Forever the student, Natalia Oledzka’s practice is a masterclass in subtlety
From NYC to St. Louis, Natalia is always inspired by the world around her, obsessed with the details she finds.
- Harry Bennett
- 1 May 2020
Intimidated by the prospect of choosing a career as a child and nervous from the thought of dedicating your whole life to one thing, Natalia Oledzka is now content in her choice as a designer, because the nature of the field is not biased to any single discipline but instead is involved in most. The designer, born in Queens, NY, explains that “I’ve realised that design is a frame to look through, it touches upon so many spaces,” adding that “while I’m pursuing this one specific field, I’m also allowed to explore the world through it.” This sentiment seems to be at the core of Natalia’s practice and person; with an unstoppable drive to keep learning and creating, Natalia takes on the world full steam ahead.
Currently, due to graduate this year from Washington University, St. Louis, with a degree in communication design, Natalia doesn’t think leaving university will remove her title as a student. She tells us: “I know that despite my lack of enrolment in classes, I’ll always consider myself to be a student, there is still so much to learn and experiment with.” Thriving in design as an area for personal and professional growth, where you can “constantly explore new ways of creating, or immerse yourself within the research of a new topic a project revolves around,” Natalia continues to explore lots of creative outlets, including print, identities, type and web design, along with web development and coding.
Natalia takes a lot of inspiration from the environment she finds herself in, growing up in Queens her whole life, she tells us that she finds “New York City a multi-layered and informal gallery of things to look at and observe.” She’s drawn to the contrasting ephemera found across the city “from the advertisements that plaster the subway system to the signage and graffiti.” Growing up in an area of overwhelming messages providing a continual bombardment of graphics and stories, it’s no wonder Natalia has since developed a seemingly eternally persistent interest in visual messaging. “I think that space was important in developing who I am today, and it’s made me int a bit of an observer,” Natalia explains. “I love looking at stuff,” paying close attention to the “small moments” and details found in everything – much like she does in her work.
Her extraordinary attention to detail is unfailing across Natalia’s portfolio, manifesting predominantly in her typographic awareness. “I think type is beautiful,” she tells us, “a dance between art and function,” a relationship that we see Natalia balance on a macro and micro scale. From the nuances within the minutiae of her editorial layouts to the bold and candid large scale typography accompanying it, Natalia dominates subtlety. This also comes across in the “subdued colour palettes” and texture in her work, a feature inspired “by admiration of my urban and natural surroundings.” Now living in the rural outskirts of St. Louis, she’s intrigued by the “repetition and patterning in the grass, branches of trees, and the grain in wood tables.”
Grain of Sand, a recent project of Natalia’s, is a true manifesto of her practice; giving a spotlight to sand, “something we don’t give a second thought to,” she explains. “Grain of Sand revolves around the 99% Invisible podcast episode Built on Sand, with supporting texts about the overarching theme of overconsumption,” Natalia tells us, coming to the realisation that she had, like the rest of us, never given much consideration to sand. “It turns out that something so small becomes powerful when it comes together,” she describes, referring to how sand makes up the concrete in the foundations of what we make, “the asphalt that makes up our roads, and to the chips in our phones.” The conclusion of the publication was making the audience aware that we are running out of sand through our overconsumption of the resource, commenting on the excessive nature of our society.
“I really enjoyed looking into characteristics of sand,” Natalia tells us “and the podcast’s themes to inform my design decisions.” The end result is a very sizeable book, “a nod to the incredible impact sand has had in building our civilisation,” she remarks, hoping to imply however that it doesn’t need to be big, and therefore neither do our consumption levels. To mimic individual grains and the “granular texture” of sand, Natalia typeset the publication in a mono-space font, in an attempt to “speak to the duality of both the strength and fragility of sand through the book’s pull-out quotes.”
The utmost consideration that Natalia pays to the content and design of Grain of Sand has resulted in a project that allows form to be inspired by concept and function, as well as bringing elegance and beauty into design. It’s a publication that reflects the sentiments Natalia has toward typography itself – something that perfectly balances artistry and function.
“I’m still very much figuring it all out, but I’m excited by what I’ll learn along the way,” Natalia optimistically illustrates in discussing the future, originally set to work as a wrangler at a ranch in Wyoming before the pandemic. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to do something new and focus on physical work,” she tells us, “to allow myself the mental space to reflect upon my years of schooling before heading into the industry.” Looking ahead, however, Natalia is excited to revisit some of her early projects and reflect on the type of work she wants to make.
About the Author
After graduating from Winchester School of Art, studying graphic arts, Harry worked as a graphic designer before joining It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020. He nows works as a freelance writer and designer, and is one half of Studio Ground Floor.