Cihan Tamti on typographic legibility, his new book of posters and attracting the viewer’s attention
Published by Slanted, the German designer’s first book showcases a love of expressive type and how it “serves in the headline rather than a staging font.”
- Jyni Ong
- 7 June 2021
Like many graphic designers, Cihan Tamti came to the medium through graffiti. As a child, he liked the colourful and haphazard letterforms that “meant something,” he tells us. His elementary school was plastered in graffiti, not to mention the local bus stops and other school buildings – “there was simply no way around it.” As his consciousness became accustomed to the art form, Cihan slowly became obsessed with this unique expression of typography. When his family went on long car journeys, he sat in the back with a sketch book and copied the graffiti he saw outside. And when he turned 16, very naturally, Cihan started spraying on walls too, putting all his years of study into practice.
At secondary school, Cihan’s art teacher realised his talent. In class, the teacher recognised his style from the surrounding graffiti (“we had painted large areas of the school, it was big damage”) but instead of reporting Cihan and his crew, she encouraged their creativity. He tells us: “she organised a school project where we were legally allowed to paint on the walls.” And afterwards, when she pointed out how graffiti had little career prospects, she suggested the crew started making posters, where they could still express themselves through type on the walls but hopefully make a career out of it. In short, “that’s how I got into graphic design,” says Cihan, “before that I didn’t even know it really existed in that way. “
Now, the Bochum-born designer has wrapped up custom type projects for the likes of Adobe and Calvin Klein, and was even named one of the top Instagram designers by Stefan Sagmeister. Additionally, Cihan published his first book earlier this year, titled Breakout-100 Posters Book. Published by Slanted, the book captures how Cihan used Instagram like a graphic design gym. Working on a poster a day, the new release documents his playful, experimental practice channeled through poster design. Cihan didn’t expect much to come out of these posters, thinking of it as a fun creative exercise more than anything. But some of the posters went on to score highly in competitions, attracting desirable clients in its wake and boosting his creative ideation.
Throughout the book, we can see Cihan’s signature style come through. He explains, “my approach to typography is currently very expressive and serves in the headline rather than a staging font.” For Cihan, his practice “should surprise” and has an “artistic effect.” It can also work either as a piece of design or equally an illustration. The designer is less concerned with readability (though he admits a headline should be visible somewhere on a poster) but there are other factors that compel a design to be well balanced. In this way, Cihan works across editorial design, fashion, design identities and more. All in all, he finds a way to attract the viewer’s full attention through informative, functional and artistic design.
When Cihan started designing a poster a day, it started out as an exercise that was more interesting in “quantity over quality.” Over time however, he started to get the hang of the creative nuances of the layout and understood how a poster design can work for him. Then, at some point, Cihan says, “I wanted to make these fake posters feel alive. A real poster has a job, and communicates and hangs outside.” And he wanted his 100 posters to include this intention. So Cihan searched for open calls, poster contests and more – anything that had a purpose that he could contribute towards. Occurring during the pandemic, Cihan’s poster practice started to snowball and sooner or later, his journey was complete. “It is of course difficult to find a theme every day,” he adds. “So I took the posters very personally and translated my own thoughts and experiences of my life.” This upends to a body of work which is wide ranging, brimming with an astute visual language and craftsmanship.
As for the future, Cihan is currently working on the second edition of Homebound (a publication he designs) as well as continuing to work with fashion brands. Hopefully, this will involve Gucci and Prada at some point. Outside of print, he is looking to expand his 3D and AR skills, and secure a studio where he can develop these projects further. In the long term, the world is his oyster, and maybe a professorship is on the cards, somewhere Cihan can help students’ see their potential in the same way his high school art teacher did for him.
GalleryCopyright © Cihan Tamti, 2021
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Cihan Tamti: Homebound (Copyright © Cihan Tamti, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.