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Regulars / The Graduates 2017

Graphic designer Ben Hutchings on interstellar signals and isometric pasta packaging

Words:

Jenny Brewer

Portrait:

Jack Johnstone

From an experimental typography project reinterpreting interstellar signals in 3D form, to isometric pasta packaging, Ben Hutchings’ graphic design work combines science and type in impactful ways.

We first spotted Ben’s work when he designed an identity for the New York Mozart Festival. Using a 3D “M” as a graphical frame for images, he created a moving pyramid device that overlays imagery and refracts it, as if through a 3D prism. The simple but clever idea stood up against the many identity designs we see at the It’s Nice That from agencies large and small, so when we discovered Ben was still a student we knew we could expect great things.

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Similarly, his packaging concept for De Cecco, based on a categorisation system for pasta, showcases his minimalistic and mathematical aesthetic. Using a black and white grid with protruding cubes declaring the information, the design is pared back and innovative.

Also borne from a geometric and scientific approach is his project titled Processes of Translation. “Off the back of writing my dissertation, with themes of space exploration, I discovered the area of interstellar communication,” explains Ben. “I read this really interesting theory on how we’re sending binary messages into space to be deciphered visually – but what if they end up being received by something that processes the message using a different sense other than sight?”

Ben put himself in the position of the recipient/alien, deliberately mistranslating the binary glyphs, and creating a visual system for them. This began as a series of flat symbols and developed into a set of 3D forms in wood, concrete and plastic, “giving a tangible and discernible quality to these message and ideas flying through space”.

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The designer studied at Central Saint Martins and says, despite not knowing about the institution when he started applying, he was sold on its “people, studios and the chance to study in London”. Having informally studied graphic and typography for a few years, he felt the need to focus on it full time, and found that his self-motivation was helpful when he began the course. “One of the biggest and surprisingly less obvious things I learned about studying on an art course is that you really get out of it what you put in,” he says. “Nobody’s there to push you in a predefined direction or give you a ‘how to’ book on design, and that’s kind of why I like it. It encourages you to innovate, analyse and constantly question your decision making and judgement.” He applied for the Grads having seen previous years as “a bar to reach for during the past three years. It’s hard to stick out as a graphic designer, so having a platform to show your work means a lot to me”.

Inspired by the likes of Bob Gill, Ben subscribes to a process and research-driven work ethos. “I think a lot of people get very concerned about coming out of uni with a particular style,” he says, “and that’s something I had to learn to overcome. Bob Gill has a strong aversion to applying any sort of style to a piece of work, rather making sure the idea is interesting and it will design itself.”

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One of his latest works, A Visually Similar Travel Guide, was built on this technique. Given a brief to create a repeatable process for inputting data to generate an array of outcomes, Ben made travel guide generated by the results suggested on Google Images when dropping in an image of his local neighbourhood. It depicts “a journey through the eyes of a search engine,” he says.

In contrast to many of his projects, he also likes to take light relief from poster design. “I do tend to get quite bogged down with research and analysis in a lot of my work so one of my favourite things I’ve worked on this year has been designing posters for our studio playlist, which needs to be created very quickly. It’s always fun to to design spontaneously and not put too much thought into your process, and create instinctively.”

Next, he’s hoping to develop his own practice, working on “cultural and critical projects”, and continue collaborating with new people, to keep the work “exciting and changing”. “I just know I don’t want to get comfortable with settling on one style or a certain discipline, I enjoy not thinking too far ahead and being motivated by uncertainty.”

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Supported by A/D/O

Founded by MINI, A/D/O is a creative space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn dedicated to exploring new boundaries in design. At its heart is the Design Academy, which offers a range of programming to professional designers, intended to provoke and invigorate their creative practice.