The Pattern Tales for the Chicago Design Museum
Something inspiring happens when the words of great philosophers from the ancient world meet the digital-native youth of today. The result can have a huge impact on the way people live and think.
We believe high-quality design can have social responsibility, and for this reason, we couldn't refuse the invitation from the Chicago Design Museum to take part in their initiative, Great Ideas of Humanity.
In 2014, the Chicago Design Museum (ChiDM) decided to breathe new life into the historic advertising campaign, Great Ideas of Western Man, created in 1929 by Walter Paepcke, founder of Container Corporation of America (CCA), with the desire to engage the general public in cultural discourse.
The series, ‘Great Ideas of Western Man’, ran until 1975. It provided a platform for designers and artists such as Paul Rand, Carol Summers, Herbert Bayer, Richard Hunt, and René Magritte, as well as celebrated thinkers such as Mark Twain, Confucius, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The ChiDM continues the legacy of the CCA campaign under its own initiative called Great Ideas of Humanity.
They invited different designers around the world to celebrate the intersection of design and the humanities and addresses the role of design in communication in modern culture.
In this spirit, the initiative aims to connect contemporary artists with important thinkers to create new work for the series, which are then displayed in public areas. To date, pieces have been shared via mass mailings, on bus stops in the Loop, at the Business of Design Week conference in Hong Kong, and in galleries around the city of Chicago.
In January 2018, Matthew Terdich, Art Director of the ChiMD sent us a brief with a list of 20 sentences we could choose to represent.
Among those sentences was one by Fyodor Dostoyevsky from his famous novel, The Brothers Karamazov. Moved and inspired by its sentiment, we had found our choice.
"To be in love is not the same as loving. You can be in love with a woman and still hate her."
We didn't have time to read the whole book, so we did a quick research about the plot, the protagonists, and the author himself in order to understand the significance of the sentence in the context of the book.
Then we tried to project the meaning of the passage on to the society of today while focusing on just two words, "love" and "hate", and find answers to specific questions:
- How these feelings influence our decisions in everyday life?
- How can we create a balance between them?
- How can love be the absolute response in this society?
We decided that our poster would have two levels of expression, the pattern and the typography. We carried out extensive research in the folk art of Russian culture, the nation where the author was born and the story set. We wanted to use the elements in a way that could carry our message, and not just act as decorative details. We noticed that Russian folk patterns have a few recurrent themes that run through the different styles from this large country. Nature is the main reference, with leaves, flowers and birds.
Roses are one of the most common flowers reproduced on traditional Russian shawls and dresses. They are internationally associated with love and passion, but their stems hide thorns that can easily hurt.
We decided to choose roses as the main inspiration for our poster. The symbol of the never-ending conflict between love and hate predominant in humankind. Spiros used real roses from our garden and drew them using the watercolour technique.
We then scan his paintings to digitally create a weave of roses that could surround the handwritten typeface for the main two words (love and hate).
The wording ‘love’ and ‘hate’ use the same handwritten typeface rendered as the two opposite faces of the human heart, dividing the print into two sections.
The top part, near the word love, has a more predominant presence of blooming roses. The bottom part, close to the word hate, is surrounded by stems and thorns. The rest of the passage is enclosed inside these two words like it’s trapped in a never-ending conflict.
For the last part we had to create a background where the roses and wording could be placed. I created a pattern of flowers and leaves, which was also inspired by Russian folk patterns. Symbolic and highly stylised, the motif is still naturalistic.
The Brothers Karamazov is considered by critics to be a highly existential literary work.
The narrative of human suffering while questioning their existence; the eternal conflict between religion and atheism, hedonism and sensuality, freedom and captivity.
Even if you have never read the story, love and hate are feelings every human being has experienced in her life.
As with Dostoyevsky's masterpiece, we hope that through this piece of art the viewer will question the ultimate goals of human existence, and the struggle to develop in ourselves the absolute love it takes to achieve them.
For the first time the series will be exhibited in the ChiDM gallery, giving visitors a place to explore and enjoy the exhibition at their own pace.
The show looks to the past for inspiration about the future, containing a mix of contemporary works exhibited alongside advertisements from the original campaign.
It opens during April 2018, and we hope its success will inspire more events like this, aimed to examine and understand the intersection of design and the humanities, and addresses the role of design in communication in modern culture.