Regulars / Nicer Tuesdays

New York’s DIA Studio on creating kinetic type inspired by jazz, physics and caterpillars

The final speaker at March’s Nicer Tuesdays was DIA Studio’s creative director Mitch Paone. Brooklyn-based DIA has cemented itself as the go-to studio for kinetic identity systems and type, and counts the likes of Squarespace, Nike and producer A-Trak as clients.

The focus of Mitch’s talk was how disparate and sometimes unexpected influences can come together to inspire visual form and movement. He described the studio’s process as a sequence of input (learning, technique and everything that happened up until that point), followed by improvisation (the point of creating, playing, making and iterating without being critical) followed by the output. “I think it’s very important for there to be a separation between input and output, to make stuff and not worry about it when you do it,” he explained.

As well as a deep love for jazz, Mitch and the studio mine the worlds of science, nature and biomechanics for inspiration, creating moving type that has its own dynamic energy. They’re obsessed with googling scientific imagey, from the way elephants walk or caterpillars and snakes move to the principles of physics. Mitch pointed out that movement also has very deep cultural and historical significance, giving the example of the fluid dance routines of the 80s rave scene, the footwork of New Orleans second lines at funerals or the class signifier of ballet. “The cultural references that drive the music, the sound, the rhythm create a very specific art form,” said Mitch. “We can start to think about those things in animation and design as we start to create things that move – just in a way a choreographer does.”

Mitch went on to take us on a whistle-stop tour of some of the studio’s output, pointing out that graphic designers need to think about their work in a way that lives beyond format (whether that be print, interactive, VR or 360 camera) or risk becoming obsolete. Nodding to the growth in AI, Mitch concluded by saying that more and more his work is about curating – “taking a step back from an intuitive standpoint of what’s working and what’s not working”. What marks humans apart from an algorithm is the emotional connection we experience when looking through creative work. “In terms of the editing process I get excited by this because it removes me as the designer,” he says. “If something doesn’t hit us, move us or make us feel a certain way then it’s not going to connect with our audiences.”

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