Join Marian Bantjes for an in-depth discussion in this video Marian Bantjes, Graphic Artist, part of Creative Inspirations: Marian Bantjes, Graphic Artist.
(music playing) Marian Bantjes: When I am looking at a piece of mine, I want to assess it by, is there a sense of wonder, does it invoke curiosity, is there a sense of joy? Really, my ultimate goal is to get people to notice it and to do a double take, to spend time with the piece. I think it's a really valid way of working, of capturing attention and interest and getting messages across as well.
Michael Bierut: What's really fun about working with Marian Bantjes is that she has a capacity to surprise you. What she does is beautiful, but it's beauty the hard way, it really is. People can look at that and whether they like it or don't like, whether they get it or don't get it, they can tell that someone really cared about this.
Sean Adams: If you are forced to stop and really pay attention to something, it sticks, because you had to do work. And that's where Marian's work I think is so remarkable, in terms of, you have to work at it. It invites you to work at it. It seduces you into looking at it and trying to figure out, how is this made, what is going on here? And the more time you spend on it, the more intimate you become with the piece, the more value it has mnemonically. Because she puts so much effort into it, and it's so intricate, it sticks.
Debbie Millman: Marian has never been interested in financial success. She is not motivated by that. I don't think she is unhappy that she has some, but I think that she is really motivated by making a difference with her work. She is really motivated by uncovering what is possible with art and design. (music playing) (applause) Marian: I'm going to begin by reciting a poem.
"Oh beloved dentist. Your rubber fingers in my mouth. Your voice so soft and muffled. Lower the mask, dear dentist. Lower the mask." (laughter) So I am one of those people with a transformative personal story. Six years ago, after twenty years in graphic design and typography, I changed the way I was working--and the way most graphic designers work--to pursue a more personal approach to my work, to simply make a living doing something that I loved.
I left my company. I had a buy-out from my business partner, and I had enough money to survive for a year. That year came and went, and I didn't get any work. However, I did start to get praise. I started to get emails from people saying, "Hey, I saw this. This is really great!" They still weren't saying, "We want to hire you," but at least I was getting the feedback that I needed to know that I wasn't wasting my time. When I was working with my design company, Digitopolis, I worked in the same way that most graphic designers work, which is what I call a strategic model, in that you don't have a particular style.
Your job is to meet with the client, determine their needs, determine what is the right strategy for them, whether you are going to do a website or a brochure or whatever that is, and what is the right approach and the right look and all that other stuff for them? I had already started making work for the company that was essentially a precursor of the kind of work that I do now. I knew that there was a market for it.
I mean, people responded very well to it. But either due to the market in Vancouver or the type of business that we were in, we weren't really able to sell that to our clients. And so I felt that I had this kind of split between what I believed in, what I thought was interesting, what I thought was progressive, the kind of work that I wasn't actually seeing in the marketplace, and the kind of work that we were doing, which was very much divorced from me personally.
And I wanted to create something that would affect people in a stronger way. So I no longer meet with the client to determine their needs. I no longer deal with printers. I no longer do all those really difficult things. I let the designer do that. That's what they get paid the big bucks for. And what I do is, they've made a strategic decision. Part of that design has been, let's hire Marian Bantjes.
And I am sort of a little bit more and a little bit less than what an illustrator is, in that I often create custom typography. I am sometimes asked to work with the layout, as well as whatever it is I am bringing to it. And on the less side, well, if somebody wants something, a picture of a cat, I'm not the person to come to. That's not what I do. Paula Scher: What she is doing is demonstrating that design can be personal, that you can have a personal voice in it, that it can be specific to one human being, not general.
She is doing something that only she can do, and illustrators do that. I mean her work is probably more akin to illustration, in terms of how people hire her, because it may be that an art director, or somebody who has already shaped what something should be, would hire her to do it. For example, my partner Michael Bierut hired her to work on one of his Yale posters because the subject matter required one of her Baroque forms of typography which she created.
She is really functioning to a degree like an illustrator. Now you can call that a graphic artist, or you can call it a graphic designer. You can call it an illustrator. It really doesn't matter. It's that her work is so specific to her, that she has a personal style. Sean: Quite often, I see people do something that's really unexpected, because she will do something unexpected. Just last week a student came to me and said, "I was thinking about Marian's sugar piece, and it occurred to me, I didn't have to make this with paper." I am like, exactly, yes.
It's not all flat-screen paper. There are other options in the world. Michael: I can remember a project I worked on with her once where it was a--I thought I pictured in my mind pretty much exactly what I wanted. And I sort of said, " Marian, this is pretty simple. What we need you to do is just something that's like this that has these characteristics. And the rule of the game is it has like line up here and do this other thing and do that here." And as I recall, she actually did dutifully--I think as a favor to me--the thing I asked for. And then she said, "Or you could do it like this," and then she did this completely other thing.
And of course that completely other thing is the thing that everyone loved. You can always tell when it's something that has someone's heart in it, when they discovered something new while they were doing it. And I think the preferred option that Marian sent, which everyone liked, had that kind of light inside it, that the thing she just simply did under orders from me just did not. And I think that's sort of why she will keep moving forwards, and why she will kind of keep making discoveries is that she just resists the idea of kind of going on autopilot and doing that thing she knows how to do so well.
(music playing) Marian: I first came to Vancouver to go to art school. I went to Emily Carr for a year, but it didn't really work out for me; it wasn't the right thing for me. So after that, I was getting fired from restaurant jobs. And let's see, I was nineteen years old, I think, and I went into a bookstore one day to get change for the bus. There, in the bookstore, was a little sign by the cash register that advertised a job at a publishing company.
The job at the typesetting company quickly led into training in layout and paste up and all the things that people used to do before computers took over. I was not a designer; I was a typesetter. So I would receive instructions, usually written, sometimes hand drawn, from the designer as to how they wanted the book to look, what typeface they wanted it to be in, what sizes.
The exciting part of book design is always in the front matter, the half title, the title. You get to use some display type. You get to do something a little bit different. Contents page. You've got all sorts of various decisions that you can make here, whether it's going to be flush left or centered, or whether there is going to be anything between the title and the numbering. These are sort of very exciting things to book designers. It sounds incredibly boring, but those are kind of the moments of, when you get to make big decisions, as opposed to the pages that are just text.
Yeah, so this is the kind of thing that I worked on for many, many years, and I really enjoyed it. Looks beautiful. Gold edges. You do what you are told, and you do what you are told over and over and over again, and eventually you learn. You learn what is the right way and the wrong way to do things.
I mean, that's one of the things I like about typography is that there is a right way and a wrong way. There are variations within that. There are personal tastes and various things, but you can really--you can do it wrong; you can screw it up. And there is something about that that I like. Don't know why. (music playing) I moved to Bowen Island full time after leaving my business, and it was quite a bit of change, not only in terms of the work that I was doing, but also in terms of my lifestyle.
I had been living in the city and going to work every day like a regular person, getting up in the morning, seeing people, being in an office with other people, meeting with clients, doing all that stuff. I had the place here and would come here on weekends. And there is this kind of leaving behind of the city and the tensions when you make this journey on the ferry. There is a very different mentality between the island mentality and the mainland mentality. (music playing) I was working a four-day week at the company and then coming over here on Thursday evening and smashing and demolishing and building every weekend for over two years.
So the first couple of years that I owned the house, it was a work project. I mean, there was nothing relaxing at all about coming over here. By the time I moved over here, the house was ready to go, so it worked out quite well that way. (music playing) It's a living space, but it also functions as partly a workspace as well.
It's completely different than it used to be. The whole thing is opened up. These doors and windows didn't use to be there, so those got put in. Um. I've got various pieces of artwork along the way. These are by Ed Fella, on the side. This is my bedroom. I spend a lot of time in here, sleeping. I like sleeping. Sleeping is a really important part of my creative process.
It took me a while to figure this out. I used to think I was being very lazy spending a lot of time in bed or just lying around on the couch. But I've realized that I actually do a lot of thinking when I am laying in bed--not when I am sleeping; when I am sleeping, I am dreaming. I am restoring that energy somehow. And so getting a lot of rest is, I think, really important to me. When I worked at Digitopolis, I was working almost entirely on the computer, basically the computer and with photography.
And now I am using a wide variety of materials, sometimes still involved with a computer and sometimes just with the materials themselves. But having a space like this allows me to obviously store them all, and to work on these various surfaces in different media. I've got my pencil crayons here. I actually have a vast pencil crayon collection, which is growing, because I subscribe to these crazy, freaking Japanese pencil crayon subscriptions.
So yeah, there is a lot of pencil crayons going on there. When I first came here, I wasn't really getting any--I certainly wasn't getting any paid work. So I was spending my time working on a number of personal projects and just things that I was interested in. So this was a piece that I did for a kind of a magazine-type thing called Ladies & Gentlemen.
It shipped with a vinyl LP, and the piece I did for it--there's the LP-- the piece I did for it was this here. I was doing quite a bit of ballpoint pen work at the time. It says, "HOW ARE YOU." This was the kind of thing that I was doing, just contributing to things like this, that were essentially for me free printing. So my goal at the time really was to just keep putting stuff out there, keep making things, keep exploring these ideas I was having, honing my skills, and just kind of stay busy during this time when I wasn't actually getting any commissioned work.
Welcome to my dirt collection! What is that, exactly? Bowen Island. It's just, it's dirt. It's got a lot of cedar in it, so it's quite red. This one says, "South Africa Mala Mala River Bed." This is actually probably my most dangerous dirt, because it's unsterilized, came from an African riverbed, and God knows what's living in it. Here's some little shells, shell beach stuff, from Galiano Island.
And you might wonder why I have a dirt collection. I think one day I am going to make something out of it. I will make something interesting, something like a sand-painting-kind-of-thing using all my different dirts from around the world. We will see. But for now, I collect dirt. (music playing) Marian: I remember having this kind of epiphany.
It was quite early on. And I remember I was flying into New York and looking down over the lights of New York, and I had this sudden thought that everything I do, I do for love. And it was a really, like, kind of a really big moment for me. And I think it was at that time that I decided that to make Valentine's Day my thing, you know, to hook into this love thing. Debbie: Marian made a fundamental shift in her life when she was 40.
She had already practiced her craft for many, many decades and started this entirely new body of work that was much more heartfelt, that was much more meaningful, that was much more honest. She didn't have a body of work prior to doing this. She created the body of work as she was doing it, and she got people's attention by sending out promotions for Halloween and for Valentine's Day. Michael: My first encounter with Marian Bantjes was in the mail.
It was unsolicited junk mail, essentially, but I didn't do with it what I do with the other pieces of junk mail, which is throw away right away; instead, I kind of stood it up on my desk and saved it. Stefan Sagmeister: I remember the first thing that I saw, I immediately saved it, which in this office at least is not very usual, because we tend to get designers' junk mail by the bucketful, and photographers and illustrators and all that. And what made it really special was the obvious obsession of the person who had done it, how much time, love, and attention was spent to make this typographic form really gorgeous.
Marian: So the first valentine, it was printed on this really, this glassine, very, very fine. And so it's like that. So people got it in the envelope, and they could see. You know, you could kind of see the layers through it, in the translucent envelope, and then they would unfold it, and it was like that. That was the very first one. The second year I did--I worked on that glassine again, and that was True Heart.
I did the letterforms that look like hearts. So I drew these. I would assemble the person's name and some Xs and Os and an extra M for myself, which I would sign, and stuck that, again, in a translucent envelope like that. Basically, this pile of letters would tumble out, and they would go, "What the hell is this?" And the thing is that people have a good--you get something like this, you realize quite quickly that they are letterforms, and people have a pretty good affinity to figuring out their own name.
If this was a word that said something like, I don't know, "adore" or something, they probably wouldn't really get it. But people have this--this, for instance, says M-A-R-I...M-A-R-I-A-N, my own name. So I was really counting on people having that recognition. And then the next year I had a bunch of the paper left over, so I used the same paper again.
But this was a completely different concept. It kind of doesn't make sense. It doesn't start with "hello" to them. It starts in the middle of a sentence. It ends in the middle of a sentence. And this one says, "You've never really been sure of this, but I can assure you that this quirk you're so self-conscious of is intensely endearing. Just please accept that this piece of you escapes with your smile, and those of us who notice are happy to catch it in passing. There is no passing time with you, only collecting: the collecting of moments with the hope for preservation and at the same time, release.
Impossible? I don't think so. I know this makes you embarrassed. I am certain I can see you blushing, I know it. But I just have to tell you because sometimes I hear your self-doubt, and it's so crushing to think that you may not know how truly wonderful you are, how inspiring and delightful and really truly the most completely," and that's where it ends. This does speak to them in some personal way without being specific.
It was actually really difficult to write that, really difficult to get just that balance of the universal and the personal. Last year I got this really great idea to use used Christmas cards for the valentines. Here are some leftovers here. So there's just all sorts of different kinds. And I knew this was a good idea. I knew it was a good idea. I just wasn't prepared for what an incredibly good idea it was, if I do say so myself.
So these are some of the valentines that I have left over. And I was down at the shop that does the laser printing when they were putting these things through the printer, or through the laser cutter, and I was just blown away. I am still blown away by them. I drew this design. You can kind of-- it's easier to see the design itself on the reverse. I mean, the thing about it, one of the reasons that I did it, and one of the reasons that I think it works as well, is that Christmas and Valentine's Day share this--share a kind of--they share a color palette, and they share a kind of sentimentality.
Look at this one with the bird. That is just--I mean, that is stunning. That's just--it just worked out so beautifully. And this was some crappy, ugly card with a bunch of sprinkles on it, and it just turned out into this incredible thing. I mean that's beautiful. And I don't know. I just--the foil--all these cheesy effects that went onto the original Christmas cards just came out so beautifully in the valentines.
It was sort of serendipitous and planned and everything else all at the same time. I was just overjoyed. So that is a project that I am going to have a very, very hard time topping this year, or any other year. This year I am going to create kind of modular hearts that are made up of pieces and then those pieces will be able to mix and match.
But the idea is to be able to have different colors and different pieces of the hearts that fit together, so that I can get a variety of different hearts. (music playing) So I want each part to be quite different from the others.
These shapes and designs are kind of deliberately not beautiful. I'm very purposely not making what you might call romantic shapes. Because I really like the idea of juxtaposition and I like the idea of kind of like working against what's expected. I think it will be more surprising when they come together and they look great. They are going to look great. I'm quite convinced of it.
(music playing) All right! So I am going to put this in the scanner and bring it into Illustrator. One might wonder why I wouldn't just draw this directly in Illustrator. I can't think in Illustrator.
Very occasionally I work directly on the computer, but most of the time I find that the computer somehow controls my brain. I can't understand how it does or why it does it. All I know is that when I try to skip the step of sketching, most of the time I just end up with garbage. So here is my finished section, and here is a bunch of different sections, and I've made them different colors.
And my new section, I am going to make it a different color. So you can see with this one section here, I've got three different shapes for that section: I've got this one, this one, and I've got the one I just made. So I can have a combination of those two, or I can have a combination of those two, or these two. And the other added thing as well is that the colors are set to overprint. They multiply in these sections so that where two colors combine, where, for instance, where magenta and yellow combine, they can create red; where blue and magenta combine, they create purple in the center.
I get more than the three colors; I get this range of colors that is somewhat random because of the way these things were designed to kind of fit together but not really fit together. So they have intersections that are really these unusual shapes, and that makes it again, I think, more interesting. (music playing) Working with the shapes and the forms that were not necessarily beautiful to begin with, they came together exactly as I wanted.
I think they are good non-traditional valentines, just the way I like to have them. (music playing) (rain falling) Marian: When I worked as a designer, I worked very locally, as most Canadian designers that I know of do. It's a very kind of closed, insular design scene.
When I became involved in Speak Up I was spending a lot of time on the web site, and I honestly thought I was wasting my time. I mean, I was spending hours and hours and hours on this stupid blog, commenting and writing and being involved in this community. What a waste of time! But what I didn't realize was that at that time Speak Up was a real focal point for a broad range of people in the design community. Michael Bierut: Like other people, I sort of also encountered Marian's name as a writer, not an artist or a designer.
She contributed then to this blog, Speak Up, for the graphic design community. She is a very articulate writer, very opinionated, fun to read, always well argued, well thought through, and surprising in many ways on her choice of subject matter. Debbie: Speak Up was like a bar. Speak Up was a bar where everybody knew your name, and you can go in and there were fistfights and brawls and soapbox opinions, and it was incredibility momentous, because it was the first serious design blog.
Marian's posts had an ability to both appeal to larger, broader life issues, but also there were very small precious experiences that are incredibly universal. Marian deconstructed Santa. Marian showed me that the only difference between a garden gnome and Santa is the white fur around the hat.
And she wrote about the alphabet in a way that nobody else could. She deconstructed the alphabet. Who does that? (music playing) Paula: I enjoyed reading her on Speak Up, but I don't trust anybody's opinion on a blog unless I know if they are any good, because what difference does it make what they say if they don't design well? So I was really delighted when I found out how fantastic she was.
Marian: I thought I hated graphic design, and I thought I was leaving graphic design forever. And what I found in Speak Up was that I actually loved graphic design, and that I knew a hell of a lot about it, and I was very opinionated about it. The level of discussion was so much higher than anything I had experienced before. I can remember a couple of knockdown drag-out fights that I had in here that I lost.
One of them I lost to Michael Bierut and to Mark Kingsley; they totally changed my mind. And that's something that I never could have done in any other way. It was a real being-in-the-right- place-at-the-right-time kind of thing. Then the other thing that happened with this was Speak Up held a T-shirt competition. I almost didn't enter the T-shirt competition because, you know, having been a designer for ten years, it was like it was something that was beneath me, and who am I to enter a T-shirt competition, is my ego.
But because it was my community, because I was so involved with it, I decided to enter the competition, and I won. I developed this kind of pixilated type, which was actually based on--Speak Up used to use a pixel font for most of its graphics, so it was based on that pixel font--and then elaborated on it and changed and turned into this more organic thing. So this was sort of the beginning of what became known as my style.
So, you know, this T-shirt led directly to my first assignment with Details magazine; it led to a connection with Rick Valicenti and doing a project with him, an unpaid project, but a project nonetheless; and it became quite a widely-referenced piece, and in that sense this lowly T-shirt launched my career. (music playing) Debbie: Marian really created a body of work that has inspired a generation of designers.
But Marian is not content to settle for this style that she has created; she has already moved on. She is already creating new things. She is creating new styles. Every time she does something, there is something new in it that takes her somewhere else, that takes her somewhere else, that takes her somewhere else. Sean: And the spirit of her work is always going to remain the same, and that spirit is backed up with the incredible craft that she has. She is able to think it through. So I may not get the squiggly thing that I had thought I might get from the last project, but I'll get something equally as wonderful.
She's not just there to, like, replicate the same style over and over again. She does it because she believes in it. She just feels like, I am moving in this direction now. Stefan: In any creative roles you have basically two types of artists. You have the people who basically do the same thing over and over again, and you have the people that change all the time. I like Warhol better than I like Roy Lichtenstein, or I like the Beatles over the Stones, simply because the trajectory of the Beatles from the beginning to the end is a much wider one than with the Stones.
And with Marian, she definitely would be the Beatles. I think there is a red line that goes through it, which is probably somehow centered around obsessiveness, but outside of that, the visual breadth of her output is a fairly deep one. (music playing) Marian: I have been interested in illuminated manuscripts for quite a long time.
I am not an expert on illuminated manuscripts by any stretch of the imagination, but there are a couple of purposes of it. But one of those purposes is definitely to invoke wonder in this way that was very interesting to me and was feeding directly into my ideas about that symbiotic relationship between graphics and text.
Three years ago now I was approached by Lucas Dietrich at Thames & Hudson, and he wanted to do a monograph with me. At that time, I didn't really feel that I was ready for a monograph. So I didn't want to do that, but you don't turn Thames & Hudson down. And I had had some ideas for a book kind of floating around in my head that were somewhat incoherent. I had a number of writings that I'd written for Speak Up.
I really felt that there was an opportunity to not just reprint a weblog article in a book, but to actually change it in a way that could only be done in a book, and to be able to illustrate them in a way that was integrated with the text. And as well, I had a number of thoughts, things that I had been thinking about for a while, around the role that wonder plays in communication, that feeling of awe, of wondering at something that is so magnificent that you can't quite understand it; and the other being, I wonder, as in I think, or I wonder what will happen.
Trying to explain this to a publisher was quite difficult. I had to do quite a bit of work to get some samples together and illustrate what it was I was trying to do. One of the examples I give is the wonder that you feel when you look up at the night sky and you know that those are stars up there, but it's so hard to really grasp that. And so it goes from that into this piece about the stars. I had written this after going to visit the Griffith Observatory in L.A.
I discovered a display that they have there. It's a permanent display of jewelry with a celestial theme. When I started to write, I had this kind of imaginative leap where instead of writing about the observatory or writing about the display, I ended up writing this kind of imaginary piece as though when you look through a telescope, what you see are these pieces of jewelry in the sky. When I took the photos I never imagined that I would be using them for print.
I mean they were shot with a rinky- dink digital camera through glass. And so I was picking out these little pieces of jewelry out of larger photos, sharpening them, and then printing them at the largest size I could possibly get them to. It's illustrating what I'm talking about, without your eye ever having to really leave the page and go look at figure A. That sense of wonder at what these things are comes through in that, and these themes go throughout the whole book and really, in a way that was even surprising to me by the time that I was done.
(music playing) Marian: Are you Lisa? Lisa Smith: Yeah.
Marian: Great! Nice to meet you! Yeah! Lisa: You too! Lisa: So this is the gallery. Marian: Uh huh. Marian: Oh my God! Lisa: So is this the first time you've seen the wallpaper up? Marian: I have never seen the wallpaper up. Marian: This is fantastic. Lisa: It feels rich too. It's really--it's on vinyl. It's nice and thick. Marian: Oh, I'm so going to get this for my bathroom. This is so great! Lisa:--know where to go, and those are all valentines. Marian: Right. Marian: Lisa Smith from Ontario College of Art and Design contacted me to have the show here.
She had a vision for the show being as interactive as possible, and that doesn't mean in terms of digital interaction, but to be able to have people see and touch things. And she really had this idea to have the wallpaper on the walls from Maharam and as well the Maharam fabrics that I had designed. And then there was the one piece that I was really excited about, which is The National poster, in a place where it could be seen under the three different lightings that it was designed for.
Lisa: We tried about four different lights. Marian: Oh, that's great! Lisa: And so it's on a seven-second circuit. Marian: That's great! I love that! Oh, look at the dress. That's amazing! Lisa: Yeah, yeah. Marian: It looks so great there. Marian: I've been really into patterning for quite a long time.
It's a really, really interesting thinking space. You really have to--Some people think of pattern, and technically it is, if you just like take an object and go plop, plop, plop, and repeat it over, and there it is. But for me, a really good pattern is something that is integrated and becomes a full image. And you have to figure out where things are going to cross and what holes need to be filled after you fill it out. So it's a lot of figuring out and back- and-forth work in and out of the computer trying to get that thing to work.
But for me it's just so much fun. It's puzzle making. It's like people who like to work on puzzles. It's the same kind of thing. It's figuring out how everything is going to fit together, and what's going to happen when it gets bigger. One of the reasons that I like working in graphic art or the graphic design world is that public access. When I create something and it goes out in however many thousands of copies of a magazine or seeing it all over the streets of New York or whatever, I'm creating a visual piece that thousands or millions of people can see and appreciate that they don't have to pay for, and they don't have to walk into a secluded gallery and see only in that place at that time, or in an art magazine.
There's brilliant fine artists; they're just doing amazing things. But unless you're really paying attention, you're never going to see it. And I think that's a tragedy. It's something that we really need to overcome, and I would love to see graphic designers being able to embrace that artistic side of them and bring that in. And I would love to see people who are in fine arts, instead of struggling away in their garrets, earning some good money in the commercial world for doing great work.
We really need that art in that space. If you look at the grace of modernist design, I mean that is art. I mean, it's just so beautiful. It's so perfectly composed. And somewhere after that, that modernist idea of things being functional and accessible and direct really infused design to an extent that it began to really divorce itself from the personal investment.
And it's something that's very difficult now for people in design to set aside. They still have this idea that there is no place for the personal artist in that commercial sphere, and I think they're absolutely wrong. I have said that my ego is involved in my work. People hear the word ego and they think it's a bad word. It's not. But I really think that that personal involvement of mine, yes, it is about me.
It's about furthering what I want to do and what I think is interesting. But it also aids the client. I mean, it is a partnership. If I was a client, I would much rather have something that had a longevity outside of its initial purpose, that was good enough that it would be reproduced in books and end up in an exhibition and end up in museums. This is a more recent poster. It's a company that distributes wine, and they have somewhere around two hundred different vineyards that they buy wine from to distribute.
And so they wanted to have a commemorative piece to be able to give to the vineyards. They were having a party, and they wanted to have something that had all of those people's names on it. And I'm quite convinced that when they hired me, they were expecting something that would be kind of scripty, so like some kind of scripty thing with a bunch of flourishes with all their names. And so I knew I wasn't going to do that, but I--my first thought was, what am I going to do? And my first thought was, well, I'm not going to do anything with grapes, because it's too obvious.
And my second thought was, grapes, what a good idea! So I decided--I started, I did a little online research into grapes and discovered that they come in all sorts of different colors and shapes and sizes, and I was really, really excited. And so what I did was I drew, in pencil crayon, all of these different grapes with the letterforms in the skin of the grapes in a way that is meant to look as somehow natural, as though it could've actually happened.
And then I scanned that, and in Photoshop assembled all of the names of the vineyards. And I heard from the client that when they gave this out at the function that the reaction was exactly what I wanted to have happen, which is, first they thought, oh it's a pretty poster. And then they were, oh, it's grapes. And then they even like oh, there's letters in the grapes and they say something.
And then they figured out that there were names, and then they looked for their own names. I mean that is the multi-layered payoff that I'm totally looking for. There's a huge amount of competition in the design space in our surrounding world. And everybody is kind of shouting and trying to make their message as simple and bold and big and direct as possible to sort of out-shout everybody else.
I think that there's this feeling that anything that doesn't do that, that isn't "hey, buy this now, big picture," then it's not going to work. And I think that they're really underestimating the audience and really underestimating people's curiosity. (music playing) Debbie: I don't think you hire Marian for her style; I think you hire Marian for her brain.
You have to know that she is going to be able to deliver and answer to a creative brief because she fundamentally understands it. (music playing) Sean: I think it's a shame that a lot of young designers feel like all of sort of traditional graphic design is less relevant or inadequate to the personal. And I just don't buy that.
I see so much incredible work out there that would fit under the banner of graphic design that is personal and is smart and compelling. (music playing) Michael: What makes Marian unique is her own uniqueness, in a way. She developed that voice that first time I saw it I had never seen it before. The second time I saw it, I realized that it was the same person who I had seen the first time.
And the things may have been completely different, but they sort of are unified in this kind of Marian Bantjes's way of looking at the world, of translating forms to surfaces, of taking a simple message and making it rich and embroidered and complex in a way that invites you in. And anyone out there, your way may be completely different. It could be completely the opposite. The thing to be inspired about with Marian and her voice is that it's her voice. But we're in an era where people can publish in so many different ways that if you are willing to work hard and you've got that voice, the channels for you to amplify that voice, to broadcast your message, are so numerous, and in a way so hungry for what you can offer, that they really just are waiting for the next Marian Bantjes to come along.
In Bonus Features, Marian talks about her creative process at the Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto.