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Design Matters with Bradley Kirshenbaum

Design matters

Design Matters with Bradley KirshenbaumtheSQUAD’s loves Brad and how he's expressed his complex relationship with the city of Jozi through both design and commitment to urban renewal.

Bradley spoke to us about his recent project – a collaborative book called, “I Love You I Hate You”, and this conversation follows in context of Gus Silber's comments below:

Rarely have I held in my hands a book that feels so vital, so alive, so a-bristle with creative energy, and a good part of the reason is the tactile prank that Bradley, the designer, plays on the reader. Blessed with a sharp and sly design sensibility, he has laid out the photo-spreads, which are beautifully styled, posed with swagger, and lit with a gold-bar gloss, in counterpoint to the essays, so that you have to flip the book on its edges and steer it sideways every now and again, as if you're negotiating your way through the Joburg traffic. The effect is disorienting at first, but as a user's note explains upfront, this is design as metaphor: "The flipping motion calls to mind the way most Joburgers feel about their city. One day you're up and the next day you're upside down." This, therefore, is not a book to be read in linear sequence, at one sitting, and nor is it a book to rest on your coffee-table; rather, it is a book to grapple and engage with, to shake your head at, to fall in Love Jozi with, whether you're crazy enough to live here, or whether you've ever wondered how and why people do.”

We so loved what Gus Sibler said about you and your book.  He called you a "proto-Joburger" - can you explain what that means? 

I think he means that proto-Joburgers are those whose vocations are linked to the city.

How does one go about capturing the design-soul of a city the way you've done - from the skyline to the love-hate relationship people have with Jozi?

Design Matters with Bradley KirshenbaumI needed to explore my personal relationship with the city, and translate that to design. The origin, the issues, the emotions it triggers. I tried to reinterpret the Love Jozi designs to other cities and it never worked! Evidence.

Your book is collaborative with each writer having a LoveJozi (correct?) t-shirt range with 34 contributions by 34 different writers. How did you choose the writers and house all the different content under one roof / cover?

Yes, Laurice Taitz-Buntman (my editor) and I decided who would be the most appropriate for each theme, and approached them. For example Nickolaus Bauer wrote about the Zuma years, and Milisuthando Bongela wrote about privilege. Some we knew personally and some were approached dry. They are mostly journalists or writers of some sort and all proto Joburgers!

Your design is so fundamentally YOU - it always has a (sometimes sardonic) smile in its voice - how do you go about collaborating with other people creatively? Do you find it easy? 

Yes - when they are less 'sardonic’ than me! Laurice for example sees the city differently, as a mine to be discovered by tourists. So collaborators need to be complimentary.

Design Matters with Bradley KirshenbaumDo you think of the city of Johannesburg as your muse / your collaborator / something mystical or more gritty to be negotiated? 

Definitely as a muse of the brand. The actual city (City of Joburg, Joburg Tourism,etc) are my clients too.
What's next in 2020?  We here there’s a Love Jozi augmented t-shirt? 

Yes, it's in the pipeline! 

"I love you I hate you", designed by Bradley Kirshenbaum and edited by Laurice Taitz, with contributing essays by 34 Joburg writers, is available from Love Jozi at 44 Stanley, or from good bookstores everywhere, especially Love Books in Melville.