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Hey designers, get your ass off the computer

A lesson learned from Barcelona’s OFFF 2017 about getting out of your digital comfort zone

Seeing Anton & Irene

As Astrid, Michael, Tiago, and I were scanning Barcelona’s OFFF 2017 line-up, we knew Anton Repponen and Irene Pereyra was a talk not to miss. This well-known design duo, known for their unique photography and colourful compositions, is probably one of the more obvious talks of the event to write about. However, for good reason: not only do they reveal their design processes of their awe-inspiring and award-winning work, they’re not pretentious about it. They’re humble, genuine human beings.

Their talk presented a series of “Note to self’s”, which were more or less lessons they’ve learned during their creative journey.

Lessons in design

Some of the lessons included typographic slides like, “You can’t be prepared for the unexpected” and “It’s ok to steal, but only from other disciplines — never your own!” Though the lesson I found the most interesting was put bluntly: “Get your ass off the computer and work with your hands”.

A lesson learned presented by Anton and Irene

 

Though I don’t think this message is necessarily a new one, I do like how they implement this finding into their own work. Often with striking photography with an added interactive element that gives the viewer a delightful surprise.

Anton and Irene begin showing their online portfolio. It’s simple at first: a full-screen portrait of them wearing coloured body suits that makes you do a double take. You then notice that they begin to slowly emerge from their body suits upon each hover of the mouse.

Not just something intriguing to look at, it also has a deeper meaning — we’ll get to that later.

Anton and Irene emerge from their “old skin” on hover

Not as easy as it looks

They revealed that it actually took them a long time to get this concept, which was a relief to hear for us creatives in the audience. They continued to say that the spark didn’t go until they went offline — that the worst thing you can do as a designer is to look at other designs in your field because you get really influenced by that. That this was why the web, as a whole, looks quite homogenous.

So how did Anton and Irene come up with a portfolio site that stood out? They stopped thinking of it as a website, but more of what they wanted to communicate. For them, that was when their body suit idea came to inception — it was them shedding their “previous skin” of being art directors and now showing themselves as hands-on designers.

Anton and Irene going offline resulted in this. Source from Anton and Irene.

Repeated mantra

Anton and Irene didn’t only use the “Get your ass off the computer and work with your hands” mantra with just this project. After I dug deeper into their portfolio, I noticed it was very much applicable to a large embodiment of their work.

Recently released for artist Shantell Martin is another portfolio site where a “play” feature was introduced that allows users to interact with Shantell’s illustrations. For this, they went offline to shoot the photography and Shantell personalized it by producing her own drawings around her.

Portfolio site for Shantell Martin

 

Another example is a project called One Shared House, an interactive documentary of Irene’s childhood about lesbian, communal living in Amsterdam. It is again inspired from offline work, by Dutch graphic design from the 70’s and 80’s (namely Karel Martens). A lot of what they ultimately came up with derives from how brochures, books, and municipal forms were designed in Holland during that time.

 

Original Karel Martens.

Screen shot from One Shared House interactive documentary. Source: Anton and Irene.

Going out into the unknown

Anton and Irene concluded, “Sometimes it really helps to start somewhere completely differently and allow yourself to be really open about where this new route might take you.” I think that’s how they felt, especially with their new portfolio site, and I think it is a good thing to keep in mind for all us designers.

And lastly, it’s a good excuse to get your ass off the digital realm and get your hands dirty with the real world.

Get your ass off the computer

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