Kochi, Feb 17: Whether on the giant board that proclaims Sudarshan Shetty’s curatorial vision at Aspinwall House or on tote bags slung over visitors’ shoulders, the design elements for the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 have been making a creative statement of their own.
Between the pair of large black dots – representing the pupil, the blackest part of the eye – that encapsulate the KMB 2016 title ‘Forming in the pupil of an eye’ and the multi-script ‘Biennale font’ that adorns everything from walls to shirts, they were designed to leave an impression.
Conceptualised by award-winning adman and Kochi Biennale Foundation Trustee V. Sunil, the challenge lay in creating a unique look that both captured and conveyed the multiculturalism of Kochi and the multiplicity of expression and interpretation at KMB 2016.
“Design has to work in a way that its message is neither completely obvious nor totally obtuse. When you read between the lines, the underlying idea has to come through. Design and text should complement each other. It is also the designer’s responsibility to make these ideas more accessible to the lay person,” said Sunil, the creator of the iconic ‘Make in India’ logo.
For a designer, he said, when creating a really unique look based on the curatorial note and context of the Biennale, the “tendency is to design something either clichéd or complicated: for instance, something that goes round and round and shifts in and out of focus”.
The design gradually took form over meetings and conversations with Shetty and KMB co-founders Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu. “We started the design using tight close-ups of the pupil, but that was again becoming too obvious. Then there was an idea to create this one black dot on a page. Finally, we settled on two dots – akin to eyes or, as someone pointed out, Mahatma Gandhi’s spectacles – with the Malayalam and English texts inside,” he said,
Much like how the ‘Make in India’ lion has become synonymous with Indian manufacturing, Sunil said, “With two strong, iconic elements out there, it is very difficult to imagine the curatorial symbol being any other way. It is the same story for the font.”
The half-art, half-language Biennale font blends distinctive typography and stylised typeface to create a unique aesthetic. The font, Sunil said, has evolved together with the Biennale.
“From the first edition on, we have written ‘Kochi-Muziris Biennale’ in multiple, but separate, languages: Malayalam, Hindi, English, Korean, Tamil etc. The look was very strong, serious and solid. This edition, we started mixing it up to create a unique look not just with the four-line text but also across three scripts in Malayalam, Hindi and English,” he said.
The process of designing a new visual language for KMB 2016 involved recreating the entire alphabet charts for the three languages from an original graphic template made by Sunil.
“It may take you couple of seconds to figure it out, but once you do, it works as a design text. There is clear, identifiable form and intent in the font, which is nevertheless open to multiple interpretations. There are similar fonts with multiple lines, but for me, the most important thing is the multiplicity of perspectives. That’s something only the Biennale can do,” he said.
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