2012 New Visual Artist: Serifcan Ozcan

By William Bostwick

Wedding invitation (designed with Naz Sahin), 2009

When Scott Stowell first met Serifcan Ozcan, his student at SVA and, later, employee at Open, he thought, Turkish people are crazy. “Then I met other Turkish people, and they told me, No, Serifcan is crazy.” Of course he means: in a good way. The kind of crazy that picks up a rock in Italy, flies to New York, and deposits it in Fort Greene Park, just to make a change—however small—in the universe. The kind of crazy that slips an empty image box—and that infamous blue brick—into a Newsweek story about the iPad. (Flash not supported—get it? “I’m not sure many people did,” Ozcan says.)

Age: 29

Senior Designer at Anomaly

From: Ankara, Turkey

Lives in: Brooklyn, New York

Website: www.serifcan.com/

The kind of crazy that solves a tricky design problem, in an elevator, in 30 seconds. With a joke. “The National Multiple Sclerosis Society needed a new logo for a walkathon and bikeathon,” Stowell says. Open had already made a logo—the letters MS, in warm orange, scratched out in black chalk—and Stowell was stumped. “I thought, How are we going to do this? Cross out a bike? And in the elevator on the way back from the meeting, Can said, ‘We’ll just do it with the tires.’ ” The kind of crazy, in other words, that’s so refined it seems logical.

National Multiple Sclerosis Society logo (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2006-2007

National Multiple Sclerosis Society logos and identity system (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2006–2007

Ozcan, like one of his wandering rocks, has bounced around: a design school in Ankara, a fashion agency in Istanbul, a long stint in New York (SVA, Open, SYP), back to Istanbul to art direct Turkish Vogue, back to New York to art direct Newsweek and, lately, for an agency gig at Anomaly. What holds the work together? A love of vernacular Turkish design (the subject of his SVA thesis), filtered through a keen understanding of grab-you-by-the-collar branding and the clean sheen of modernism. Take his website: a flat plane covered with images, simple, chaotic, mysterious. “At some point I was thinking you’d click on an image and an explanation would pop up,” he says. “But sometimes that ruins it. I don’t want to tell everything.”

Op-ed illustration for The New York Times (designed with Scott Stowell at Open; art director: Brian Real), 2007

Illustration for Bloomberg View (art director: Gary Fogelson), 2011

Illustration for Bloomberg View (art director: Gary Fogelson), 2011

Illustration for Bloomberg View (art director: Gary Fogelson), 2011

Ankara typeface, 2006

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