Nam Huynh first wanted to become a graphic designer due to a love of drawing. But when he started his education in the medium, ironically, he stopped drawing. Having grown up in southern Germany, Nam went onto study at Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design before embarking on a freelance career. Still based in Stuttgart, which is also home to the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, Nam has crafted a dynamic career for himself in both a commercial and artistic sense. He featured in last year’s Graphic Design Festival Scotland Poster exhibition, not to mention Demo Festival and the International Graphic Design Biennale Chaumont, where his spirited works made in collaboration with designer Mark Bohle and Studio Tillack Knöll respectively, have flourished to high acclaim.
For Nam, there is no preconceived system to such successes however. He tells us, “I try my best not to get narrowed down to a signature style (even though it feels impossible sometimes.)” Instead, the designer always looks for accidents and coincidences in his creative process to inform the visual energy of the work. “Imperfection turns into uniqueness and helps the design to stay genuine,” Nam continues on his intuitive way of working. There are many different ways to add this twist into his process, his favourite being the surprises forged by a fruitful collaboration.
On one hand, collaboration is fun for its interactions, offering creatives the chance to learn from one another and gain insight into another’s way of thinking. On the other, Nam also enjoys riffing off the creative misunderstandings or miscommunications between creatives. He likes to work on drafts that have already been binned by a co-worker, finding intrigue in the roughest of ideas and reworking it into something worth keeping. As a consequence, collaboration for Nam is not only a method of working but also a spark of inspiration.
It’s evidenced in a recent project for the Federal German Garden show created alongside architecture studio Shmutz+Partner, architect Joos Keller, Studio Tillack Knöll, not to mention our friend Nam who talks us through the work. The idea was to use innovative visuals to transform the backdrop for the garden show into an animated garden too. Drawing inspiration from botany, as well as engineering and architecture, the group of collaborators devised a series of evocative animations, amplifying the ethereal, botanical atmosphere through a digital scape.
Commissioned by the hosting city Heilbronn, a city on the Neckar river in the southwest corner of the country, the interdisciplinary group were tasked with visually representing the city, to both its own citizens and tourists. “The idea was to create media content that was approachable from every direction and interact with the audience in a playful way,” explains Nam. After much deliberation, they came to a solution which involved mounting 20 screens on 10 swings, continuously looping the series of floral animations across the installation. Additionally, they installed six giant projectors aimed at the floor, covering the ground in a contemporary display while overhead, the gable roof was fully covered with mirrors, reflecting the beautifully rendered animations across the pavilion.
“We created all the video content and set up a specific timetable so the films would run for eight hours a day, for around half a year,” continues Nam on the large-scale installation. Colliding the natural wonder of horticulture with the sharpness of texture achieved only through digital animation, the project is a testament to the group’s effective collaboration, including Nam’s unique approach to any project. “When I try to provoke emotion through my visuals,” he goes on, “I start by thinking about what triggered me as a child and how I can enhance it with all the experiences I’ve made since.”
He recalls the colourful cartoons he watched as a child, and alternatively, the fear he experienced when he would sneak down to the living room at night and catch a glimpse of a horror film. “Playing, creating and dreaming was an intensive thing to do,” Nam says conclusively. It’s something he continues to do this day, retaining this sense of curiosity and fascination to deliver the marvellous work we see before our eyes at this very moment.
Odas: Monthly Programme July, in collaboration with Mark Bohle