Darius Ou Dahao has designed Voice of Courts, a catalogue that sits alongside an exhibition of the same name. The show and catalogue visualises a collaboration between the artist Jack Tan and the Community Justice Centre (CJC), a charity based at the State Courts and the Family Justice Courts of Singapore.
Currently on show at the Singapore Biennale until February 2017, the project sees Jack explore the “soundscape of the courts by attending hearings, sitting in for legal advice sessions and volunteering in different litigants-in-person help programmes”. His focus was to capture voice and how it was translated in the courts through timbre, tone, echo, cacophony and lyricism and has made drawings of the sounds he heard, which were later turned into graphic scores.
The project is part of a residency Jack has undertaken and Darius was brought in to conceptualise and design the catalogue to accompany the work created. “I’ve worked with Jack before on several projects in the last few years and it’s always been a very collaborative process when designing for him,” says Darius.
The entire book is inspired by legal statutes binders, which manages to condense the wealth of material into digestible sections. “One of our first few meetings was at the CJC, housed in the state courts of Singapore. Being a project that was about art and law, it was only natural for us to find inspiration within the legal vernacular rather than just from his work,” says Darius. “One of the places we visited was the internal library of the State Courts, where you could find shelves and shelves of legal documents, statutes, journals and other thick books. It was then I drew the parallel between the project and the binders – being a project that has collaboration and partnership at its core (art and law), the mechanism of different parts coming together to make a whole seemed visually appropriate for Voices from the Courts.”
One of Jack’s main concerns in the project was the processes he witnessed during his research and the emotional experience. The idea of process and relationships became a key part of the work, which in turn informed Darius’ designs. “What visually represents processes and relationships better than charts? Used for a variety of purposes, charts derive from the very basic need to organise information for easy dissemination and comprehension,” explains Darius. “It was such a central idea of the project that one of Jack’s essays was written in the form of a flowchart. Then if you look at the cover of the catalogue, it looks like a legitimate statute with the rectangular foil-stamped frame.”
With his designs Darius manages to visualise the idea of “two distinct fields coming together”, and capture Jack’s work with this legal entity. To further emphasise these differences, the designer used two separate typographic systems; Helvetica Neue and a pair of serifed typefaces, Canela for headings and Calson Pro for body text. “These two type systems although incongruous, are placed together unapologetically, resulting in seemingly sporadic arrangements and uncomfortably close texts,” says Darius. “My hope is that this amalgamation of design systems produces interesting and unexpected results, much like the coming together of law and art in this project.”
About the Author
Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.