Katrijn Oelbrandt plays with the grid systems of sticker packs in an innovative tactile twist

The Ghent-based graphic designer wants you to really feel the things she makes. Even if you’re seeing it through a screen.

3 March 2021

Katrijn Oelbrandt’s work is unmistakably graphic, but there is always an analogue twist elevating the Ghent-based designer’s creations to another dimension. As one can see from her work, there are a lot of hand rendered techniques involved. “I really want to feel the process of making,” she tells us. And in this sense, Katrijn’s work is centred on physical contact, as well as communication and tactility. The graphic designer is currently interning at Lennart Van den Bossche en Corbin Mahieu’s studio, having graduated with a master’s degree at LUCA School of Arts. Communication is central to her work and she was initially drawn to the medium as a way to connect and communicated with people in a conceptual way.

Katrijn understands graphic design as a way in which people can understand each other. “Understanding people and letting people understand you is something very delicate,” she says, “but by using images, type and colour you can tell a story in a very personal and innovative way.” Merging these elements together to tell a unique story which relies heavily on the materiality and physical tactility of the work too, Katrijn’s creative approach makes the viewer really want to “feel” the things she makes. Even if you’re viewing it through a screen.

Growing up, she has always remembered capturing things from everyday life, which is something she still does to this day. The designer didn’t realise it at the time, but she has always subconsciously collected material whether it’s through taking images or drawing inspiration from the world around her. Over time, these influences have converged into Katrijn’s practice to date. A specific use of type, colour scheme, shape or use of light evidently consistent throughout. Scanning, printing and layering are processes she repeatedly uses in a variety of ways to create her signature aesthetic. “As I said before, I want people to really feel my designs. So I almost never stop layering until there is enough texture present,” Katrijn says on achieving that textural graininess.

There is an endless amount of excitement to be found in the relationship between two images and who a dialogue can be drawn out through these processes. An example of this, she points out, are her sticker sheets. Playing on the childlike joy of sticker sheets, Katrijn has refined this into a predetermined grid system which acts as a playground for her to work within. The designs also accentuate the physicality of her work, as the viewer is immediately reminded of the act of peeling away a sticky artwork. She goes on to say of these gratifying works, “The grid on the sticker sheets is always solid. It gives me a kind of certainty but also gives me the opportunity to burst out of that system and break the rules. It’s a working method that can be used in different ways, by following your gut but also following some kind of premeditated pattern. There are no bad decisions, you just have to play with game and have fun.”


Copyright © Katrijn Oelbrandt, 2021

As myriad visual coincidences collide in organic patterns, Katrijn also likes to imbue memory into her works with the goal of ultimately creating never ending graphic design in an accessible way. A project which exemplifies this ethos is 1+1=ÉÉN or 1+1=ONE, a publication Katrijn created for her master’s thesis project. Using the sticker sheets approach, the designer set about creating a shared identity for herself and her twin sister. Using elements of two different images to unite two compositions into one, the experimental project became an investigation into “combining the stickers which means combining our way of thinking, our identity”.

Once she was happy with the composition, Katrijn started to apply type to the identity while continuing to play with transparency, different grids, removing outlines and so on. All in all, a process of discovering blending two images in innovative ways. Her favourite finding from the project, involves the reveal of text as stickers are removed. “By printing text or shapes on the backside of the paper above the already printed pattern, the sticker sheets gave the work a new layer,” she adds. With a myriad of results stemming from the project, Katrijn now sees the publication as “an analog toolbox” which serves to inspire others who are also interested in creative a new shared image.

The publication reveals the different techniques used and analyses Katrijn’s various working methods in comparison to her peers. And to take the project one step further, she sent out numerous starter packages to encourage those with similar ideals during lockdown. As digital communication became more important than ever during the pandemic, Katrijn invited people to participate in her experiment. Sending out an open call on social media to participate in the sticker sheets idea, she received 32 responses and sent a starter pack to each other. The pack contained two empty sticker sheets of the same grid and an instruction manual explaining different techniques to explore from home. “For me it was very important to not draw up too many rules, because I was really curious how my fellow players would treat this invented working method. I just gave them the grid or playfield to work in,” says the designer. | wanted others to discover a new layer in their work that brings a new story.”

GalleryCopyright © Katrijn Oelbrandt, 2021

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Copyright © Katrijn Oelbrandt, 2021

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About the Author

Jynann Ong

Jynann 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. She went freelance in 2022.

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