Jordy van den Nieuwendijk
From: Zoetermeer, the Netherlands
Lives In: The Hague, the Netherlands
There is a dead clown laid out on an ornate bier. His eyeballs, tipped powder blue, bulge out, erect. His hands clasp the base of his giant pink penis, also erect. The mourners gather, the dignitaries speak, the pallbearers lower the clown into his grave in a lot off a narrow street in The Hague, the Netherlands. Once the bricks are carefully returned to their chevron pattern, the only disturbance is a slight bulge in the pavement, and the eruption of the penis between the bricks, which now presides over the tomb, as its marker.
That was the scene on the day in 2011 when the illustrator Jordy van den Nieuwendijk was both born and buried. His first birth, though, was in September 1985, in the small town of Zoetermeer, outside The Hague. He started drawing in elementary school. “I could hide, get lost, speak, and use all my imagination in my drawings,” he says. “Later on, I discovered that I could even impress girls.” In high school, though, the girls decided that cartoons were cute, but vandalism was cool. That pushed van den Nieuwendijk toward the streets. He developed the alter ego Superoboturbo, a clown made out of graffiti colors, and candy-colored insanity poured from his pen. The lesson he took from graffiti was: Pick a style and spam it. He got noticed, got clients, got paid.
But in the end he got sick of it. Superoboturbo was dead. Van den Nieuwendijk stepped up out of the grave a man, ready to do work in any style that was needed.
Phil Lubliner, a partner at Other Means, the firm that acts as an art director for Bloomberg View, says, “His work is graphic, poppy, aggressive. He’s very playful, and he has a very youthful sensibility.” Van den Nieuwendijk can always surprise him with something totally new.
His work is still influenced by the bright colors and direct style of his graffiti years, but instead of walls, now he spreads his illustrations across the pages of the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, or Bloomberg View, or the corporate website of Jägermeister. He has graduated from a simple spray-can to sculpture, watercolor, gouache, digital illustration, and pen and ink, trading his old graphic certainty for something else. “I enjoy this feeling of insecurity while mailing the final work to clients,” van den Nieuwendijk says, “having doubts all the time.”
Title: Graphic designer
From: Suwon, South Korea
Lives In: Seoul, South Korea
“Dokho Shin belongs to a new breed of Korean designers,” says Min Choi, of the Seoul-based studio Sulki & Min. Born in Suwon, South Korea, Shin was part of a student-organized group at Dankuk University called the Typography Workshop. “They were disillusioned students,” Choi says. “They sought an alternative education, a self-education based on the workshop model.” TW students worked collectively, mostly on small cultural projects. As Choi describes it, the students “wanted to explore what they perceived as new and more interesting design possibilities. Dankuk University is not a bad school, but it’s quite conservative—and probably too commercially oriented to allow enough experiments.” The workshop, which ran from 2008 to 2010 out of a former warehouse, gave the tradition-bound Korean university a vibrant counterculture.
Many of its designers went on to form independent practices instead of joining large multinational corporations, as was expected of a previous generation. Though they make up only a small subset of South Korean design, the TW graduates seek to bring more artistic, social, and political awareness to their work and, more broadly, to the country’s design.
Shin’s work is situated between the desire for a human-scale artistic practice and what Choi calls “the hostile economic environment.” Shin and several friends from the Typography Workshop work collaboratively in Seoul. For him, each assignment starts with its simplest essence. He tries to boil a project down to a single word, and from this, his designs—which are extremely simple, almost bare—come forth.
For last summer’s Seoul Fringe Festival, an arts festival held at Hongik University, Shin played on the liminal definition of fringe. “I tried to show artists who were driven into a corner,” he says. “I only used images and typefaces that were placed at corners.” In his posters, figures crouch or are drawn into corners, but rather than appearing threatened or hemmed in, they sleep, meditate on objects, or look out onto the wider world. One young woman seems to relax in a dance pose. Though the space they occupy is small, they seem content to use their scale to their advantage, a quality that connects them to their creator.
Title: Illustrator and designer, Trademark™
From: Chester, PA
Lives In: Queens
Among the many adjectives that could be used to describe Tim Lahan’s subversively hilarious illustrations, charming might be his least favorite. “I don’t strike a lot of people as very charming,” says Lahan, a 29-year-old Pennsylvania native now living in Queens, New York. Antisocial claims aside, his work lures viewers into a weird yet friendly world of butts that wear jaunty hats and smoke pipes; sweaty apples out for a jog; and twisty straws with googly eyes. “I want to say something even though I don’t really talk that much,” he says. “I want a drawing to resonate and be universally funny, so you don’t have to read into it too much to laugh at it.”
An avid reader of the Sunday funny pages and a comic-book collector, Lahan was an artist from a young age. He attended art school in Philadelphia on a graphic design and advertising track and was hired right after graduation by a major agency in New York City. His four-year corporate tenure was marked by “rebellious little things”—for instance, a mash-up of the Louis Vuitton and Dunkin’ Donuts logos that graphically shoved high fashion into the deep fryer. As his free-time doodles turned into assignments, Lahan realized that he enjoyed being his own boss. “I like to make my own crap and do my own thing,” he says. He now works as a one-man studio under the meta moniker Trademark™.
Lahan draws everything by hand before scanning and coloring digitally; his palette recalls a paint-by-numbers kit as completed by David Hockney. He’s especially interested in the opportunities offered by a piece of paper itself, evidenced by a line drawing of a classic white button-down in which a section of the page is crumpled up and in serious need of ironing. “Why do I have to plain old draw a wrinkled shirt?” he asks.
His witty illustrations for The New York Times and The New Yorker add to a body of work that will soon include a children’s book for McSweeney’s and pillows for which he’s designed a garbage camouflage pattern; it wouldn’t be out of place on an Upper East Side sofa. “I don’t want to come off as dark,” he warns. “But if I were all happy-go-lucky, I wouldn’t be laughing at the trash and the gross stuff.”
Title: Designer and artist
From: Brisbane, Australia
Lives In: Sydney
When the two-dimensional Square from Edwin Abbott’s 1884 novella, Flatland, sees a three-dimensional cube for the first time, he exclaims, “I found that this marvelous Being was indeed no plane, but a Solid!” Viewers of Bianca Chang’s paper art may have a similar reaction. What first appear to be flat type-specimens turn out to be solid, three-
dimensional sculptures, with each letter or word pieced together from 50 to 200 sheets of paper individually cut by hand, rotated a fraction of a degree, and stacked to achieve a beguiling spiral-staircase effect.
The Sydney, Australia–based Chang first hit upon her style (what she has dubbed “slab” pieces) while working on signage at the Sydney office of Frost Design. “I was designing some tone-on-tone three-dimensional signage for a project, and I loved the shadow play of those pieces,” Chang says. “I decided to translate that into paper, and I thought the most precise way of carving a block of paper was to cut it sheet by sheet.”
The fineness and boldness of her pieces have caught the attention of art directors at home and abroad. In a stop-motion advertisement for OPSM, the largest eyeglass retailer in Australia and New Zealand, Chang’s construction method is sped up, so that a blank surface is rapidly transformed into a cross-section of a human eye. “She had never created an organic sculpture before,” says Matt Gilmour, the creative director of the ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, who commissioned Chang. “So seeing her learn and adapt her style as the project progressed was impressive.” For the Sydney-based music label Preservation, Chang designed a delicate, minimal sleeve for a recent album by the Finnish producer Nuojuva. “[Chang’s] work could be aligned with Nuojuva’s in its blend of the earthy and abstract,” says Andrew Khedoori, the label’s founder. “For all the precision, there’s a magical air about Bianca’s work that speaks volumes for her imagination.”
Chang, who is largely self-taught—she attended the Queensland College of Art, in Brisbane, for a year before dropping out—is currently working at Sydney’s Mark Gowing Design and preparing for a solo exhibition, which will feature works of custom glassware and some of the slab pieces she has become known for. “None of the pieces are typographic,” she says, but will “focus on the simplicity of geometric forms.”
It is small wonder, then, that Chang admires the work of the British sculptor Anish Kapoor, as both artists display an obsession with meticulous geometry as well as a sensitivity to landscape. “I’m really drawn to his perception of space and color,” Chang says. “It’s all about the form, which is what I try to generate in my work.” Doing so often requires painstaking labor. “A piece can take anywhere from one to ten days to create,” she says. “Each sheet of each piece is carefully planned”—although, she allows, “there is always the need to improvise to adjust for human error.” —Michael Stasiak