Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Profiles from Print magazine’s annual New Visual Artists issue (“20 Under 30”), 2007, 2008, and 2009:

Christian Cervantes:

It’s not every 29-year-old who inspires this kind of naked emotion in his boss: “I’m deeply, and unforgivably, envious.” That’s the chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather’s Brand Innovation Group, Brian Collins, talking about new kid Christian Cervantes. As his dramatic name suggests, the designer has an impossible dream: to reawaken brands as familiar to us as our own faces.

Take, for instance, Coke. Cervantes forged a radical new campaign for Coke Zero, which is marketed to young men. “The word ‘masculine’ brought up images of dudes bro-ing out over ‘chicks’ and football,” he groans. “I wanted to do something a lot more subtle but still powerful.” He commissioned the British studio iLovedust to help create an iconography of playfully masculine illustrations (“exploding fire hydrants, sensual lips, predatory animals and their prey …”), adding silhouettes of snowcaps and ice fishermen to provide the necessary chill. “I had so much fun creating these little worlds within worlds,” he says, and notes that the freedom the creative directors afforded him made all the difference. Continued.

Kate & Camilla:

Groucho Marx sang the praises of famous pairs: “Boy meets girl. Romeo and Juliet. Minneapolis and St. Paul.” Add to the list Kate and Camilla, a team of photographers who shared a camera one semester at Smith College and never put it (or each other) down. They do fashion shoots, but sometimes there are no people in them—just empty pants and boots, lounging in a field. They do portraits—of the manicurist Joe Shepard, forexample—but where his head should be, there’s the grave, iridescent-scaled face of a red snapper, held up like a commedia dell’arte mask. The people in Kate and Camilla’s work have texture, combination skin, complex lives, sweat, and occasional drips of fish blood.

Perhaps because of the photographers’ oft-stated willingness to photograph “anything” (which has come in handy for their Nerve.com blog), remarkable people tend to seek them out. One such figure is the singer Chan Marshall, known as Cat Power, whom they shot provocatively sporting a plastic tiger mask for Venus magazine. Kate says that part of what made the shoot so fun was that “the three of us—myself, Camilla, and Chan—were given free rein.” Matador spokesman Nils Bernstein knew they’d ace it: “I’ve seen them compared to Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, which I can see, but Kate and Camilla’s work doesn’t always have that icy perfection. They seem to love the tiny flaws and behavioral quirks that make people beautiful.” Along the same lines, Caroline Priebe, founder and designer of Uluru (a clothing line they’ve also shot for), calls their photos “striking, shiny, crisp, intimate, sexy, and almost edible.” Continued.

Eleanor Grosch:

So many animals end up in the Eleanor Grosch universe—on the pillows, rock posters, and Keds where her designs appear, for instance—that a Dr. Dolittle comparison wouldn’t be off base. In fact, she named her Philadelphia studio, Pushmepullyou, after the creature with a head at each end from the classic children’s book.

Such an animal also suggests Grosch’s harmonious opposites: commercial design with a strong commitment to the environment; freelance freedom and fiscal sense; pop culture and classical influences. Grosch walks a cheerfully nonchalant line between cute and cool, using a relatively limited palette and a menagerie of whimsical imagery. Creatures have always been an integral part of her life, beginning with her earliest memories of the Lowry Park Zoo in her hometown of Tampa. “I was absolutely in love with birds when I was small. Going to the aviary was like heaven for me!” she exclaims. “The roseate spoonbill, snowy egret, and grey heron were all pretty common sights.” Continued.

Zigmunds Lapsa:

Zigmunds Lapsa isn’t easily fazed. He grew up in Riga, the capital of Latvia, which he describes as a “country with 2.3 million people and 5.4 graphic designers at that time.” After two years in an unstimulating local design program, he decided that what he needed was more hands-on experience, a bit of which he’d gained through working for ad agencies to pay his expenses.

Hence, a leap: to London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, where Lapsa studied design and typography and found himself. He threw himself into real-world work with the British designer Bobby Gunthorpe, who praises Lapsa’s originality and says, “He would be embarrassed for me to say it, but he truly was an inspiration to his classmates.” Humble, hardworking, and handsome, too? “The fact he looks like a young Harrison Ford can’t hurt,” Gunthorpe says. Next, Lapsa returned to Riga to work for an interactive studio called Hungry Lab. The multiple logos and layered patterns he created for its identity mirror the studio’s penchant for surprise and experimentation. Continued.

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