German graphic design student Sascia Reibel most excels in re-positioning—the process of taking something perceived in one way and encouraging it to be viewed in another. This is most evident in her recent branding for an underwear company called Hary, which uses mesh, texture, and transparent fabric to display and celebrate pubic hair. A peer of Reibel’s at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design is behind the brand, and Hary’s graphics draw from its philosophy: posters are sprinkled with tactile wisps of hair cut from Reibel’s own head, for instance. It’s safe to say that this is a designer who puts a lot of herself into her commissions.
I enjoy the marbled effect of this hair-strewn branding: Reibel communicates the weird beauty that you can find in the stray lines of freshly razored hair that get washed up in the white ceramic bowl of a bathroom sink. Like body-positive underwear company Marieyat, which refuses to airbrush stretch marks and cellulite from models’ butts, Hary’s branding instills a certain kind of confidence in potential consumers. “I want to prove that there is nothing to hide,” says Reibel.
Another example of her candid ability to subvert visual expectation is a poster for a lecture series called “I think ‘women over 30’ is the sexiest thing ever.” The title itself is of course a statement, but Reibel’s elegant and mature graphics elevate the message with sophistication: she’s not aligning sexiness with the youthful cliché found in mainstream advertisements, but instead she’s aligning it with elegance, with luxurious textures that bear the marks of age, and with powerful, sturdy typography that seems to assert that sexiness is just as much about strength and wisdom as anything else.
“I’ve started to think of design more as a curatorial endeavor,” says Reibel. “It’s a selection process, where you consider how something can be read and interpreted. You decide what content to use and how you’re going to arrange it.”
If the graphic designer is a curator, then the book is her gallery space. Reibel’s design for a publication about mass hysteria is a particularly thoughtful interpretation: through the spacing of type, she communicates the way hysteria spreads from one body to another, and by combining rigid editorial layout with sudden bursts of typographic play, she expresses the tension between medicine’s desire to categorize symptoms and the confounding mystery surrounding the phenomenon.
“When I was 18 and started studying graphic design, I read every manifesto that I could—I was trying to find out what the big designers said was the right way to do things, as I wanted to find some rule I could follow,” says Reibel. “Now, that all seems a lot less interesting to me. I want to set my design practice afresh with every new project.”
While each project has its own atmosphere that Reibel draws directly from the content, it’s her sensibility as a curator, as an interpreter of varied material, that gives her design its distinct and subversive edge.