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:
www.demodetouslesjours.eu

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