Interview #377: Darius Ou
Darius Ou is a graphic designer based in Singapore. Using humour to create cyber-nostalgic visuals and experimenting with cheesy typefaces, he casually breaks traditional design rules and still somehow manages to make it look so good. We talk about New Aesthetics, WordArt and internet culture (of course).
In your about page, you mention you’re interested in “New Aesthetics”. How would you describe that? How does it relate to your design?
New Aesthetics is a term coined by James Bridle, a phenomenon observed with the increased appearance of the visuals (language) of digital technology in the physical world. Basically these aesthetics would be alien to those who lived before the digital age.There has been a lot of discourses on this new movement, I am actually still very new to it and am still learning to grasp the full idea of it.
I find it particularly interesting as in the past, people were very excited with recreating and mimicking our physical world in digital realms for example, people mimic the physical world and its details in the form of digital animation and CGI, but right now people are starting to bring the digital realm across to our physical space (E.g. Pixel art, e.t.c), in the other direction. With this crossing and blurring of lines, people get excited again, and that makes me feel very interested to explore this in graphic design. I discuss this a lot with a good friend of mine, Melvin Tan, who introduced the phenomenon to me.
I wouldn’t say my works are fully in line with the ideas of New Aesthetics yet, but they are definitely inspired by it. I am particularly interested in Cyber-nostalgic elements and interface designs like those Windows 95 system interface, WordArt, Arial Typeface with awkward kernings and VHS tape boxes in the 90s. They are also in line with the New Ugly style which I love to experiment with. These styles invoke a certain feeling in the viewers, which I feel that is missing in many of the “overly clean” and minimalistic works today.
I really like your “Autotypography" project, I think I looked though all 364 posters. I feel like you were taking an experimental approach to graphic design through the use of digital distortion and displacement while playing around a lot with composition. It’s like using WordArt in a new context that makes it somehow look good. What was the creative process like behind the making of your posters?
Thank you very much! Yes, originally I initiated Autotypography as a form of a visual diary, recounting my everyday life as a Graphic Designer, through typographic methods. It started out as an experiment, I was not sure if anyone would like it, I just committed myself to create a poster everyday, taking a more adventurous approach as each day pass by. Soon it became a routine to create an experimental poster daily. Most of the time I am experimenting/playing with typography taboos, breaking grid rules and just screwing up typefaces. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, I am very interested in these Cyber-nostalgic elements that were all that we played with, as children of the glorious 90s. To me its about having fun while creating it, its like reliving the days when I used to make PowerPoint slides for my secondary school science class. All the gradients, awkward kernings and all the metallic 3D Type effects in WordArt may appear to be super-cheesy and “ugly” to people so I often try to re-imagine it in a contemporary context. In a way, it is about creating “ugly” works purposely, and the challenge is making it invoke not just disgust, but good feelings too. I am very lucky to have people appreciating my works.
Some of your “Autotypography” posters seem pretty personal, was it sort of like a diary to express yourself (i.e. rant) through design?
Haha, yes, definitely. I started Autotypography not knowing where it was going, and frankly speaking, creating a poster everyday regardless of mood, workload, submission deadlines and lassitude is a challenge. I had to base the posters on something I experience/saw on that day,in order to have enough contents to play with. So most of the posters are greatly influenced by how I feel or what I did on that particular day.
I recently read somewhere that new experiences need new languages in order for it to be expressed/communicated. Linking this to your works/style, how do you feel that internet or digital culture has given rise to a new visual language?
I am not very good with words but what I feel is that the internet has been hailed as the “big country of internet” nowadays and it just shows how much technology and internet has brought people so close together and made the world smaller in terms of connectivity. With microblogging platforms and social networking websites like Tumblr and Facebook e.t.c, things get shared across continents very quickly and trends get picked up more often/faster than before. With this increased connectivity and communication methods, like-minded people from all over the world can get together to discuss and collaborate, producing even more new works that can be seen by even more people, giving rise of the new visual language. To me, this culture of sharing over the internet is part of the whole visual language.
What do you like or not like about graphic design?
The thing that I like about graphic design is also the thing that I don’t like about it - The fact that it has taken over my life.
What programs do you typically use for designing?
I normally use Illustrator and Photoshop, sometimes I use After Effects, Maya for 3D and PowerPoint for “ugly” stuffs.
If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Can I have plain white rice?
Yes. Upcoming projects?
I am working on a collaboration with the amazing Jennifer Mehigan , and coincidentally the context of it would be very similar to what we have just talked about here in this interview! I would also be working on more zines soon.
Any new music to recommend?
Mixes by a friend of mine, Ethan Hansen.