Graphic designer, Celeste Watson acknowledges there are typicalities in the work she could or should produce but the work she does create in no way stays between the lines. She meanders on the boundaries, steps outside the box and establishes a domain of her own.
“I definitely flirt with the grey area between art and design. I'd describe my work as rooted in tradition and theory yet aesthetically contemporary, new, progressive and self referential. The typical briefs that I work on are concerned with Identity, Branding, Packaging, Publication, Typography and Art Direction. Traditionally, this is the kind of work I’m expected to do. However, I've been taking my skills as a designer and creating work that borders on contemporary art for the last two years. For example, my business cards are a response to how unlike in art, the products of Communication Design often hold very little monetary value once in the hands of the end user. In order to change this, I fingerprinted and numbered each of the two-hundred cards. This allowed me to shift each card's inherent value in the eyes of the end user. I don't see why Communication Designers always think that their work must be mass produced. I think this as an exercise in trying to lift the profile of the work that we as designers do,” Watson explains.
Thus it’s evident that Watson, in both theory and practice, is more concerned with how her designs can challenge the status quo, engaging people to question why certain conventions exist and above anything else, making them think.
“I like throwing design back in the face of its expected audience, but in unexpected ways. I am constantly exploring the nature of the mediums in which I work with. If I’m designing a book, I’ll question the existing paradigm of how books are designed and read. It is then that I interfere with that process in a disruptive way. It’s nothing new, but it is in disruption that I hope to spur thought. A simple example of this is the current paradigm of page numbers. Most books adhere to a known structure of page number placement. In my book 'Visually Similar Images’ I took the structure of how page numbers are read online and applied that to print. We should make art and design that is of our time; not how it has always been done. Continually reassessing how I and others design helps me to come up with fresh and new responses to age old design needs.”
Beyond a common aesthetic signature throughout her work; clean, informed typesetting, bleached white stock and bold colours, there are also underlying themes that connect them together.
“A considerable amount of my work is meta in nature. By this I mean that the work is self referential. I find it conceptually pleasing for the work to serve its message, its audience and itself. It’s a full circle and something I aim for. There’s a bit of humour and satire in my work from time to time too.”
In relation to one of Watson’s more recent projects, and one that she references to throughout our interview, ‘Visually Similar Images’, it's apparent she thrives amongst a creative subject matter that is unknown; focusing on the new ages of media and design. A relationship which the book investigates through the documentation of a series of searches, using the Google ‘reverse image’ or ‘content-based image retrieval’, into categorised chapters sorted into colours and compositional themes.
“I first came across the tool in 2012, after playing around with it for a while it became apparent that the search results were worth saving. There’s something really interesting about when the human interacts with the machine. It’s the interplay between the designer and the computer that drew me to this project. It was almost like collaborating with a robot; the lack of control and the happy accidents that came along the way. Work that I myself couldn’t create alone. The ‘Flesh and Fertility’ chapter was really fun. I inputed nudes/ porn/ zooms of flesh and I got heaps of interesting results. How the engine reads images based on key terms, composition and colour palates is dissimilar to how we are humans read and understand visual language. I wouldn’t have brought together those images without the aid of Google.”
Beyond the need to investigate this contemporary communication tool, Watson also felt the desire to create the book in order to discuss the wave of computer-aided curation, believing it is the 'beauty of communication' and its 'ability to distribute knowledge’ that drives her to create works that stand apart and indeed hers does that and more.
“Put simply, it’s a privilege to be able to put information out into the public consciousness.”
Words / Jamie-Maree Shipton