Slovenian graphic designer Nejc Prah has just moved to Brooklyn after completing an MFA at Yale University’s School of Art, and right now he’s got a line from The Streets’ song “Empty Cans” stuck in his head. He’s repeating “my jeans felt a bit tight, think I washed them too high” over and over—maybe it’s because he’s just done a round of laundry.
Laundry, cooking, and bureaucracy take up most of Prah’s free time now that he’s what many call a young professional; the rest of his schedule is spent working alongside Tracy Ma at the effervescent design department of Bloomberg Businessweek, or on freelance design commissions. As Prah’s portfolio is delirious, vivid, and crazed, he’s perfectly at home at the business magazine’s design desk, where the avant garde has managed to infiltrate the depths of the immense financial company. Fourth dimension landscapes, acid-colored gradients, and ’80s club typefaces are all a staple of Prah’s aesthetic, and since he started his job in November, these hallmarks are now regularly and delightfully splashed across Businessweek’s spreads.
“I compress laundry, groceries, and cooking into something I like to call the B-A-3 Express,” says Prah proudly when asked about his post-grad work life. “It stands for the Big Adult Three—and I do them all simultaneously after work in about two hours.” The novelty of everyday monotony is what currently feeds Prah’s design ideas—at University it was Karl Martens, Experimental Jetset, Mevis Van Deursen, and Metahevan, but now on board the B-A-3, it’s the smell of washing powder.
“My most recent poster was about laundry. There is a detergent bottle with an airplane window in the middle of it. It’s about all the random stuff you have to do before you fly somewhere for vacation,” Prah explains. This poster was also an announcement for a concert in Ljubljana as part of an events series called Koordinate Zvoka. “The one I’m working on now will be about vegetable soup,” Prah reveals.
This eye for the everyday, and the way Prah contorts and repositions the things we know well into other, stranger contexts, is what makes the young designer’s portfolio so reminiscent of the surrealists or Gogol’s “The Nose.” His poster designs for Yale and various European cultural bodies look like renditions of Dalí paintings made by playing around with the gradient switches on PC’s Paint.
An identity devised for last year’s Type Director’s Club (TDC) Tokyo strikingly combined Prah’s love of gradients with a simple domestic object—this time a carpet—to great effect, and it proves that the designer is not just whimsical. “A carpet is interesting because it’s an abstract rectangle filled with any kind of imagery,” says Prah. “Adding tassels to a rectangle turns into a carpet: it’s a quick switch from abstraction to representation.” This transformative notion was explored at the TDC Tokyo annual exhibition, and this idea was harnessed and translated into the simple visual symbol of a carpet.
A love of gradients is perhaps an area in Prah’s work where style trumps substance, but I don’t know if that matters in his case, as the results are so tantalising. For the TDC poster, he took one of his many photographs of the sky (this particular snap from a road trip near a small swampy lake in Slovenia) to create the carpet’s luscious, fading pattern. “I have an analogue camera and have been taking snapshots of sunsets, the sea, forest, and rocks. I use those instead of the gradient tool,” Prah explains.
The recent graduate is steaming full-speed ahead on the fast tracks of successful adult life in New York, while finding unending ways to subvert well-trodden path and imagery. The surrealists once turned their everyday bowler hats into startling totems and dream symbols; Prah’s doing the same, but with soup and dollar store detergent. There’s a future in that.