actually returned to these in another piece that was developing at the time, and I thought they represented the oddness of being and idiosyncrasy—we are all of us these spinning disks of identity, similar yet dissimilar, pursuing defined and undefined paths, wavering and moving with purpose, all at once. I very much liked this image and I love playing with figure ground relationships. I threw in the more organic and perhaps somewhat erotic forms as way to indulge my taste for color, but also to provide contrast with the strong typographic forms in the background.
“When I finished, I felt pretty sure that it wouldn’t be chosen by the jury because it’s not ‘plakativ’ (meaning ‘posterish,’ or ‘poster-like’) in a traditional sense—nor was the approach to the issue predictable. By that I mean—sorry to say—the issue of tolerance is overdone as a theme to some extent—which is exactly why I thought it would be best to approach it using the word’s second definition.
“Having said all that, I don’t begrudge the jury at all, I know that process and it can be very hard—perhaps it simply didn’t fit with the ‘voice’ of the group of finalists they were building. Or perhaps it just sucked for them!
“Anyway, I was so in love with the old 1997 cones, that I went ahead and used them for my ‘new’ business cards. I often attempt to ‘borrow’ or ‘push forward’ elements from previous works into all of my work, where I can. I often explain this as a way to add a voice, so to speak. For example, this East/West poster (now in production!) borrowed from an earlier piece for a poster for the 2016 AGI Special Project in Seoul, where I found myself inverting the abstracted E so that it served well as a W. Then there are the cones! And the circle clusters, which I also frequently use in my work.”