Spikes, satire, Frank Ocean and The New York Times: Nejc Prah discusses his recent work
Having moved from New York to Ljubljana to start his own studio, our former Ones to Watch talks us through a host of playful new projects.
- Jyni Ong
- 12 May 2020
A designer that needs no introduction, Nejc Prah first made his mark on It’s Nice That back in 2017 as one of our Ones to Watch. Slovenian born and raised, back then, we caught up with the Yale MFA graduate who, by day, was part of the creative team at Bloomberg Businessweek. Outside of business hours, it was his eclectic contribution to personal project after personal project that really grabbed our attention. A dazzling display of identities, catalogue designs and posters peppered his portfolio, and today, it’s a variety that continues throughout Nejc’s practice.
Much has changed in the three years since he featured on our annual regular. Last spring, nearly a year ago, Nejc left Bloomberg Businessweek and the skyscrapers of New York for his birth country, Slovenia, to start his own studio. “I’ve been quite busy since then,” he tells us. Kicking things off as his own boss, Nejc’s inaugural project saw him design the extensive identity for the 33rd Ljubliana Graphic Biennial. Tasked with creating printed matter, signage, not to mention animated content, the identity’s concepts was founded in satire.
“Spikes, stings and pricks play an important role in how we (used to) talk about satire,” explains Nejc. Curated by Slavs and Tartars – who extended this concept throughout its work for the festival – the identity is rooted in a linguistic bond between spikes and humour. He goes on to explain, “one of the Slovenian words for a joke, if that joke is aimed at someone, is zbadljivka. It comes from the verb zbosti, which means to prick someone or something.” It’s the kind of word that could be the answer in a crossword puzzle or heard on national radio, but it’s too old fashioned to be heard on the street daily.
Elsewhere in Slovenia, there are several 20th century satirical newspapers which point to said spikiness. Osa meaning wasp for example, Bodeča neža meaning silver thistle, Jež is hedgehog, Rogač is stag beetle, and finally, Kača translates as snake. This evident connection between spikes and humour therefore made its way into the identity in the form of a hedgehog, a whimsical one at that. Pairing the image of this hedgehog with photography of spikes and thorns, Nejc’s ultimate goal was to “show both the light and humorous aspects of satire, as well as its more serious and often political undertones.”
In other work, Nejc has lent his trusty hand to several other high profile clients. Last autumn, he worked on Frank Ocean’s single, vinyl, merchandise and party releases in New York. For this, he created a typographic system centred on a bubble font which could be flexibly arranged in a variety of formats. At the end of last year, he was asked to illustrate the number 2019 for front and back cover of The New York Times’ year-end selection. And for Medium, he created the art work for an article about burn out. “I don’t work that much and I sleep a lot, but people keep asking me why I’m so tired,” adds the designer. In turn, when it came to the inspiration for this editorial, he simply looked above his nose to inform his eye bag themed illustration.
Finally, Nejc talks us through his latest publication design for Fotopub 2019 Katalog. An ongoing collaboration for Nejc and his colleague Klemen Ilovar, the latest issue presented a more hands on approach from the designers. In previous years when he lived in New York, Nejc had little control over the printing and binding of the annual publication, so, he tells us, “it was always whack.” Now he lives in Ljubliana, he has more influence over the production. And this year, Nejc and Klemen approached the project with a more relaxed attitude, keeping the catalogue loose and simple, splitting up the publication’s content into smaller chunks, and designing the beautiful spreads in a way that felt right.
Nejc Prah: Frank Ocean, photography by Michael Marcelle
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.