Curated by Zoë Ryan, Chair and Curator of Design at the Art Institute of Chicago, the 2nd Istanbul Design Biennial gathered 53 projects from designers worldwide to address the question: “What is the future now?” Project Projects worked closely with Ryan from the outset of the project, aiding the development of the biennial’s conceptual framework as well as advising on the assembly of the exhibition team including Istanbul-based SUPERPOOL as exhibition architects. Project Projects orchestrated the exhibition graphics, catalogue design, and production of collateral materials as a coherent design system.
In response to the Biennial’s close reconsideration of the 20th century design manifesto, Project Projects’ design revisited and revised elements from the rich history of revolutionary and utopian publications, building on historical precedents while pointing to the future. This is perhaps best embodied in Project Projects’ custom typography for the Biennial, which took as its starting point the idea that the appearance of language can itself reflect temporality. The core of the design system is a set of custom typefaces that lean backward and forward at varying angles depending on the “pastness,” “nowness,” or “futures” of a given word.
Caslon Doric, the basis for the Biennial’s custom typography, is a contemporary revival by Commercial Type of an early sans serif typeface cut by the Caslon type foundry in the late nineteenth century. It is similar to the lettering used for early avant-garde publications such as Wyndham Lewis’s Blast (1914-15). At the same time, it relates to a range of twentieth century evocations of futurity (e.g., the logo for the 1985 film Back to the Future), creating different textual emphases based on content and context. Through this set of visible manipulations, the graphic identity of the biennial self-reflexively points toward its own operation, suggesting the poetics of language and time, and their ever-present mediation.