Kingston School of Art graduate Sammie Purulak, like many, found a love of graphic design during his teenage years. And it was a specific teenage experience which introduced him to the medium. “Call of Duty,” he tells It’s Nice That when asked what first drew him to the world of design. “When I was 14, I was obsessed with it. I got into the gaming community on YouTube, taught myself how to use Photoshop and started making YouTube backgrounds for Call of Duty clans.”
Several years later, when it came to choosing which subjects to study at college, graphic design seemed the obvious choice. “It was the only thing I wanted to do back then,” he recalls. Having graduated earlier this year, this enthusiasm he discovered for the discipline early on it still evident. Whether working on editorial or digital design, art or film direction, Sammie’s projects are completed with fervour, every topic or theme unpacked and exploited to the full.
Although reluctant to say he has a signature visual language yet, Sammie is headstrong when it comes to the process he’s developed. “I try to question everything I do, and I like to have reasons for my decisions,” he explains, “whether it’s a certain typeface, use of colour or a choice of paper weight. I’m really focused on small details.”
This process often unravels through collaborative projects, especially with pals. “The past year I’ve been super pushy with friends to do projects together,” Sammie tells us. “I asked my friend who’s a photographer if we can do a photobook together. I asked my friend who’s a DJ if I could do all his promo artwork for his shows. I asked my friend who’s in a band if I could do his album artwork.”
One such project, produced while still at university is Any Object is an Existing Object, a catalogue made in collaboration with James McKechnie, documenting the work of artist Jacob Blackaller. “[Jacob’s] work is really interesting,” Sammie remarks, “it’s all about the relationship between the positioning of objects. Objects that he finds and objects that he manufactures himself.”
The pair sat in on the setup of Jacob’s installations to observe how constructs them. “Through watching, we realised how interesting it is to see the decisions he makes when positioning objects. He’ll put an object down – leave it for five minutes, go back and move it or take it out the scene completely,” Sammie recalls. Inspired by a passage of writing from Jan Tschichold’s The Form of a Book Book which outlines “how designers sometimes over reference and design when it comes to art catalogues, they visually replicate from the artist’s work which often feels gimmicky”, Sammie and James, instead, wanted to reference the way Jacob works, his process.
They printed out images of his work, passages of text, page numbers and titles – all at the correct dimensions for the book – and handed them over the Jacob. “Similar to how he would enter a space with objects or materials, we asked him to position the content of the book,” Sammie explains. This decision produced idiosyncratic results: “something he did a lot on each spread was having the images at the top of the page bleeding off. This was something we thought was visually interesting and decided that would be a rule in the book.” This small detail, which would not have been at arrived at any other way, is an example of what makes Any Object is an Existing Object so successful as a project.
Having spent time at Bureau Borsche, Anyways Creative and Biblioteque while also freelancing, Sammie’s portfolio only seems to be getting stronger. “I look at a lot of old books, every internship I have done I spend any spare minute looking through their collections of books; discovering designers like Willy Fleckhaus for his work with Twen, Herb Lubalin for his work with Eros,” he explains. This October, Sammie will be moving to New York City to rummage through the library (and work) at Pentagram.
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