In a special visit by one of the world’s most influential and beloved graphic designers and design teachers, Karel Martens headlined AIGA/NY’s fall season.
Martens has been practicing for fifty years and continues to create forward-looking and technologically ground-breaking work that is comfortable in the current moment but not consumed by it. He is a highly influential book designer but considers himself more broadly a “designer of the printed word.” But he’s really a designer of language, even abstract and photographic language. His work extends with equal innovation and clarity of communication across almost all imaginable media, from coins and postage stamps to monoprints to ASCII art to experimental video to electric signs to textiles to building facades. Martens himself says simply that his work should “respect the receiver of the message” and be “answerable.” Honesty and economy of language and material are crucial values in his work, but so are rhythm, color, and “delight.” Martens has described form as content's “melody.” Robin Kinross says Martens’s work “is not wrapped up, as a closed and sealed thing. Rather, there is openness, textures that you can feel with your hands.” Paul Elliman has pointed out Martens’s love for “working or thinking in the language of the things around him” and says his work invites recipients to feel “how we ourselves, our ideas and perceptions, are formed by what happens around us.”