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Work / Graphic Design

Graphic designer Jaap Smit physicalises the web in his data-driven practice

“Structuring facts and data,” responds graphic designer Jaap Smit when asked about the focus of his creative practice. Based in The Hague, Jaap utilises freely available information and creates graphic parameters to structure it, resulting in methodically-made and often humorous work.

Jaap discovered the world of graphic design shortly after finishing high school. “I was struggling with choosing the next step in life, only knowing that I wanted to do something creative. With some help, I decided to do a three-year course in graphic design at Grafisch Lyceum Utrecht,” Jaap recalls. Once enrolled, “the first year totally opened my eyes,” he adds, “I was hooked from the start”. As part of the course, he undertook an internship at Enbiun design studio where he was encouraged to apply to The Royal Academy of Art (KABK), finding the city he now calls home.

During his time at KABK, Jaap was set an assignment to take something from the web and physicalise it, in print. “I chose to analyse the comment section of the viral video, David After Dentist,” he recalls, “I noticed that, after a while, people stop commenting on what they see and use the comment section as a platform to convey their own messages.” Jaap began scraping the comment section before organising the resulting information in an exploration of “what the most used words are below a video of a kid high on pain medicine.”

Internet Audience compiles this information, with each verso page featuring a list of words and the number of times it was used. On the recto, the actual comments using said words are displayed. “My coding skills are quite limited so I did everything using Word and InDesign,” Jaap explains, “you can imagine the process was quite intense.”

Luckily, the shortcomings in Jaap’s coding skills are no longer a problem. While at his part-time at an Apple computer repair centre, Jaap explained the project to his colleague Darien Brito. Darien, an audiovisual artist, was fascinated by the concept of printing the internet comment section within a book. “After talking for a long time and brainstorming about more ideas, a partnership was born,” Jaap tells It’s Nice That of the beginnings of his and Darien’s publishing house, Odd Publications. Bringing together Darien’s coding expertise and Jaap’s graphic design skills, Odd Publications aims to “re-purpose the ephemeral nature of internet data into tangible objects or printed form.”

Whether working with the comments on YouTube videos or analysing the marketing values of the first 52 companies on the Fortune 500 Global list, Jaap’s approach to design is wholly contemporary. “It’s almost if I want to make everything more tangible for myself,” he comments, “to translate the nights I stare at my screen reading random comments, facts about war or marketing values into a more structured medium.” By finding information which is confusing or muddled, Jaap’s practice restructures this information, making it accessible and visually pleasing.

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