Marian Bantjes on Her 2015 RDA Design
Tell us a bit about your RDA cover and the section openers. What did you have in mind when creating these? Because the cover is for the Regional Design Annual, I was thinking about maps and generally targeted locations. But I didn’t want it to be specific. I also wanted each opener to be a really bold break with the magazine contents, while maintaining a consistency throughout. I knew legibility was a must so I decided to use an approach I’ve done on a couple of other covers, using a geometric lettering form I devised myself to work easily with grids. I’m somewhat obsessed with structure, so for the cover I built the structure off the PRINT logo, but for the interiors I used both the lettering and intersections with a target circle to create the grid. Then I built a pattern that is also based on a target circle. The target is positioned on the page in the general area of the regions, and the page is divided up based on that.
Ultimately the design for both the cover and the inside pages is very bold, with a lot of character to hold it all together.
The cover stands out from other perhaps more obvious treatments we’ve featured on the RDA over the years. Did you design in a reaction to these, or is this just representative of your personal approach? Well, my work usually does stand out from most other work, so while I have no reaction to your previous designs (and in fact have not seen them), I do have a reaction to design in general. I do like to make statement pieces that are different from what we usually see.
This works particularly well for this issue because the issue represents a lot of different work from all over the U.S., so necessarily there’s a lot of variability on each page. I often find it frustrating with magazines to sort the content from the ads and everything else, so I really wanted to give this issue identity (including the borders), so you really know where the content is and where the sections start and stop.
Did you play with any other concepts along the way? To be honest, I didn’t. When I got the assignment I knew fairly quickly which direction I wanted to go, and I went there.
How did you choose the color palettes for each region? The colors are based on my own idea of the colors of the regions. So: snowy white, and cold sky blue, concrete grey, brick brown and a dark red (for some reason) for the East; orange(s), dark blue ocean, sandy yellow, concrete grey and tree green for the Far West; wheat yellow and corn yellow, tree and field greens and bright sky blue for the Midwest; orange(s) and bright green, tropical flower pink and ocean turquoise with mud brown for the South; the Southwest is based on brown and yellow and pinkish earth colors, with a medium sky blue and turquoise; and finally, black and concrete grey with brick brown, tree green and taxi yellow for New York City.
How do you feel your personal style has evolved over time? It’s become a lot tighter, and less focused on lettering, more focused on pattern and structure. I got bored with loops and swirls, and I’ve always been terrified of being pigeonholed as someone who does “pretty” work. I still believe in “beauty” as an aesthetic, but I prefer to combine it with structure. Also when it comes to commercial work, the kind of lettering that really interests me is nearly impossible because it’s close to illegible or it’s excessively weird. I get bored easily and I’m always moving in new directions with my work, but getting the clients to come with me is not always easy. I also like to set challenges for myself; I have a silly habit of making things difficult so I can figure it out.
What’s your next big project? My next immediate project is a cover for The New York Times Books. I also have some book covers and interiors and a fairly daunting secret project for my publisher, Thames & Hudson.
Get the 2015 RDA Today—and Save on Entries for the 2016 Competition The 2015 Regional Design Annual—a collection of nearly 350 of the best pieces of American design from the year—is available now. Meanwhile, the 2016 RDA, featuring judges Gail Anderson, Marc English, Timothy Goodman, Bill Grant, Jennifer Morla and Jessica Walsh, is officially accepting entries. Enter today for early bird rates and a chance to see your work featured in PRINT magazine.