Dean Poole on playing with words (trailer)

"Part of the system of creativity is creating the rules," says Dean Poole at Design Indaba Conference 2014.

“The greatest thing about design is that it's the social life of ideas," says the creative director and cofounder of Alt Group, a multidisciplinary design studio in New Zealand.

In his presentation at Design Indaba Conference 2014, Poole talks about some of his most celebrated work that uses words to arrest people's attention.

His quirky definitions of the letters of the alphabet assign characters to each letter form. In Poole's mind, A is an "H designed by an architect", D "ate too much" and O likes to sing. The design of letters interest him as visual puns rather than for how they can be manipulated typographically.

Alt Group's identity for the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki exemplifies the firm's approach of simplicity, restraint and humour. The gallery's branding demystifies the serious and complex meanings often attributed to art using a system based largely on wordplay. The identity uses an endless series of simple statements on posters, maps, publications, apparel and environmental graphics that give different perspectives on what art can be: "A geometric abstraction", "A recurring motif", "A real beauty" and "A universal truth". The statements are lined up to spell out the word "ART" in every case. 

Poole's recently published book This Over That takes the wordplay one step further. The pocket-sized book visualises phrases using the word “over” (for example, "Stay over night" and "All over it"), replacing the actual word with a horizontal line in the manner of a mathematical division symbol. The result is a series of pictograms that play with the mechanics of language. The book earned him a Bronze award at New Zealand’s Best Awards in the category for editorial and book design.

This year for the first time, the Design Indaba Conference talks make their premiere on our app, conveniently packaged in one place and available for free download. To watch Dean Poole's full conference talk download the app here or keep watching for updates.

Watch the Talk with Dean Poole

More on Product Design