Patch design for artist Elana Langer

What I Live By patches

I had the opportunity recently to collaborate with Elana Langer on her project, What I Live By (WILBY). As described by the New York Times,

The artist Elana Langer host(s) pop-up shops as part of her hybrid performance piece “What I Live By,” an exploration of luxury that attaches a new label to everyday accessories.

In a conceptual work, it’s important that all choices reflect the intention of the artist. The pleasure of these collaborations, for the designer, is in gaining an understanding of the artist’s objectives and helping translate those into the material and graphic forms that effectively engage and communicate with the the audience.

The first version

Original What I Live By patch

Examples of the original What I Live By patch, produced by Elana Langer.

Langer is one of my longtime friends, and we’re often bouncing ideas off each other. Thinking about this design began over a year ago, when she asked for feedback on a flyer she was putting together for a proto-WILBY show in Toronto. We got to talking about fonts and I mentioned that in The Vignelli Canon (PDF) the master endorsed a number of classic faces, and that she might consider either Futura or Bodoni from his list. Langer kept this in mind when designing the first version of her WILBY patch, choosing Futura.

The updated design

Tests of the updated WILBY wordmark

Tests of the updated WILBY wordmark, stamped in leather and embroidered on a patch.

When preparing for the next phase of the project, we discussed the success of the brand thus far and the merits of extending the identity to include a symbol/logo. In the end we decided Langer’s initial instincts were correct; that simply setting the phase in Futura was the way to go. But we determined that the mark would be strengthened by returning the spaces between the words and shifting to a heavier weight. The other graphically important change was to lock the letters within a larger frame, so that the whitespace would signal the sparse design’s intentionality.

The certificate

The WILBY booth at Crossing the Line 2015

Crossing the Line 2015 attendees receiving their WILBY patches and certificates.

The new design made its debut at the French Institute Alliance Française’s arts festival, Crossing the Line 2015. We considered all aspects of the presentation, the “product” and engagement with the festival’s attendees. One of my favorite aspects is a secondary object that accompanies the patch, called a “Certificate of Affirmation,” where the purchaser is invited to express their “what I live by” statement, which is then signed by the artist.

For more information on WILBY, check out the project’s website.

Posted October 2015

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