An Adventure of Nam Huynh with His Friends

This article is authorized by Nam Huynh, a Germany-based graphic designer, to share his written speech at the INTL International Conference︎︎︎.

Hi everyone. I am a graphic designer from Stuttgart, Germany, with Vietnamese roots. Since it‘s my first time speaking in public, I thought this would be a great chance to introduce my work and show you a selection of my portfolio.

Around the end of my studies, my professor, Uli Cluss︎︎︎, asked me where I could see myself being specialised. I had no answer to that. It was nowhere and everywhere. I like doing posters, typefaces, animations, 3D concepts, and websites. As long as it‘s strange to me, I‘m in. I  try to achieve as often as possible to create something I haven‘t seen before. Unfortunately, it doesn‘t happen often, and I believe it requires a certain mindset or a course of action to achieve.

So, in conclusion, I don‘t need to be very gifted or talented. But instead, I have to practice how I can surprise myself. One big topic is style. It‘s hard enough to master a style, but in the following, you need to figure out when to repeat it, develop it and abandon it. My opinion is that the more you decrease the amount of your signature or old habits, the more space you can give your designs to develop in their way. One method to do so is collaboration.

ODAS︎︎︎ is a project space, giving a stage for artists, dancers and actors. A place where people can engage and exchange ideas. I asked my friend Mark Bohle︎︎︎ to join in and develop a design for the client that would act the same as our research on design practice. We wanted to keep the efficiency of our branding relatively low, so instead of one corporate font, we made 4. Instead of recognising fonts as tools, we wanted to create toys to play with.

Our primary focus lay on designing posters for the events. We titled the kick-off event A1︎︎︎, as A being the first letter of the alphabet and one as the first unit of the numerical system. Ironically we printed the Poster in A0. In the following, you will see announcements of all events within a specific month. I don‘t want to get too much into detail, but I can tell you that we tried to walk the line between the depiction of flat 2D spaces and three-dimensional perspectives. At the beginning of every poster, we would always create a new set of graphics and use this pool to create collages and weave them into stories and compositions. Instead of enforcing my vision throughout the process, I kept observing, evaluating and reacting to what Mark did all the time. The same goes for him.

When I look at our posters now, I see them as protocols or logs of conversations. There are a lot of elements from Mark that inspired me, but there are also details where I still don‘t know until today what he was trying to tell me, which was fine because he never had to convince me to like everything he did. I only needed to know that he was confident about it, and the same goes for him. He trusted me when I saw potential in a specific direction. We often failed before finding a trail that brought us back on track. But it was essential for us not to build a framework that feels too comfortable but rather enables us in going new paths.

This poster is a good symbol for one of our fields of interest. Here you can see the depiction of a mobile. A kinetic sculpture that most of us remember from baby cribs. If you lay it on the floor, it would just be flat, but as soon as you hang it and the elements start to rotate, it begins to occupy the 3D space. So we would often find ourselves approaching this topic from different angles.

At the end of the year, ODAS wanted to hold a performative review, which was also the German title. Mark and I were asked to design a printed flyer︎︎︎. I tried to implement this backwards movement into the typography and did the same thing that baristas do at the end when they pour the milk into your cappuccino. But then I went further and elevated the typeface's x-height along the Z-axis and transformed it into these weird alien-like chicken bones. Which is kind of creepy..., so Mark stepped in and created this lovely illustration for the flyer's other side and balanced the overall appearance.

This is a small project that is very dear to me. In September, Mark held his exhibition Speculative Grammar in Palma de Mallorca. And he gave me the honour of creating a poster announcing the event. I visited him in Barcelona at the beginning of last year, before Europe started the lockdown. At that time, it had been almost three years since we saw each other, and it was nice to finally meet him again and get to know the culture he now lived in, especially tasting the terrific food and feeling the city's vibe. With this poster, I wanted to visualize my impression of him being in this environment. And my view of how he is being influenced by it.

In the summer of 2019, the Museum Brandhorst in Munich, Germany, celebrated its 10th anniversary under the name FOREVER YOUNG︎︎︎. My friends Tilman Schlevogt and Jonas Beuchert from︎︎︎ invited me to team up and create the complete visual appearance of the anniversary. With the museum’s reputation as one of the most established institutions for contemporary art in Europe, it still appears as teenagers compared to other older prominent art museums. It opened in 2009, which isn’t old if you’re a museum. So the title FOREVER YOUNG sounded quite right to us.

The production was massive. We knew that the news would be all over the city, partly nationwide. But we didn‘t want to create a monotone brand that worked like a stamp. So our first measure was to separate the two words FOREVER and YOUNG. Sometimes only showing the one word, sometimes the other one. Then we created multiple typefaces, so people would read but not see the exact words. Our goal was to create awareness and curiosity. It was the attempt to give up a recognition value or even increase it by extending our artistic scope. We thought people would appreciate it if the event appeared less institutional but more diverse and human.

The museum was entirely on board, and they embraced our rather unconventional approach, and we were able to keep the result close to our vision, which was a pleasant surprise. For example, chief curator Patrizia Dander rearranged Cosima von Bonin‘s Smoke and placed it next to one of our typefaces, adding a new twist to both pieces. In addition, the Museum Brandhorst had planned events throughout the year, so we created even more titles and typefaces that would drop over time to keep things fresh.

I want to show you this last part of the project. The video projection above the entrance was a piece that was important to me. After knowing where you want to project is where to install the beamer. In this case, to get access to a proper position, we had to bribe a neighbour so that we could use his balcony and project from there.

Knowing how to improvise and adapt to the situation was not entirely new because I have a fable for projections. There are many aspects I like about light projections. You can go huge, be on almost any surface, and animate or even control it live. It takes place in the real world, and if you do everything correctly, people will not just notice, but they will be thrilled by it.

I want to show you two examples, starting with MS Dockville. The MS Dockville Festival︎︎︎ in Hamburg, Germany, is a music festival staging artists worldwide. My friends from Lichtgestalten invited Fabian Friedrich, Mark Bohle, Christian Nicolaus, Bewegtbild and me to participate. We got our working space backstage. We were already good friends, and we created this kind of design summer camp involving intense working sessions, partying, and full access to everything. It turned into one of my highlights every year.

Among other designs, I have created a typographic lineup for each day, so people could see which bands were playing each time. The sum of all our works combined exponentiated into a graphic firework. This thing developed into a tradition that wasn‘t just cherished by us but also by the other festival workers & visitors.

Heilbronn in Motion︎︎︎ is a collaboration with Studio Tillack Knöll and the architects from Schmutz & Partner, Joos Keller and me. We created a pavilion for the city of Heilbronn as part of the Bundesgartenschau 2019, which is a federal horticulture show in Germany.

Forum Heilbronn from MOHA Video︎︎︎ on Vimeo.

We were in charge of the complete media content, and our goal was to break up the classic format of a video screen and turn it into a new experience. So the installation included swings equipped with monitors (20 overall), and all the combined resulted in a big picture. The experience changed depending on the position of the spectator. The best time to visit was at night. Here you can see that the ceiling was completely mirrored. So we aimed additional projectors to the floor, and when you entered the installation at nighttime, you would see animations everywhere. In front of you, beneath and also from above.

Since the pavilion was half-open, we could get a considerable spy scope effect. Something that some of you might remember from your childhood. People from the outside could see what was happening in the pavilion, which also worked the other way around. This way, people wouldn‘t perceive the pavilion as a hermetic block but more like a passage or place to linger.

I‘m showing you all these works, but I did most of them before the pandemic. Things have become, and I did feel bad about not posting on Social Media as much as I used to, feeling unproductive and sometimes even blaming myself for being in this situation. I did one single poster last year. But after a while, I thought I should invest the time doing something new if I couldn‘t do what I‘m used to.

I believe that it‘s not too late to learn how to code. So I have been working on a big project for one year that will hopefully launch in November this year. I have teamed up with my friend Sebastian König, and Warriors Studio are also involved. So working on a new big thing helps me keep up my hope for better times and use this hole to prepare for the time when the things we miss come back. I hope I can encourage you guys to make the best of it. The pandemic sucks! But being creative does help. Take your time to recalibrate and reinvent yourself. And I hope we can all meet again as better versions of ourselves.

Intervew with Nam Huynh: Unconventional Directions

Published on April 1, 2021. Last Updated on May 25 2022.

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