INES COX — Interview
Ines Cox, graphic designer, Antwerp.
Hello Ines, how are you?
I’m doing well, thank you.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Ines Cox and I run my own independent graphic design studio in Antwerp. In 2009 I graduated from Luca School of Arts (Ghent) with a degree in graphic design and continued studying for a second Master course at Werkplaats Typografie (The Netherlands). During our studies Lauren Grusenmeyer and I founded the studio Cox & Grusenmeyer. After 5 years of working together, at the end of 2014, we decided to go our own ways. My work has a focus on print and typography within a wide variety of projects. Clients range from independent artists and galleries to brands, schools and museums. I also started teaching typography at the Royal Academy of Antwerp.
Where does your interest in graphic design come from?
I like to think it started with the arrival of the copy machine. My father is an accountant and has his own home office. Since I was little I loved to play ‘office’; I was making piles, walking around with folders, making fake phone calls with my sister while maniacally marking, stapling and perforating. Then I discovered how the copy machine in my father’s office worked. I started copying random objects, manipulating the darkness of images and making my own magazines, mostly fanzines. A few years later I realised that what I liked doing could also become my job, so off we went to art school.
My interest in typography, which was something new to me, was sparkled there and grew over the years. It became more and more a personal focus. Since I’m now teaching typography, I feel the constant need to ask myself what good and relevant graphic design should be and what that means to me. This deliberate focus, the conversations with students and fellow teachers feed and inspire my practice intensively.
Can you describe to us one of your projects?
Recently I’ve been asked to participate in the exhibition “And remember an elephant never forgets”. A group of artists and designers was asked to create a work around the topic of memory. I decided to create a series of 3 different designs with the title of the show, as if I was exercising my graphic skills. I put the final designs away for a period of time and tried to recreate them by memory.
The final results don’t show many differences at first sight, but when one looks closer you can see minor mishaps and alterations. It was a very quick and impulsive project, but it felt as an interesting exercise to me. You could state that it tells quite a lot about what kind of designer you are. How much of the work is calculated and how important is going on gut feeling?
Typography is the core tool of your work. Do you think of designing your own typefaces?
Thinking about it: yes. Trying things: yes. Succeeding: not yet. I’m working on some sketches for three display fonts but didn’t manage to properly finish them yet (although I already used some of them for actual jobs). Font design is something I would like to spend more time on. I still feel, despite the overload of different typefaces, that there is still something missing. And it’s of course very gratifying to be capable of taking matters into your own hands. Designing a text type is something different though, I’ll leave that to the professionals!
We would like to know your thought about the meaning of what is a designer and what is his role?
It starts with a very basic set-up: on one side there is information (a message), on the other you have an audience (the receiver), the designer stands in between these two and structures the content from within his/her own personal relation with the giving topic. Every designer approaches this problem in a different way. Personally, I see designing as the process of making the right decisions to find a proper balance between functionality and aesthetics. Every design process starts with a problem. The solution is already there, you just have to find it by analysing the problem carefully and/or listening well to what exactly the client is missing. Next to that, or more alongside to that, the designer has to find harmony between functionality and a visual appealing design by experimenting carefully with composition, size,
Do you have a favourite typeface?
When I go through my portfolio I realise I always end up using very basic typefaces.
A designer that you admire?
My admiration goes to visual artists that work with presentation and representation. For me this has a lot to do with graphic design.
Joëlle Tuerlinckx for example is a Belgian artist who throughout her practice guides us through a (pseudo) scientific and even mathematical working laboratory filled with diagrams, collages and other mysterious objects with specific measurements. In this universe she does not see art as a means of expression but as a situation, where she plays with elementary instruments and investigates the relation between the original and the copy.
A recent show that inspired me was ‘Lending Enchantment to Vulgar Materials’ by Mark Lecky at Wiels. The way he works with reproduction makes me reflect on similar aspects within the field of graphic design. Part of the show was an exhibition in an exhibition composed of 3D printed copies, 2D cardboard cut-outs, photographic reproductions, and other forms of replicas of the original objects shown in a previous show.
To complete this small list of influential others I can add designer Julia Born and photographers Scheltens & Abbenes. Basically for the same reasons mentioned before…
You are teaching typography at the Royal Academy of Antwerp. Which advices would you give to young designers?
Analysing and completely understanding an assignment almost always brings you the significant ideas. I also believe that before you open your laptop to start designing it’s necessary to write and/or draw some basic ideas. Designing a structure and a composition can easily be done manually. Sometimes I feel there’s a danger in letting your software do the job. It is important to remember that they are tools and should be used as such. Giving shape to content is at the same time also giving shape to a negative space; around the text and images there is a space equally essential to a good composition.
Which books are on your bedside table?
Since lying down makes me fall asleep immediately, the books (mostly novels) on my bedside table catch dust easily. But in my studio I constantly have a selection of books (that inspire me) on display. In between work, to feed my brain and to relax at the same time, I read them. Now on my desk:
Sequester by Awoiska van der Molen ; Shopping in Jail by Douglas Coupland ; Storm op zee by JMA Biesheuvel ; Schrofer by Frederik Huygen ; Shut up I’m counting! by Felix Salut ; WOR(L)(D)(K) IN PROGRESS? by Joëlle Tuerlinckx ; Ken Friedman Fluxus Collection by Caroline S. Ugelstad.
The last word…
Thanks for your interest!
Interview: Dennis Moya & Tiffany Bähler – 04.15
Images ©Ines Cox.
Le Cabanon, The Crime Scene, dUb, La Fille d’O with Lauren Grusenmeyer.