A familiar name to readers of It’s Nice That, Laura Csocsán’s portfolio is, for its lack of colour, full of slick, well-researched graphic design and typographic work. She’s a designer who fully adheres to form over function, allowing concepts to guide her practice – in her projects, no decision goes unexplained.
Laura grew up in Hungary and is now based in the country’s capital of Budapest where, having graduated from Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, she shares a studio with friends and former classmates. Often, her projects begin with a typographic form and expand out methodically as she follows her research from one bit of information or inspiration to the next. It was the logic of graphic design which first attracted her to the medium as a teenager in fact and, today, she applies that same logic to her freelance career as a graphic designer and typographer.
While she keeps things monochromatic, Laura’s portfolio is by no means lacking variety. Each project the young designer undertakes features custom letterings and fully developed typefaces born from rational thinking but executed with flair and personality. Laura now has plans to go on to study a master’s in type design but, before she does, we made sure to solidify her place in this year’s line up of Graduates and find out a bit more about her work to date.
It’s Nice That: When did you know you wanted to study graphic design?
Laura Csocsán: Somehow I started to develop an interest in photography, then typography, maybe through Tumblr in high school. I found out about the term “graphic design” when I started going to a drawing school. I realised that graphic design was the name of what I was interested in. I’ve always been encouraged to do what I find interesting, so when I realised it was graphic design, I looked for steps that I could take to start learning it.
What attracts me to the medium is that I have to use my imagination in a different way. There are tangible conditions and boundaries in graphic design and these boundaries force me to explore possibilities that I would not be able to see otherwise. In terms of tools, however, it is very multifarious; there is a wide range within which everyone can find an approach and a visual language that suits them.
Graphic design also seems an obvious combination with type design, because the two fields go hand-in-hand in most of the situations. While I always placed typography in a central role in my designs, now I can create this typography from scratch and have the possibility to control the typographic elements.
INT: Who is a creative you admire or someone who has helped shape your practice?
LC: For me, there isn’t one particular person like a mentor or a great mind. However, I got some important advice and insight early on. A few years back, Clemens Schedler introduced me (not sure he remembers me though) to the fundamentals of graphic design I was not seeing around me. I remember one particular piece of advice from him: that I should take my time to learn. Especially now, as I have finished my BA, it seems particularly important to focus on.
During my internship at Studio Mut, Martin and Thomas taught me a lot, mostly about layouts, exchanging ideas, opinions, critiques – and drinking lots of water during work. Whereas the workshop After School Club was a way for me to learn from other designers and be able to connect with my peers outside of the internet. Isabel Seiffert ran the group I was in, and it was invaluable to see her process and inspiration, and also get her advice and thoughts on what I was doing. Her involvement in projects like Migrant Journal that also have a social role is something that seems important to learn from.
INT: Do you have a favourite project from your time at Maholy-Nagy University?
LC: The project is called 46/b and it is about a house on Madách street in Budapest. Everyone had to choose a Bauhaus building within the framework of this assignment, which is built on the research about the given house. I turned this research into a publication documenting the process. It was exciting to do field trips and find information about the past of this particular house, so the project grew dear to me, despite the fact it didn’t seem particularly exciting at the beginning.
I divided the publication into four sections, the first deals with the rich history of the building – both from a humane and urbanist viewpoint. 46/a and 46/b signalled the start of the future Madách avenue, which was never built. I used texts and old photographs to present this history very factually due to its nature. The second shows the present state using photos I made with a technique and style that referenced Bauhaus photographs and, using these pictures, the third section closely and abstractly examines the materials used to make the house. This part moves away from Bauhaus, and rather shows the different layers of time that the building contains through blown-up details.
Finally, in the fourth chapter, different digital exercises are shown, based on the structures of the house. It is the most important part of the whole project as these experiments and forms provide the framework for a poster inspired by the whole process. The cover of the book is embossed with one of these complex forms. I made the decision to ignore the fact that these forms don’t represent the house visually, because that wasn’t important for me. It was more interesting to collect and generate a booklet full of different materials, like an archive, connecting to the building on a different level, instead of simply representing the house through obvious visuals.
"What I especially like is working within structures, grids and any kind of systems"Laura Csocsán
INT: You have a strong visual language, what’s the process that goes into making it?
LC: Usually, I start with an idea or a concept. For some time, I just think and research the given thing. Once I have some ideas, I try and form these ideas on paper or the computer. Most of the time, these concepts are only the backbone or the starting point, thus they don’t always have an obvious connection with the final form, but I like the notion of having an option for the viewer to discover these details that refer to the original concept in a subtle way.
What I especially like is working within structures, grids and any kind of systems because then I can find a way to make them interesting without a potential violation. Most of the time I use the combination of typography itself or a typographic system with imagery or abstract forms. My works are mostly monochrome – the colourful options sometimes feel distant to me or I end up rejecting them due to the lack of true function or unnecessary added meaning in a particular situation, even if I like the results. I find it more interesting to use different materials and textures that have their own “colour” as opposed to a plain CMYK combination – I feel like there are so many potential variations this way which make the work more tactile and more detailed.
INT: What will you miss about university? And what are you happy to leave behind?
LC: I would say that I will miss my classmates but actually, now I work with my former classmates and friends in a studio so fortunately, I see them every day!
Still, the great thing about university for me was that some people around me became my very good friends. This kind of connection is very important – I think it’s the nicest thing about going to university. The other thing is that having assignments that one should inevitably do allows students to constantly work and use their creative energies, whilst thinking freely during a project with no bounds, and having the opportunity to try things and experiment. While real-life projects can also provide that, it seems rarer to find that kind of work at the start of someone’s career.
I am happy to leave behind the whole structure of our education though – we didn’t really have a say in how our education worked, even when we had problems. This strictly operated and often narrow-sighted environment resulted in, at least for me, learning mostly from books and in an autodidact way because a lot of the time I didn’t get encouragement or help.
"For me, a dream project would be something that has a bigger scope"Laura Csocsán
INT: Now that you’ve graduated, what do you hope to do? What would your dream project be?
LC: I really hope to be able to start studying abroad, where I would like to enrol in a master’s programme to learn type design and typography, and generally learn more about what I’m interested in. Right now, this is the next goal I would love to achieve. I genuinely just want to learn as much as possible, but I am also working towards maybe having my own practice someday that involves graphic and type design – but this is the more distant future.
For me, a dream project would be something that has a bigger scope, but only in a sense that it involves different media that accommodates the designs, something in the cultural field maybe or a more open project in the commercial field. I think I find it interesting to see graphics interconnected on different platforms, how these visuals stay the same but can also adapt to the specifics of their context and become something else. Of course, I would love to work on something that involves type design as well as different layouts or systems.
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About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.