Meet Anne Ulku, a talented illustrator, designer, and typographer residing in Minneapolis, MN. Anne has participated in several past shows at Light Grey Art Lab including the Expletive Typography Poster Show, HOT PARTY, and currently, the Nights and Weekends exhibition. Anne works for many large clients creating freelance design, as well as creates personal work, weekly projects, and design challenges. Anne is known for her beautiful designs with excellent use of color, arrangement of graphics, playful style, and clever concepts.
In the Nights and Weekends exhibition, Anne has a selection of work from a recent collaborative project with writer Michael Derus. The two of them began their collaboration, Haikuglyphics, in January 2013. "Haiku writer Michael Derus and designer/illustrator Anne Ulku came up with the idea to create written poetry - haiku - in graphic form. The work is inspired by life, culture and experiences while juxtoposing concise thoughts and ideas. With Haikuglyphics, the ancient Japanese form of writing poetry has taken on a new turn in the form of illustrated, typographical designs . . ."
This week, I had the chance to interview Anne and Michael and ask a few questions about their project- thoughts, reflections, process, and ideas for what is to come. Below, we can see both of their responses to the questions.
Michael and his family at the Nights and Weekends opening reception
What was the inspiration for the project? How did you decide to commit to a weekly assignment?
Anne: The inspiration for Haikuglyphics is bringing a source of structured writing to an approachable visual deliverable. Creating a visual haiku on a weekly basis allowed us enough freedom and thought for the week leading up. But the discipline to post weekly, also allowed us to keep the project on track and moving, and to keep ourselves inspired and waiting for the next haiku to create. It's been a goal to create not just one, but an entire collection of Haikuglyphics for others to enjoy and connect with.
Michael: I've been writing Haiku Informally for about 8 years. Prior to Haikuglyphics, I would generally write a haiku every Friday for friends and family and send them via text. Anne is my sister-in-law and a talented designer. I was impressed with her Six Word Story Every Day project a few years back. At that time I had an opportunity to write a number of stories for the series and I found it incredibly rewarding to see my writing interpreted in open-sourced design. I also enjoyed telling my friends that I was a "Author and poet". Though in reality, I was and continue to be more of an author in the sense that YouTube commentators are authors.
In late 2012, I approached Anne about doing something similar to Six Word Story Every Day but incorporating my Haiku writing. We decided that we would commit to writing and designing one haiku every week for at least a year and publish them on Fridays in keeping with my original text-based approach. We agreed that one haiku per week would be manageable and also allow each of us to spend the time we thought necessary to create something worthwhile.
What was it like working as a team? Were you dependent, inspired, reactive to one another?
Anne: I have always been an advocate of working and collaborating with others. I think it always bring another level of inspiration to your own work. Working with a writer brings a sense of story telling and allows me, as a designer, to bring the text to life. We most often work separately on our creative process - he does the writing, and I take that to produce my own visual thoughts to it. We rarely work and collaborate on any single piece since the spirit of what we produce allows us to separately interpret what we are most happy with.
Michael: I've been honored to work with Anne on this project. I admire her ability and her humility. For my part this is a dependent project. I don't have any design skills. Anne is an ACTUAL artist and also much more knowledgeable about publishing and utilizing multiple delivery methods. In terms of our process, I send Anne a Haiku on or about every Friday and she in-turn publishes the designs the following Friday. Since this was always meant to be an informal project for our own amusement, and given that we each have full-time jobs outside of Haikuglyphics, we keep that schedule somewhat open to revision as necessary.
Where did the Haiku's come from? Daily life inspirations? Conversations? And how did that influence your design and connecting?
Anne: The Haiku's are written by my brother-in-law, Michael Derus. . .they always have a sense of daily life inspiration, or lighthearted humor, as it is a way for others to connect and/or relate to. It's always interesting to read the Haiku he has written for the week, and to see how design can be used to interpret it. The design and illustration is a way for the piece to become not only something others can relate and connect to, but also something they may find beautiful, inspiring or amusing enough to hang in their home.
Michael: If you research haiku you'll find that the essence of the poem is not the structure but rather the juxtaposition of two ideas. I interpret that pretty loosely. I just hope they're fun to read… I hope they're funny, sometimes… but that's up to the reader. The subject matter comes from all kinds of different sources. I always had a dream of getting up on stage and doing stand up but I think I'm the kind of guy who can maybe be funny in a group of friends sometimes but probably not on stage. I've always had these half baked ideas that I thought might make for good stand up bits but had no place to get them out. Sometimes I use those ideas for Haikuglyphics. It's challenging because the limited space and structure force you to get your entire idea across in 17 syllables.
You have done several continuous projects. How does this relate to your overall design and illustration practice? What does this format offer to you creatively?
Anne: As a creative, it is always important to just keep creating. Being able to commit to a daily or a weekly project forces you to always be thinking of the next and to always stay inspired. Experimentation happens quite a bit through this process, as with this volume of work, you're always looking to do better than the last, or to try something new. It is a learning process with both producing work, and with your own visual style. As you keep creating, it can expand your own library of design and illustrations, as well as finding the best way to produce the objectives for a project.
Are you a guilty creator? Do you feel bad when you are not working, growing, progressing?
Anne: I always feel that it is important to keep growing as a creative. Doing small personal projects, like Haikuglyphics, allows me to keep on top of creating new things. Because, yes, I am guilty of being a guilty designer. If I am not creating something or working on something new, it eats away at me, and I long for more creation. Though, I do think it's always important to step back, evaluate and really find the most important things to be doing in your life. New inspiration doesn't always come through the computer, it's important to travel, get out and see things, and explore.
What is next for you? Will this project continue? Has it transformed into other projects?
Anne: I am not sure how long the project will continue for. Perhaps just until the end of the year - though it could extend further. I'm always looking for the next thing to do. But I see a lot unfolding with Haikuglyphics - even with the work that has already been done. We've started to sell made-to-order prints and other items on society6. But we may continue to do more gallery shows, and prints or perhaps make a book of the Haikuglyphics.
Michael: I hope so. Once the year is up, I hope to open the project up to include other writers and other designers.
Thanks Anne and Michael! It is always great to hear both sides of a project like this- the differences between the writing, design, completion, and everything in between. You can see all of the designs on their Haikuglyphics website here, check it out on the Nights and Weekends Exhibition Page, or purchase some of the prints on the Light Grey shop. You can also see more of Anne's design work on her website.