“In the last few months, I have been curious about linguistics and semiotics,” explains Prague-based designer Marek Nedelka. “I have been searching for the answers to questions about how languages and scripts shape our world.” Last time we spoke to Marek, it was his exhibition identities (made in conjunction with Ondřej Báchor) that took centre stage. This time, however, it was his diploma thesis What We Discovered: Language, Codes & Sign Systems that caught our eye.
Inspired by his research which included essays by Roland Barthes and archaeological books about ancient civilisations, their culture and languages, Marek decided to host a workshop with peers from his masters class: Atelier304 at the Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design. Alongside ten other students, Marek spent five days at his family’s summer house, “discussing each students’ concepts, hosting spontaneous presentations, reading books and watching films, cooking and eating together,” Marek recalls, “it was really enriching for all of us.”
The assignment of the workshop was to: “Imagine a fictional world, its society and how it functions. Design a sign system for it and an object from this world using these signs.” The output had to be a text – a story, essay, report or technical sheet – as well as a concept for a system of signage and an object found by an archaeologist where that system is used. Whether to start with the text and allow it to form the latter two elements or vice versa, was up to each student, Marek explains.
“During the workshop, we decided that the result should be a book,” he continues, “all of us knew what to do, what size it would be and how many pages we had. All layout design decisions we made together.”
What We Discovered consists of ten chapters by ten students. Starting with Marek’s work, the book then showcases Daniel Vojtíšek, Matúš Buranovský, Vit Škop, Lucie Zelmanová, Vit Jebabý and Martin Dedek (who share a chapter), Jirí Macků, Luciana Kvapilová, Zdeněk Růžička and Martin Ponec.
Each chapter varies wildly, their rich content the result of five days answering each other’s questions and working collaboratively. In one chapter titled Neue Glyphs, Daniel Vojtíšek creates a set of glyphs for the 21st century (and beyond). Starting with the most popular online abbreviations – such as “lol” and “wtf” – Daniel designed a set of ligatures to be incorporated into our alphabet, used on screen and implemented on keyboards.
Closing the publication is Martin Ponec’s chapter. Titled Backup: The Last Will of Earth, this section imagines a new Rosetta Stone, backing up the most important human knowledge via maps and navigation systems for generations and species to come.
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