Estonian indie publisher Lugemik on its last decade, and why it still takes forever to reply to emails
When graphic designer Indrek Sirkel first conceived Lugemik, he planned to translate and publish important texts about design and art into Estonian. A decade on, his publishing initiative has become known for the opposite: translating art and design from the Baltic state and bringing it to the rest of the world.
The plan changed when a client of Sirkel, Mari Laanemets, wanted a catalog for a show she was curating but lacked the budget for a traditional publisher. Sirkel, a graduate of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, offered to design and publish Life Would Be Easy in 2010. This was quickly followed by several exhibition catalogs with other artists from Estonia, and Lugemik was born, co-founded with Anu Vahtra.
“If we always follow the rules set by designers who lived in the 20th century—but we live in the 21st century—then what are we blindly following?”
Sometimes the best projects start on a whim. Just ask Singaporean graphic designer Darius Ou: his Autotypography project started six years ago while he was bored at design school, and has since evolved into a collection of 365 posters that have found their way into college study materials, and now are showing as part of the Dissolving Margins exhibition at Lasalle’s Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore.
Autotypography was born when Ou decided to create one A4 poster a day. Over a year, this “visual diarrhea” of his life—hence the wordplay on “autobiography”—evolved into a “semiotic playground.” At the beginning of the project, Ou experimented with breaking the cardinal principles of “good design” because it looked “cool”—from stretching typefaces to blending amorphous forms—but midway through, the project turned into more of an inquiry into visual culture. Autotypography helped propel Ou to becoming one of the foremost proponents of the “new ugly” in Singapore.
Two years into running his graphic design studio Liba, Aaron Wong hit rock bottom. “Business was so bad to the point that I started to doubt whether my beliefs made any sense,” he says. “I was looking at a project and wondering, does the aesthetic not fit? Is my way of working not valuable to clients? Or, is it that I’m just not good enough?”
It didn’t help that Wong was working solo for the first time and felt uncertain about practising in Singapore after returning from a two-week summer school in Europe. During the revelatory ISIA Urbino / Werkplaats Typografie course he’d seen a “different synergy” that he felt would be compromised back home. Liba’s financial struggle seemed only to confirm this: Wong’s dogged pursuit of process and having a point of view—key takeaways from his stopover in Europe—were not working out in what he saw as Singapore’s trends-driven, solutions-based market.