Montreal View: Breakthrough work from Origami

Origami Communication Design is one of the newest and hottest design shops in Montreal.The young company created the two most recent advertising campaigns for the Musee D'Art Contemporain de Montreal, consisting of breakthrough direct mail pamphlets and posters.Unlike the Museum of...

Origami Communication Design is one of the newest and hottest design shops in Montreal.

The young company created the two most recent advertising campaigns for the Musee D’Art Contemporain de Montreal, consisting of breakthrough direct mail pamphlets and posters.

Unlike the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, which spends a lot of money on tv, billboards and full-page newspaper ads, these guys have to work with a much smaller budget.

Yet, it is with the inexpensive, low-tech medium of direct mail advertising that they have created standout pieces.

The museum’s vernissage invitations remind us of the aesthetic potential of the three-panel, two-fold pamphlet.

Its latest gem for the Henry Saxe exhibition is attention-getting, tasteful and funky.

The element in this card, which stands out and grabs you immediately, is what has been done with the artist’s family name.

Through the grey-colored ‘x’ in Saxe, is run an overlay in lighter grey of a drawing of wire rope.

The articulated ‘x’ is so powerful because it is juxtaposed against a perfectly elegant background of type, space and color.

It’s the geometry of the design which is so unusual.

‘The wire rope in the ‘x’ reflects the work of the artist,’ says Kim Tam Dang, one of Origami’s three partners and designers. ‘He used a lot of wire in his sculptures.’

Michael Ou, another partner and designer, says the firm ‘studied [the artist's] work for ideas.

‘Unlike campaigns for other exhibits, we didn’t have the rights to reproduce a piece of his work in our design,’ Ou says. ‘It forced us to do something really different.

‘The `x’ was the first thing we saw,’ he says. ‘You see it in his sculptures. They have a lot of equilibrium.

‘Unlike the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts campaign for the Lichtenstein exhibition, where images of the artist’s work were thrown right at you, we wanted to give people only a hint of what they would see.’

The folding format on the bilingual Saxe invitation is also unusual.

Rather than use the conventional vertical format (roughly 3 3/4′ wide x 9 1/4′ tall), the Saxe invitation is 7 1/4′ wide x 5 1.4′ tall.

It opens from the right like a book to display two panels. The word ‘invitation’ is laid out across the two open panels.

On a white background, Origami uses an unusual grey-brown and orangy-yellow type. Fonts are a mixture of typewriter, serif and sans serif fonts. There are reverse blocks of yellow on grey, used sparingly, but with great effect.

‘The grey was chosen because it is like the color of a lot of his work,’ Ou says. ‘The yellow provides a nice contrast with the grey. We also wanted something that was bright for the summer.’

Dang says because he and Ou are of Asian origin, ‘we like primary colors, like red and yellow.’

The large outdoor poster they created for the Saxe exhibition really kicks.

Rather than employ bits of yellow type on a white background as they did on the invitation, they set the type in grey on a bright yellow background.

The Museum’s St-Catherine Street entrance is stunning.

Next to the bright yellow Saxe poster are two bright posters advertising the Lavalin Collection exhibition with bright yellow type on a hot red background.

Also, all of these colors also work well against the grey cement of the museum’s exterior.

The design shop’s name fits perfectly with its expertise at creating heavy-duty direct mail pieces. Origami is the Japanese art which uses paper folded into shapes.

‘We approach each job the same way: each one is a blank piece of paper with which we must create something,’ the shop says.

Aline Seguin is the third partner and designer at Origami, which was set up in 1993.

Ou and Dang worked for a large multinational design shop before starting Origami; Seguin worked for the National Gallery in Ottawa.

Ou says they are busy doing an eclectic mix of jobs.

‘We’re doing a bunch of different things, including book jackets, packaging, and a spot for mtv,’ he says.

‘We’re busy with a lot of fun jobs.’