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Ahead of the Irish abortion referendum on 25 May, the designer discusses creating the visual identity of Room for Rebellion’s pro-choice campaign

London-based graphic designer Caterina Bianchini is the visual artist behind five bespoke campaign posters in Crack Magazine’s 88th issue. The artworks are produced in collaboration with activist collective Room for Rebellion and call for the liberalisation of Ireland’s archaic anti-abortion laws. A referendum takes place this Friday which will decide whether to repeal a constitutional amendment – the Eighth Amendment – that bans abortions.

Bianchini is a designer whose presence is firmly entrenched in the music scene, having produced playful, distinct designs for a range of clubs nights and venues – such as Bristol’s Love Inn, London’s Phonox and Glasgow’s Sub Club. Her flyers, cards and posters have advertised a range of groundbreaking and revered artists across a spectrum of genres, from Sir Spyro to Ellen Allien and Goldie; and she’s previously worked as the senior designer for Boiler Room. Aside from music, her remit extends far beyond the club scene, with her portfolio of work traversing into the fields of fashion, beauty, food and drink, and more – encompassing a wide spectrum of formats: from runway invites to editorials, books and packaging.

What lends Bianchini’s idiosyncratic designs its uniqueness, however, is her employment of playful graphics, pastel palettes and warped typography. Soft pinks and beiges – colours that aren’t commonly used to complement the nocturnal setting of dance nights – imbue her Room for Rebellion and club posters with a sense of femininity. Combined with bright splashes, looping hand-drawn lines, and eye-catching, cartoonish graphics – think ducks to skunks and Disney’s Mickey Mouse – her visuals come across as fun and approachable.

It’s also Bianchini’s deployment of subliminal references that creates intrigue, with slanted logos creating the image of forward-facing progression. Ahead of Ireland’s historical vote on 25 May, Bianchini spoke to us about her visual activism, designing for Room for Rebellion, and the role music plays in her art.

Can you tell us about how you first got into design? How has your upbringing shaped the way you design? 

I started by studying medium format and film photography. I was always very interested in art and music at school, my parents were quite relaxed with what subjects I chose to carry forward so this allowed me to continue art and music into higher school and then go on to study communication design at University. My family is Italian, but I was brought up in Scotland. I think having this interesting cross in culture was really cool, and allowed me to see two different ways of living, going between our house in Italy and our house in Edinburgh. My dad also collects antiques, so I was lucky to always be surrounded by interesting objects and classical art, me and him still go to auctions together today. It’s amazing, but very addictive.

How do you approach your personal projects and work for commercial clients? Is there a large difference in how you create in both fields?

The way I create them there isn’t a huge difference. The way I approach them does change a little; I would say commercial work tends to have more of a structure and process in its creation and my poster work is more free and expressive. I care a lot about what I do. I really enjoy it as well, and I think this definitely shows in the work and the outcome of projects. I think when working with commercial work, there are more deliverables and requirements, so the design has to be able to be applied to lots of different things and work across a range of assets for a long time. For commercial work, I work with a strategist and designer and usually, we work on projects like this over months rather than weeks. Posters and non-commercial work tend to have a quicker turnaround.

How did you begin designing for Room for Rebellion?

I knew Isis O’Regan – one of the founding members of Room for Rebellion – from working at Boiler Room, we met there. However, it was about a year after working at BR that she reached out and asked me to work on a poster for the event. It was so fun to work on and has really opened the door to a lot of new opportunities and allowed me to educate myself on the topic, and topics that surround those issues.

Can you explain the design process behind the Room for Rebellion posters? How does the design link to the referendum and inspire people to take action?

With these posters, it was a pretty open brief. But I felt like it was important to make sure there were a few themes that were present in the art. The first was that I wanted there to be a strong feeling of femininity. I wanted the poster to feel feminine and delicate. The second was a feeling of hope. I tried to convey each of these things through the design and intricacies of the shapes I used and the way in which I layered them; giving a sense of complexity but in a considered way. I think the poster is a universal asset that can be seen in every country no matter where you are, it is the most simple example of communication design. I think it is the purest and most impactful way to communicate without having to use actual words. Posters convey emotion and feeling, and I think that being able to give people access to that is amazing.

You’ve also designed posters for the Women’s March before. Is activism something that plays a large role in your work?

More recently, yes. It has definitely been a more prominent aspect of my work. I think if there is any way to help a charity or a small organisation trying to raise awareness about something or raise funds for something, then I would always like to try and help. It’s not always possible because of my schedule but it does make a lot of sense to me to be involved in these projects. Especially when it comes to women’s rights and equality.

In what ways does music influence your designs?

Massively, I am always listening to music when I am working and it is also one of my biggest interests. I just think it is amazing how music can influence your mood, your mind or even the way you work. Sometimes when I am working I get creative block, and everything I do doesn’t feel right, or, to me, isn’t quite working, then I will listen to some music and it really helps and I feel like I can work on it again. Maybe subconsciously it distracts you to a point where you are not overthinking everything and that is why it helps. Especially in design.

Your use of colour and typography is quite unique to your style. How have you honed your style using these two elements?

I just enjoy experimenting. I have always worked like that, I taught myself to use all the design programmes by just sitting on the software and clicking loads of different buttons. I think it is really important to have this sense of freedom and fun in your art as it allows you to enjoy making it. So I think over time, I have probably just gradually pushed my typography and pushed the colours I use and it has continued to get a little crazier. I do always say that my main thing is to go into a design and make the type look a bit shit. I think this works because people are more drawn to something that doesn’t look quite right, rather than something that looks perfect!

How do you think your creations are different from conventional design in music? Do you consciously strive to be different?

I am not sure, I think the beauty in designing for music is that it can be so creative. So I always think that the design I see that is associated with music is always so interesting and different. I collect old 7” discs and the designs on those are amazing. It is usually massive chunks of colour with bold type, so it seems quite simple but they are always so striking. I don’t think I consciously strive to be different. The way I design is basically however I feel that day. I know that sounds a bit mad, but that is genuinely true. If I decide I want to try making something using gradient maps I just sit down and try it out and if it works, then that is cool and if it doesn’t I’ll try something else I have wanted to try!

Are there any trends in art or music that you tend to pull inspiration from?

I am really influenced by modern art. I love people like Etel Adnan, Ren Hang, Richard Mortensen, Bruno Munari and John Baldessari. I also like to take reference from the fauvism, expressionism and minimalism periods. Music wise, I am always listening to music and researching new artists etc, so I think it is always interesting to see the cover art and the feeling they are trying to portray through their image, but I wouldn’t say I take reference. Although, maybe from Tyler the Creator, because he seems to be pretty on it when it comes to aesthetics.

What projects do you have lined up?

Really exciting stuff; I just finished a project for Diesel, which is going to be all over NY in June for Pride month! I am also working on some amazing identity projects all over the world! I am also trying to currently curate an exhibition which will be held in London and showcase underground poster design, but there is just so much work to do for it and I am also still completely booked out with client work too, so right now I just need to find more time!