When we first came across the Edinburgh-based graphic designer Kristine Kawakubo’s work last year, we were taken aback by the precision and detail of her handmade books. One year on, and Kristine continues to wow us with her hand crafted designs. She tells us of her most recent project titled Cogito, ergo sum after the philosophical proposition put forward by René Descartes in the mid 1600s. She uses the famous “I think therefore I am” tautology as a starting point for her latest project, creating a bespoke publication following the ins and outs of her own conceptual journey.
Focusing the design on blank spaces and negative space, through the unique layout, Kristine reflects a “poetic journey” documenting a series of thoughts and questions for the audience. “It’s totally different from my previous work,” she tells It’s Nice That, elevating the viewer’s role beyond a member of the audience to become a co-creator of the narrative too. Experimenting with the relationship between the outside and inside of the book, Kristine mixed up the traditional methods of book binding to challenge our preconceived notions of how to read a book. In turn, allowing the viewer to make up their own narratives and judgements for themselves.
Drawing inspiration from the essential creative reading list staple Ways of Seeing by John Berger, Kristine was thinking about the “impacts of capitalism in modern societies as well as [her] responsibilities as a contemporary visual creator” for the recent work. She incorporates aspects of her photography to highlight these ideas, selecting images that express the differences between certain cities and their people to denote this tension.
Ultimately providing a unique reading experience for those lucky enough to get their hands on one of Kristine’s one-of-a-kind publications, the designer’s higgledy-piggledy spreads overlap elements of concrete poetry with the thoughtfulness of artist books. “I prefer to call myself a ‘graphic designer’ rather than a ‘graphic’ designer,” she says. “Someone who can translate thoughts into visual languages and convey ideas or knowledge in an unconventional way.”
As a child she remembers the specific turning point which sparked this way of thinking. She recalls the influential memory of a BBC documentary on pop art and a particular segment on Richard Hamilton. Introducing the young Kristine to his seminal 1956 work Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?, the designer’s mindset changed, causing an onset of “groundbreaking thoughts” into what exactly the visuals of contemporary life and modern society can be.”
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