Make Complex Simple: Graffiti as Design

So, here’s a street artist that has really posed a question for lovers of design and art, and graffiti artists everywhere (all the while, starting his own trend): is it worth it to be over-expressive and intricate with your graffiti?

If you’ve ever seen graffiti on the side of a building and thought, “what the heckin’ frick does that say?”, then French artist Mathieu Tremblin is the translator you’ve been looking for. His ongoing series titled, Tag Clouds, translates graffiti on the streets of France with the mission to improve their legibility by writing them in plain text.


As you can see, he does an amazing job in deciphering the graffiti. The line between graffiti and street art is debatable, but I assume most graffiti is art. Although, what’s the point in tagging something if it’s only legible and appreciable to other graffiti artists? Why keep it to themselves if it’s on public property for everyone to see?

Well, Mathieu explains in a 2013 interview with The Atlantic’s CityLab:

“I consider “Tag Clouds” as a traditional graffiti fresco work. I come from a local graffiti scene and painting over a wall covered by tags to make something more complex, letters or characters whatever, is what graffiti writers do. But what’s interesting is that the final mural deals with the writer’s ego- their name. Having that direct communication, being known by anybody, is what writers are searching for. “Tag Clouds” removes all alterity or identity and makes it properly decorative and appreciable to any passerby, which is also the purpose of a graffiti fresco, showing technical skills for decoration.

This work sounds like a kind of oxymoron, you could understand it as a way to make a dirty signature proper as institutionalized visual communication, sterilizing wild graffiti writing by removing all traces of alterity and at the same time giving the opportunity to anybody to be able to read graffiti script and get in touch with it.

So agreeing with or being against the piece as a graffiti writer is a complex thing to decide because I’m half paying tribute to and half normalizing the local graffiti scene. I just translate writers names at the same scale and they usually continue to play with the blank spaces, adding their signature between regular typography I painted with stencil. In fact, the project is giving focus to some walls that writers weren’t paying attention to anymore because they were filled with tags. Mostly though, it generates new graffiti challenges instead of killing the energy behind it.”

We can, like Mathieu, translate this concept to suit our design practices; to make something clearer rather than detailed, or make something easier for anyone to understand.

Sometimes, design is about being a little less complex and a little more simple.

Or you could just go full-minimalism and make something simpler to make it more complex.

Check out more of Mathieu’s work online:

Check out some of our work >

Let’s Design Something Awesome!

We would be more than happy to explore with you the possibilities of design and marketing.

12 US stamps that inspire simple design

Sometimes all it takes to inspire simple design is a quote. The French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal once wrote a letter to a friend in which, at the end, he wrote: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

In other words, Pascal had simply scribbled down what he was thinking as he wrote rather than spend the time to plan and process his ideas before he picked up his quill and ink bottle. Put simply: simple is hard.

Have you ever been stuck trying to create a simple or minimal designs? It’s normally harder to portray your message and much more time consuming. Simple is something Brett Stiles from Austin, Texas does very well, and shows that simplicity in his 50 stamps projects. Ben created 50 postal stamps that simply depict each of the North American States.

12 U.S. postage stamps that will inspire simple design


1. California

If it were a country, California would be the 6th largest economy in the world and the 35th most populous.


2. Texas

Houston is home to the NASA headquarters for all piloted U.S. space projects, although Florida is its home to famous launches.


3. Florida

U.S. spacecraft launch from Cape Canaveral, formerly Cape Kennedy.


4. Louisiana

Louisiana is home to the the most crayfish: 98% of the world’s crayfish to be exact.


5. Tennessee

Graceland is the estate and grave site of Elvis Presley.


6. Oklahoma

Oklahoma was the setting for the movie “Twister”.


7. Ohio

Cleveland became the world’s first city to be lighted electrically in 1879.

New York

8. New York

New York City has 1162 km of subway track. That’s roughly the distance between Sydney and Broken Hill, and almost the same amount of kilometres as the width of New South Wales!


9. Iowa

Strawberry Point is the home of the world’s largest strawberry.


10. Illinois

Home to the tallest building in the U.S, the Sears Tower, in Chicago.


11. Hawaii

From east to west Hawaii is the widest state in the United States.


12. Colorado

Denver lays claim to the invention of the cheeseburger. The trademark for the name “Cheeseburger” was awarded in 1935 to Louis Ballast.

Check out more of Brett’s work on Instagram

Let’s Start Something Awesome!