Having studied graphic design at the Estonian Academy of Arts, Norman Orro’s interest was first piqued by computer graphics, game modding and an interest in images. “I guess I was fooling around with design before I realised what it was,” he says. This process of discovery started at university, where Norman forged his own path, but he’s found he’s “gotten back into design many times over”, either from forgetting who he was as a designer or because he wanted to reinvent his style on purpose.
A big advocate in sharing what he’s learned, Norman has since returned to university to teach classes about subjects he felt were missing from the graphic design curriculum in Tallinn, covering topics like trends, lifestyles, futurism and how to interpret what’s happening on the internet. “Graphic design is in a perpetual state of crossover – it’s high and lowbrow; art and business; medium and the message; style and substance at the same time. Being in the middle of all this is inspiring and helps me grow in multiple directions,” he says.
This curiosity means Norman’s style is influenced by many things and he currently describes it as “the outcome of gallery, club, the corporate world and the academy colliding”, playing to his “own rules” to achieve an aesthetic he’s happy with. Combining structured compositions with more chaotic elements in regards to type and colour, many of Norman’s recent projects are focused around exhibitions. “I feel inspired when the line between art and design starts to get blurry – as was the case with a recent project in Prague, Remember Early Humans (Jakub Hošek, Paul Barsch, Tilman Hornig) where some of my graphics for the show also ended up on installations,” the designer explains.
“My style keeps constantly changing because everything I work on deserves a unique approach. I just try to be as honest as possible with myself and the audience. I know coherency is very important for communication but it’s also a very dangerous illusion if you’re interested in how things really work – nothing in the world is coherent beneath the surface.” Research is at the beginning of every brief Norman embarks on, with theories around anthropology and sociology working their way in. “Visually I like to start from scratch but I do keep a healthy folder of references,” he says.
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