The Fernand Baudin Prize 2011 – Raf Vancampenhoudt

Prize-winner 2010
Graphic design: Raf Vancampenhoudt
Publisher: Mssndclrcq
Printer: Sintjoris
© Thomas Vanden Driessche

Manystuff: Could you please present yourself?

Raf Vancampenhoudt: I’m Raf Vancampenhoudt, a freelance graphic designer working and living in Gent, Belgium.
After my studies in communication management, during which I got in touch with graphic design, I felt the urge to express myself also on the level of visual communication. It didn’t take long before I decided to deepen myself into graphic design and typography at Sint-Lucas Visual Arts Gent. When my studies were finished, I started as a freelance graphic designer. The people I’ve worked with so far include several visual artists, architects, cultural institutes and the Flemish government.
The main focus in my work lays on typography, where in most cases I try to let the typography become a layered image on itself. As each project is different, I each time try to get a clear and unambiguous vision on the content in dialogue with the commissioner, in order to be able to wield a no-nonsense (and to-the point) language that ensouls the publication in a logic way.
During the whole process, the relation between shape and content stays of paramount importance, in an ideal situation they shouldn’t be subjected to one another. The initial phase of the design process mostly results in a structure and a couple of systematics that fund the text and images. Once a system or language is specified and thoroughly build out, I like to permit myself to break with the perimeters of the system where possible, to maintain a certain level of tension within the development of the publication.

Manystuff: How do you feel about the “books price concept”, with a jury, a competition, etc. … ? Do you think, and why, it is relevant to organize this kind of competition? Is it related to a transformation of the book status?

Raf Vancampenhoudt: I like the idea, though I don’t see it as a real competition, rather as a test to verify if your work in someway communicates on a universal level. Being selected by an international jury, in someway testifies that a design has found a way to translate the content into a visual language that supports or even amplifies the message within. So for me, it’s a way to find out which book designs have a natural look and feel in relation to their content.
It’s also nice to find out how other professionals and specialists perceive your work. A publication that gets people you don’t know personally connected with your work also reflects the fact that graphic design is still able to establish a suggestive/conceptual language that can exceed a purely subjective perception or vision.

Manystuff: Fernand Baudin price is privileging the coherence of the interactions between the various creators of book: what do you think about the complicity & dialogue that seems to be stronger between author/artist/publisher/graphic designer/printer/… in the creation process of a book?

Manystuff: As far as I’m concerned, a strong and open dialogue with as many people involved involved in the creation process can only work constructive. It’s a way to find out which ideas communicate the right atmosphere, which idea’s communicate best the intentions of a publication. It’s not about making everybody happy with the design itself, too much opinions and suggestions on esthaetics can also start blurring and confusing the eventual goal of a publication. It’s rather about getting all parties motivated and respect their proper capacities in order to keep them enthusiast and use the maximum of their abilities to take a project to the next level.
After some time with different dialogues at the beginning of a project, I think it’s necessary to narrow down the dialogue again. Then it becomes time for the designer and the commissioner to decide between objective and subjective arguments which ones they take into account and which ones they think are of minor importance or they can simply live with. Too much voices can also weaken a specific point of view on a content and threaten the radicalism of the message/statement the artist and designer want to spread around. To me it’s important that a design doesn’t become a solo-trip of a designer, wherein the danger exists that it looses a common sense and doesn’t feel logic to other people anymore.

Manystuff: Could you please introduce one of your upcoming project that you are now working on?

Raf Vancampenhoudt: Currently I’m working on a catalogue for visual artist Katie Lagast, a website for Kristof Van Gestel (in collaboration with Lauren Grusenmeyer) and an identity for Maarten Vanden Eynde’s upcoming initiative.
The website for Kristof Van Gestel is currently in a conceptual brainstorm phase, in order to find a balance between structure/usability and a specific language/navigation that supports the artist’s work.

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