Guiding innovation with humour and joy, Naughty Roll reminds us to “live in the moment”
Just three years old, this boundary-pushing design and publishing studio is advocating the diverse potential of Risograph through cheerful illustration and design.
- Elfie Thomas
- 2 February 2022
Naughty Roll is the first design studio in the small Macao region of China to own a Risograph machine. Its mission is to test the limits of the printing method and spread the infinite possibilities of the medium through Macao and the rest of the world. Their intriguing name comes from the slang term “Shashagun” from Cantonese which usually refers to “carelessness and casualness,” says art director Dan Ferreira. While the innovative work of Naughty Roll is anything but careless, the playful Cantonese word aptly summarises the ethos of this fun-loving studio, that never misses a chance to incorporate elements of absurdity and humour into their projects.
The illustration, design and arts curation studio was founded just three years ago in 2019. Initially selling a small range of Risograph-printed products, the studio unexpectedly flew to success through collaborations with Badmarket, a famous creative organisation in Guangzhou, China and the Times Art Museum, also in Guangzhou. One of the projects which has recently put Naughty Roll’s name on the map, and winning a graphite pencil in 2021, is Imbalance. This multifaceted illustrative piece folds up into a neat pamphlet. When opened out, an absurd “dystopian” world is unleashed. Naughty Roll created Imbalance to reflect the hysteria of the Covid-19 pandemic. Within its folds you’ll find strange factories burping out figures in hygienic-looking bubbly white suits and characters that have taken flight, their heads replaced with featureless globes or insect-like antennae. One little figure seems to be blocking it all out (like many of us tried), sunbathing on a terrace with their face tightly glued to a phone screen. The pure absurdity which abounds in every corner of the print was intended to get the viewer to “contemplate the impact of urban and social changes,” caused by the pandemic and “to express the need to retain a happy heart no matter the adversity or the good times,” says creative director Kun Lam.
A project which had particular nostalgic value for the team was the Golden Rat postcard series. The postcards themselves feature a range of rat illustrations, all run through with the studio’s cheeky sense of humour and some “naughty” innuendos. The nostalgia element came into play in the packaging design. Kun explains: “It was inspired by the classic rice bags with red and green characters on a white background that were common in Macau when we were children.” Gathering discarded rice bags from rice stores across Macau, the team recycled the materials to make individual bags for each postcard. “They were all sewn by hand,” Dan tells us, “giving the products more vitality.”
Each of these projects takes an innovative look at Risograph printing techniques. Dedicated to promoting the work of young graphic design and illustration talent from their small region of Macao, the studio launched an exhibition last year to “share the uniqueness and forward-looking nature of Risograph, and let the public think about more possibilities of Riso stencil printing for social culture.” The exhibition investigates these possibilities in three core areas: art, business and education. As well as educating their visitors about the basics of stencil printing and the working principles of the machine, Kun adds that they wanted to highlight the important role of illustration in “rich storytelling and atmospheric expression” for stimulating people’s emotions in everyday life.
As the team celebrates its three-year anniversary, this dynamic studio has a lot to be proud of. Its multidisciplinary output combines skill and innovation with humour and sincere social values. But Naughty Roll also wants to spread good will through their work Dan tells us, “We would like to deliver happiness to people through our art works, and remind everyone to cherish and live in the moment.”
Naughty Roll: Naughty Roll Design Show 2020 (Copyright © Naughty Roll, 2020)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.