2011 NVA Winner: Eric Ku

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By the Print staff

Title/Type of Work: Graphic DesignerFrom: Taipei, TaiwanLives in: Brooklyn, NYAge: 28Education: Graphic Design BA, School of Visual Arts, New York

Eric Ku says his mission is to redefine everything; and if you take one look at the Taiwan-born, Brooklyn-based designer’s series “Mission Redefinition,” you’ll see how. The project was Ku’s SVA senior thesis, and his goal was to attempt to take familiar concepts and present them in unexpected ways. “My work contains humor, it’s very playful. I transform a joke into design work,” he says.

Adult Coloring Books, Mission Redefinition series.

One such example is a fictional beverage line for which Ku designed the bottle art; he called it “U. Rain,” a drink made from urine. The idea, he says, was to make people reconsider the possibilities of waste. Ku’s obsession with the seemingly random began in his class with Paul Sahre at SVA. As his mentor, Sahre challenged Ku to think about the arbitrary nature of objects and to apply it to design.

In one assignment, Sahre assigned a variety of unrelated items to all his students and told them to use it to redesign their thesis. Ku got a funnel, and used it as a camera filter. The resulting photographs, radiating with eerie but beautiful flashes of light, became a part of Mission Definition. The photographs—like the rest of Ku’s work—show us that objects are only what we make of them.

Lettering for New York Times Magazine, September 21, 2008.

The rest of Mission Redefinition contains more unexpected turns—a chair that is built from parts that spell out “chair,” and adult coloring books that contain graphic sex scenes. Today Ku’s challenge is to actually make this avant-garde aesthetic work on a commercial level. He currently works at Maxim magazine, and co-runs a design studio called Graphiatrist with fellow designer and friend Alex Merto, but says he hopes to work with Pepsi some day. When that day comes, let’s hope U. Rain does not come off as an attractive pitch.

My work contains humor, it’s very playful. I transform a joke into design work.

Click here to learn more about Eric and to see more of his work.