Carla Kreuser on why designing by hand still matters

Carla Kreuser pulled herself away from her computer screen and went back to basics, illustrating and binding an entire book by hand.
Posted 1 Jul 15 By Design Indaba Duration: 00:06:51 African DesignArt & PhotographyDesign Thinking Conference Talks / Talks Comments

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Cape Town-based illustrator Carla Kreuser spoke at Design Indaba Conference 2015 as a part of the Young Graduates panel. Kreuser had been working in the design world for nearly ten years when she decided to take a study sabbatical and pursue her master’s degree in illustration.

A graduate from Stellenbosch University, her final project married poetry and illustration – "two art forms that I love," she says. 

The project, a book crafted by hand from cover to cover, celebrates the creative process of working entirely by hand. It was inspired by Katherine Kilalea's poem “The boy with the fire in his boots”, which is about a little boy who gets caught in a forest fire that breaks out in Tsitsikama.

While poetry often does a good job of being illustrative in itself, Kreuser felt that she had something visual to contribute to Kilalea’s words. So she began to explore the text stylistically and conceptually. “I tried a lot of illustration styles,” she says. “I explored different things and I tried very hard to open up the text to add illustrations that would say what the words couldn't or wouldn't say on their own,” Kreuser says.

Thinking about the poem in this way set Kreuser's mind ablaze. She sketched, drew and painted fires in different ways, “over and over again”. There were abstract triangular fires, quilted fire-like shapes and round raging illustrations of fire.

Because Kreuser typically works in front of a computer all day, it was really important to her to work by hand in every step and process of her graduation project, from hand-binding to all typography. “I started to see my own handwriting as a type of illustration,” she says.

If you think about it, where do words really end and images begin?