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Digging into design: The Rodina’s visual identity for CARA

As part of FIDO contents, we’re gathering here some women designers to talk about some of their works. The Digging into design section aims to focus on the method and the strategy to approach a design project, presenting specifically the ideas that stand behind it and the step-by-step.

Tereza Ruller is a Dutch designer and co-founder of The Rodina, an Amsterdam based post-critical graphic design studio. The core of their commissioned work revolves on performance, art, and subversion for, mostly, cultural clients such as museums, galleries and art institutions. But behind this condensed description there’s a whole world where Tereza–as the curious person she actually is–develops autonomous projects about her big love, the performance and performative design, a term she coined in her publication Action to Surface (2015), “that’s my thesis about performativity whitin graphic design, I did a lot of experiments of actions and bodily presence in graphic design and those processes that it brings, and that’s how it all started” she explained. 

For this chapter of Digging into design we had the chance to talk with her about the visual identity The Rodina is doing for the Center for Art, Research and Alliances, CARA. “For this project we were contacted by Manuela Moscoso and Jane Hait who are the founders and executive directors of Cara and they sent me an amazingly prepared brief! I was impressed by the brief, they put together what they’re standing for, the mission as a new no-profit center for art and for research, a New York based house for publishing, for performance, and exhibitions. So I could read their thoughts and it was quite vital for how I started the visual research” she says. Tereza also explains that, thanks to the very detailed information about the institution, the development of the visual identity went quite fast right from the beginning, they started to sketch and share with their clients their prompt “visual response”:

What resulted from this great workflow is a logo in the shape of a circular pore which is like a nest for the shortcut C-A-R-A that lives in the pore itself, and jumps around the pore. Yes, because one of the inspirations for the curators is of course choreography, so the letters have to move, and dance, and perform. Beside that, another purpose of The Rodina was to de-modernize how art institutions usually look like so they conceived a corporate identity full of energetic colors and vibrancy in order to convey a completely different visual aspect for this art center. 

Along with the color palette they also worked on the typeface that should follow two requirements. On one side “it has to bring a nice contrast to the rich visual and the many colors of the logo, but not in an unfriendly way” and, on the other, they needed a typography with an extension that will work with all the international artists’ names with special characters that come from different backgrounds. Hence the best choice was Lars font from Bold Decisions Type Foundry, one of Tereza’s favorites due to its friendliness that differs from other typical sans serif fonts. 

So, this is where they are now and the truth is that they’re still developing the identity, it’s still open, in progress, exactly like CARA, that describes itself as “an organization-in-formation in perpetuity”. Many further steps, so many exciting things will come to this thanks to the events that will happen, the exhibitions, collaborations, artists and activities. One above all, the Summer program “Conjurings”, a series of performative live events in the space led by its curatorial team in collaboration with artists and curators, that will unfold over four weekends from June to September 2022. “I’m looking forward to what is going to happen because these performative events will bring new knowledge and new sensitivities together, it’s something to develop further and we’re very excited to see where we get with this, how do we bring in identity for exhibition within this notion of porosity, what the identity can do for life gatherings, for being together in space, I’m looking forward to show imagination together with playfulness.” 

The identity is already expanding in different directions indeed: we can find a first version of the website where together with basic information, the CARA visual world comes to life when you do nothing with your cursor for 15 seconds:

CARA visual identity is expanding on Instagram too, with an animation of the jelly logo, moving and reflecting as a jelly pore. What we can see is one of the tests of how they can get rid of that flatness of the bidimensional design, of how this logo of the jelly pore can be expanded into a living organ, turning the digital aspect into a more action based, performative one.

With all of this in mind, it’s also very insightful—to better understand or better appreciate a project—discovering also the ideas that haven’t seen the light of day. In this case, Tereza tells us the pros and cons of the other two options they considered. She sketched around the concept of nesting trying to visualize a lot of bird nests, but nothing compares the pore idea. And the third alternative was connected to the history of the building “that may have led to something visually exciting” she says, “but we are looking at the present of CARA, and towards its future, so this wasn’t the best direction.”

Last but not least, we asked Tereza about the meaning of the studio name, The Rodina, and she also emphasized the mission and the values of their studio, so let’s hear her answer:

And that’s all for this second chapter of Digging into design. We thank Tereza very much for the clear description and her vision of the design process. See you in the next episode with another exceptional guest.

*** All the images are property of ©TheRodina, you’ll need their permission to reproduce them 🙂

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