NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

Member of International Council of Design ico-D

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Neshan 23

Design today

Catalogtree; Controlled/Uncontrolled

Kambiz Shafei

Design tools allow us to execute our ideas as well as giving us new ideas by their own methods of function. The possibilities and limitations of design tools have the potential to influence how the designer uses them in the design process. Considering these facts, today, design in general must search for new processes that are able to facilitate these roles. New processes which offer different ways of decision making and consequently conceptualizing, must be implemented.
Among different graphic design studios around the world, Catalogtree is one of the best examples when it comes to using these new processes. Catalogtree is a multidisciplinary design studio founded by Daniel Gross and Joris Maltha in the Netherlands. These two young designers originally met at the Werkplaats Typografie in 1999.
The most significant field of Catalogtree’s work consists of information design and more specifically data visualization. Databases and self-organized contents work as a design tool in Catalogtree’s approach toward infographics. Their search for new processes brings into consideration a movement from the static object to the dynamic process. In their design process, Daniel and Joris do not place each element of data point directly in the image but instead they define a set of rules by which the information and therefore the end image should behave. Daniel and Joris explain: “Form=Behaviour.

We believe this way, a design can be more than the sum of its parts. It is exiting when a design has some ’swarming behaviour’ and becomes, much like a flock of birds, a new organism in it self. Info-graphics demand this approach of self-organization because graphic devises such as position, color and size have a quantitative meaning first.”
The need for dynamic processes and flexible outcomes leads Catalogtree toward the creation of media independent design systems. The way they use generative design tools allows them to create images that are simply impossible to achieve via traditional image making tools. The importance of chance and adaptation is becoming the key element of their image making. For Daniel and Joris, the design process involves a reconsideration of the static artifact and the actions that manipulate it. Hence they are able to conceptualize and run processes that generate new images based on complex datasets.
Daniel says: “It’s the business of every graphic designer to make visible that which somebody else is not able to see.” (seedmagazine n.d.) But what distinguishes the work of Catalogtree is achieving clarity and extreme complexity at the same time. They are able to create info-graphics that are visually fascinating as well as communicative.

Kambiz Shafei

Kambiz Shafei is a Swiss based Iranian graphic designer and photographer. he graduated from the Basel School of Design with a MFA degree in visual communication (HGK/UIC). In 2010 Kambiz founded Studio Shafei in Basel, Switzerland.

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