idsgn (a design blog)

Following love

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February 14 2011

For the past six years Marian Bantjes has been sending unique, custom Valentine’s to friends and clients. Above: a peek at her 2011 card.

Everyone loves Marian Bantjes.

Not only because she defies trends and creates fantastically complex, awe-inspiring work, but because she stood up for art and won.

February 14th is a day for love. Last year, idsgn looked at how love affects working relationships with our Design Love series. This year, Marian Bantjes reveals how following love over money can make all the difference. She also gave us a sneak peek at the 2011 installment of her annual Valentine’s project.

This past fall, I had the chance to meet Marian Bantjes at the launch event for her new book, I Wonder. The event’s packed auditorium is just one example of how much the design community loves Marian. Recipient of numerous awards, her impressive client list includes Saks Fifth Avenue, Pentagram, AIGA, and The New York Times. Stefan Sagmeister has called Bantjes “One of the most innovative typographers working today.”

Bantjes creates intricate, obsessive and beautifully refreshing design that allow us to see where the art lies in our art form again. In a world of minimalism, where the graphic designer is so hidden that he’s sometimes forgotten, Marian Bantjes contrasts modernism and borrows inspiration from a deeper history that is less explored in the modern world. Though many designers incorporate expressiveness into their work, her designs have the rare quality of remaining as functional as they are beautiful. This passion for the intricate, for the mystery and wonder imparted to a viewer who asks “how was this done?” is what led to a major shift in her career.

Bantjes created 150 hand-drawn Valentine’s in 2007.

For over 11 years, Marian Bantjes ran a successful graphic design company in Canada. A book typesetter before that, Bantjes worked diligently at her studio until she began to realize that she was not creating the work she knew she was capable of. She slowly came to the realization that she would have to focus inward and leave corporate life behind. In her words she “begin an experiment in following love instead of money.” She disbanded her company, packed her things and started focusing purely on creative work, leaving the design scene behind her.

Many designers will encounter this same choice between love and money during their career. In fact, the choice of a life in graphic design implies it has come once already.

Bantjes moved to a small island off the coast of British Columbia. It was here, living in a population of 3,500, surrounded by nature, that her work began to take on the qualities that made her internationally known today. Perhaps it was this success in her choice to follow “love” that made Bantjes adopt Valentine’s Day as her holiday of preference. While many designers choose the new year or winter holidays to send out communications, for the past six years Marian Bantjes has been sending unique, custom Valentine’s.

Her 2009 Valentine was made from old Christmas cards.

With every year comes a different theme. Each one is personal and unmistakable: whether it’s hand-drawn hearts, remnants of a love letter, or a nod to holidays past (last year’s were laser-cut from recycled Christmas cards).

This year Marian was kind enough to give us a sneak peek at her Valentine’s project for 2011:


Because this Valentine thing has gotten a little out of control in a covetous way, I thought it would be nice if I was able to give people multiple valentines that were all similar but slightly different, so they could keep one or two for themselves and still have a few to give away. So I created a modular heart with which I could easily make 10 variations, and as well I made a heart that says ‘Remember when we were young, we used to give Valentines to all our friends.’

So with this day of love upon us, will you follow money or love?

Filed under: design

By Josh Smith