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Communication Alumni Explore Typography and the Global City at Typojanchi 2015

Visual Communication Senior Tutor Adrian Shaughnessy has directed the special exhibition for Typojanchi 2015, the world’s only typography biennale. The biennale brings artists, designers and typographers together to explore ways in which typography affects our experience and understanding of the contemporary city, in locations throughout Seoul. Six Images, Six Texts, One Remix features newly commissioned work responding to Google Maps locations.

Located in Seoul, South Korea, Typojanchi 2015 is open until 27 December. 'Janchi' is Korean for celebration or party, so the biennale can be understood as an international celebration of the typographic. This year it explores the theme 'Typography in the City', focusing on typography found within the urban environment, from street signs to flyers, from newspapers to mobile phone screens. 

Shaughnessy was invited to direct the special exhibition for Typojanchi 2015, taking on the baton from Professor Neville Brody, Dean of School of Communication, who directed it two years ago. The exhibition was organised by Byung-hak Ahn (MA Visual Communication, 2010), who teaches typography and graphic design at Hongik University, Seoul. Discussing his selection process, Shaughnessy explained: ‘I was tasked with making an exhibition and a publication. I was given a free hand, but I chose make it an RCA collaboration since the project has so many RCA connections.’

Six Images, Six Texts, One Remix explores the idea that for graphic designers, typography acts as an instantly readable code to any urban environment. The invited designers – Andrew Brash, Jörg Schwertfeger, Laura Jouan, Summer Studio (Minna Sakaria and Carolina Dahl), Sebastian Koseda and Jonas Berthod – were allocated a specific location on Google Maps, which acted as a starting point. They were asked to respond in any way, interpreting this location with typography, colour and form, to create a floor to ceiling banner. Shaughnessy described the process: ‘Using new technology – in this case Google Maps – the designers have travelled the globe and created slices of urban reality that will hang in the gallery in Seoul offering visitors a poetic distillation of a journey. But these are no touristic postcards: they are urban locations hidden in the recesses of Google Maps.’

Through investigating the different cities – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London and Mexico City – the designers have taken diverse approaches: from creating a blurred, glitchy Mexico City, to interpreting the branding slogans of commercialised Tokyo; revealing stories behind London’s facades and creating an interpretation of a concrete LA environment absent of typography.

Sebastian Koseda explained his interest in using Google Maps as a starting point. ‘By working from Google Map co-ordinates for the exhibition, the platform becomes a tool for both investigation and internet tourism. The user becomes a digital nomad, surrounded by the skewed faces of unsuspecting immortalised figures, the “Google Ghosts”. In this sense, the platform blurs the line between freedom and censorship. During my research, I witnessed everything from curated murder scenes, featuring mobsters wearing horse masks, to an entirely digitally corrupted town, in which the fragmented buildings resembled hellish artefacts. Territory is fluid; the void between spatial and digital becomes increasingly reduced. This is an exciting space to hang work from.’

Koseda’s final banner was based on coordinates in Chicago, close to the Seventeenth Church of Christ Scientist. He was fascinated by the merging of science and religion in Christian Science and chose to explore examples where religion and science have come close to being united. His banner combines aesthetics informed by the heritage of Christianity with a visualisation based on data from a brain scan made while someone was praying.

Alongside the banners, current RCA PhD candidate Kyuha Shim was commissioned to create a digital centrepiece, further exploring the slippery relationship between digital and physical representations of space. For this piece, Shim combined input from the six banners and real-time data from each of the cities they represent, creating a shifting remix of the exhibition’s content.

As part of the exhibition, Shaughnessy wrote a text for each location and designed a publication, with six different covers, utilising a typeface by Neville Brody. Both the texts and visual outcomes shared a starting point, yet neither text nor visual response was privileged over the other. Discussing this method, another of the designers Laura Jouan, explained: ‘I was really excited by this approach to the exhibition. We often hear about the limitations of exhibiting graphic design and this concept held interesting parameters: text and images produced by different people about the same subject and the use of random locations in large cities to create content.’

Jouan was allocated Los Angeles as her city. ‘I have never been there, yet I had to create a design for LA while being based in London, knowing that it would then be exhibited in Seoul. This created an interesting mix, very much in the theme of Typojanchi 2015 – Typography and the City/Cities.’

Typojanchi 2015 is open in various locations across Seoul until 27 December.
Six Images, Six Texts, One Remix
is located at Culture Station Seoul 284, full details can be found here.