Graphic designer Eilean Friis-Lund asks you to keep asking and to keep learning

Here, Eilean tells us about her investigatory practice, her drive to keep learning and questioning the role of the tool.

31 March 2020
Reading Time
4 minute read


After moving from environmental sciences to photography whilst deciding what career to pursue, Eilean Friis-Lund made a last-minute decision to choose graphic design when registering at ECAL – “I knew nothing about this profession, everything had to be learned, everything was new, so it was quite exciting.” This initial mindset that directed Eliean into the field she now finds herself thriving in, is the same mindset that is responsible for her never-ending quest to find out more.

Eliean’s investigatory practice questions “the role of the tool” in design, specifically “in the conception of the printed object and the consequences on its materiality.” She looks at physical printing methods, the constraints they provide and “the playground they offer.” Eilean tells us to consider these restraints “much earlier in the design phase” rather than at “the end of a production chain”. In doing so one can “benefit from the advantages it offers” as well as getting your hands involved.

This came into play during a Risograph workshop run by Eilean and design collective Eurostandard at Sprint book fair; “the aim was to design a publication. One day of conception and one day of printing” in order to “impose radical temporal and methodological constraints on us.” The publication deconstructed the content from Io et glib “belonging to the Primo Moroni archive. An archive like a fragment of the social and political history of the 60s and 70s,” and a book which was later banned by Minister Malfatti.

During the workshop, Eilean not only set tight constraints, “to introduce a technique, to propose an approach, a method, a concept” and “to apply it” but also to enquire into the relationship between digital and physical. The publication was “designed entirely by hand” using collage as the primary tool and Eilean considered this a “relevant way to deal with this subject with 20 pairs of hands” whilst still allowing individual interpretation and giving “meaning to an image through the word.” We love how the goal here was “not to transcribe the content of this archive as it is” but rather “to extract certain themes and propose a new reading of it. To take a current look at universal concepts.” The result of these questions shows “what is induced when an image is de-contextualised and juxtaposed with another, what meaning they take when a definition is attached to it.”


Eilean Friis-Lund

This was also explored in an activity run by Eilean at ECAL, that used a computer numerical control (CNC) to generate imagery, rather than its intended purpose of boring into materials; “deviating its primary function by using it to print an image” and in doing so offering “a new design logic” that stimulates “the exploration of new working methodologies and gives rise to new aesthetics.” The resulting publication was entitled Culture à travers l’image, which referred “to children's books on learning words through images.” Something immediately complimenting the process behind it. The students individually “re-appropriated a theme and developed a commentary” that through the CNC process formed “a global coherence throughout the publication.” Eilean explains that “one of the aspects that interested us in this method is that there was no stylisation or filter applied digitally.” The illustrations were relatively simple but it is the consequences of the constraints of the tool used that allow an intriguing and new visual language. The entire publication is printed in offset but the plates are prepared and set “by hand”.

Alongside this approach to design is Eilean’s mindset that strives for something new, saying that “when a new mandate comes along, there is often a desire and naturally the need to know what has been done before me,” she says, “in order to define what needs to be brought in that is fresh and fun.” This means that Eileeen does not inherit a style: “I don’t have a visual signature but perhaps an approach to design with an interest in the choice of techniques” to provide new limitations “in order to continue to learn.”

In the current climate, Eilean asks “What's next for us?” Wistfully noting that she is “curious to see what movements or changes will take place in our field, in the way we practice our professions, for what causes we serve it.” She wants to “be aware of how we consume graphic design and what it encompasses,” adding “I’m not sure that all designers will come back to the same way of running their business.” She also believes that the result of “one’s lifestyle turned upside down, one’s daily life restructured” during the Covid-19 crisis will be the revealing of “repressed thoughts and desires” Although confident in her desire for design, the current pressure has caused Eilean to reconsider aspects of her practice – “I question some of the models I had, whose practice belongs to and is subjected to capitalist pressure.”

GalleryEilean Friis-Lund

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About the Author

Harry Bennett

After graduating from Winchester School of Art, studying graphic arts, Harry worked as a graphic designer before joining It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020. He nows works as a freelance writer and designer, and is one half of Studio Ground Floor.

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