Design and Dance

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I had long been planning a post about two of my personal passions: graphic design and dance, but was hesitant since many of the people (including designers and artists) that I’ve spoken to over the years just don’t see the same deep connection that I see between these two art forms. While part graphic design’s goal is to be accessible and communicative to the masses, dance just doesn’t seem offer that same appeal to the general public (at least here in the states).

During my years of studying dance and choreography, quite a few of which coincided with my studies in art and graphic design, I found that my work in both areas highly benefited from each other. Design helped me understand the structure and composition that I infused into my dance pieces. And dance encouraged me to be expressive and fluid when designing on paper, two characteristics I may have never worked to cultivate as a designer if I had not loved dance and dancing so much.

I was delighted when I opened up “T” the New York Time’s Style Magazine this weekend to find a quote on this very subject from French designer Philippe Apeloig. Saying “I think of typography as being frozen motion,” Apeloig cited Merce Cunningham and Alwin Nikolais as two of his favorite choreographers. I couldn’t agree more and have long been inspired by these choreographers as well as many others.

There are probably three posts here. Apeloig’s, highly influenced by architecture as well, has some amazing work that I’d love to share. And tomorrow, I’ll have to post a short video of Nikolais’ Tensile Involvement. For now I chose to highlight Cunningham’s work. Organic, yet structured, his dances are exquisitely composed (one might say, they are precise and well designed too). While being highly expressive, Cunningham’s work is not about story, but about dance itself, which I think can be pretty cool. And it makes me want to make a design that is about the design and nothing else. Is that even possible?

So often throughout my education and career, I heard “we don’t design in a vacuum.” I’ve heard it so much I don’t even know if this is an actual quote or just a design maxim we’ve all come to use over time. We’re all inspired by what’s around us. What non-design subject (or seemingly non-design subject) inspires you?

One Response to "Design and Dance"
  1. Ohhh, this is a good question Erin! For me, it’s really mundane things — a crack in the sidewalk, hanging garden lights, patterns in nature, and architecture for sure!

    You’re not the only one to think that dance and design do have a certain correlation. A designer friend of mine presented his final design project in design school as a well-choreographed performance that I will never forget. (I still remember it, Guillermo!)

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