Responses by blok design.
Background: Curated by Daisy Desrosiers, Rui Mateus Amaral and November Paynter, Greater Toronto Art 2021 (GTA21) brings together 21 of the most energizing artists and art collectives working in the city and asks each one of them to consider: What is urgent to you today? We were invited by the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (MOCA) to design the exhibition identity, environmental graphics and printed publication of this large-scale exhibit and new triennial. This is the first in-person exhibition at MOCA since the onset of COVID-19, in addition to being the museum’s first foray into publishing, marking a new era of what is to come.
Design thinking: Rooted in the profound belief of remembering, storytelling, questioning, resisting, celebrating and making, this identity had to honor the reimagining of a city and the artists working within it.
The identity is flexible, shifting with the art, artists and narratives themselves. This can be seen in the expanding and contracting logo, which has movement and space to hold content, as well as the custom-type As that represent each floor of the exhibition: ambivalence, inheritance and mutation. Chosen for its transparent qualities, lightweight colored paper weaves in and out of the book, blending content and form.
Challenges: One of the most challenging aspects of this project was the fact that content was truly being developed as we designed. Artists were working on their pieces in tandem with the book being made, which made curating images and pacing the book a fluid experience. We had to guess how many pages the final book would contain and create structure through the various papers we used. This ultimately led to an intertwining of images, interviews, texts and in-moment snapshots taken in Zoom calls, constructing an interplay of time and creative process.
Favorite details: We love the modularity of the identity system across all mediums and the expansive typographic exploration of this project. Our intention was to create a bold, unique language that would highlight the art and artists without overpowering them.
We learned so much about the artists working in Toronto and their connection to the city. This is what we as a studio crave for and what truly inspires us. The depth of the artists’ work and their thinking served as the foundation for our design.
Visual influences: The inspiration came from the content and the work itself—a deep dive into visual languages, broader narratives and thought processes that make an exhibit of 21 unique voices and artists so wonderfully potent. The typography reflected ideas and emotions as well as having a consistent point of reference—a dot—that metamorphoses from floor to floor.
Specific project demands: This is now the second book we have fully completed during COVID-19—and we have three more in the works—so having to manage everything virtually was a little bit easier yet the detail needed for the quality we aspire to was actually challenging. It helped to have such a great collaborative team from the curators and editor to internally at our own studio, where we trusted each other and gave room to explore what this project could become.