A recent team visit to Bristol’s renowned Upfest, Europe’s largest Street Art and Graffiti Festival, highlighted just how important design is to art, and vice versa. Inspiration was the aim of our excursion. Exploring the rawest form of artwork that’s happening in urban spaces right now informs our own design work, often leading to more exciting solutions for our clients. Art informs design, yet art is often design in and of itself.
A mesmerising portrait of John Lennon by the famous Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra, showcases exactly what I’m talking about. Something of such beauty and monumental proportion demands extensive planning, consideration and testing (as well as experience, of course).
Kobra’s preparations far exceeded the actual execution time. Composition is almost always hindered by surroundings, especially for street art. In this case, the ‘canvas’ of the side wall of the Tobacco Factory presented its own challenges: a huge tree covers a quarter of the wall and a fairly underwhelming Aldi sign blocks the bottom right side. Not ideal. But as a direct result of his faultless planning, you don’t even notice these obstructions in the finished work. Even a few blocks away, you can see John Lennon’s eyes peering at you between the obstructions.
Beneath the layers of spray paint sits a working grid, which Kobra designed around the building’s brickwork. John Lennon’s face is plotted into the grid, broken down into hundreds of fragments, each treated as a puzzle piece. The finished work is greater than the sum of its parts.
This is an ingeniously designed piece of art. In the words of famed designer Paul Rand: “Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.” Extensive planning combined with aesthetic bliss exemplifies great design to me – it’s the basis of my approach to design and creativity.
Here are a few other notable pieces from Upfest: