Take a trip to Vlieland with Rotterdam-based design duo Jurjen Versteeg and Ashley Govers, otherwise known as From Form.
This minimal yet surreal title sequence is an invitation to Into The Great Wide Open 2016, a music festival that takes place annually on Vlieland, a small island off the coast of The Netherlands. The sequence takes delight in the simple pleasures of the natural world: the passing of the seasons, the movement of the sun and moon, ripples in water, the spare tracks of a bird on sand, all created with the leanest of gestures. A stone drops into a void in the sea, a puff of cloud glides in a perfect blue sky, and a tree trunk, sliced into rounds, proffers a name. In the smooth curve of a radius window and the rough texture of canvas, the elements all present themselves, folding and shifting. Pulling inspiration from the dynamic painted dimensions of René Magritte, the design transports us with its graceful clarity and opens the door on a new world.
A discussion with JURJEN VERSTEEG and ASHLEY GOVERS of Rotterdam-based studio From Form.
Can you give us a little background on yourselves, to start? Where did you study and how did From Form come about?
Jurjen: I graduated in 2011 from the Willem de Kooning art school in Rotterdam.
Ashley: I grew up in several villages in the Netherlands and went to Rotterdam to study interior design at Willem de Kooning.
Jurjen: We decided to work together on both of our graduation projects. My graduation film A History of the Title Sequence was a two-minute title sequence showing the history of title design and its designers in a nutshell. Our collaboration felt very organic and our backgrounds complemented each other. So, after graduation we decided to set up a studio together with the idea of mixing interior, product, graphic design, and film. So From Form was born!
Ashley: We combine our backgrounds and skills, we often have the same image in mind. It’s great to be working and living together!
Jurjen: In each project, we try to see if there's a new technique we can work with. Most of the time this involves working with our hands.
How did this project, Into The Great Wide Open, come to you?
Jurjen: [laughs] As soon as the email came in one late afternoon, I ran off to get a few beers and we celebrated. This project was right up our alley! During the first meeting with the festival team, we realized we were in a pitch! Luckily we got the job.
Ashley: We have a great love for Vlieland. The first thing we did was collect memories of our holidays on the island and ask ourselves why this island means so much to us. The calmness, the nature, the simplicity. As soon you enter the boat, you step into a different world.
What’s the feeling or mood you wanted to evoke?
Jurjen: We wanted to create a surreal world where you would recognize the elements of the island, but in a different, surprising context. It had to trigger your fantasy.
Ashley: We wanted to create a surreal world with recognizable elements of the island. The festival feels very raw because of its surroundings. The tactile-ness in our title sequence gives that feeling as well.
So how did you start?
Jurjen: When we got the job, we immediately decided to go back. It was mid-January and freezing cold!
Ashley: We immediately had the idea to use the elements of the island and place them in a different context.
We brought a camera and sketchbooks and did a lot of documentation.
Jurjen: I’ve always enjoyed the rough nature and the bare simplicity of the island. You’ll just find one campsite and lots of great places to walk and cycle. Also, there are no cars allowed, which makes it a calming and silent place.
Back in Rotterdam, we did a lot of testing.
Jurjen: The first deadline was quick. The smaller edition of the festival called Here Comes The Summer takes place in May. They asked us to do the design for that as well and to start seeing it as a first draft of the design.
Ashley: We just started with the idea that it was going to be a series of GIFs but no idea how it would look in the end. A very new way of working for us! The title sequence grew from five GIFs at the start and ended up with 20 GIFs. They all show the artists playing at the festival.
Jurjen: The island has elements – the dunes, forest, beach or harbour – that stay the same over the years. But when the festival takes place in September, it reinterprets the whole island.
Ashley: During the festival the forests become stages and dunes become a museum. That really formed the starting point of our concept: Using the elements of the island in a different way, just like the festival does. When we rediscovered the work of the surreal painter René Magritte, everything started to fall into place.
Ashley: With the paintings of René Magritte in mind, we wanted to make a surreal world: clouds that are folded, dancing trees and what can be seen through the sea.
When looking at his paintings, it almost seems he travelled to Vlieland and observed it with his surreal vision. His paintings surprise you each time and lets you take a look at something twice before noticing it.
Ashley: The festival gave us a lot of freedom, as long as the names of the artists were clear. That was great! It never felt like a compromise.
When Jurjen started to animate the textures it all came to life! We had to animate 80 names so we had to came up with a lot of gifs. To remind ourselves whether a scene would fit our surreal world, we said: “If it’s impossible, it works.”
How did you make those textures?
Jurjen: For the first time, we tried working with oil paint on canvas. A new technique to us. It gave so much tactility to the designs.
Ashley: We made a hundred pictures of textures we found on the island. Back in our studio I painted these textures with oil paint to make it more abstract.
Ashley: We scanned these and Jurjen digitally combined textures and made surreal compositions.
We also experimented with folded cardboard and photography. We used the photos as a reference for how the light would fall to create depth or use the photos themselves as backdrops for the GIFs.
Jurjen: We used Photoshop and After Effects to make all the compositions and GIFs.
And the music? How did you work with that?
Ashley: We approached composer Diederik Idenburg from M-OST, who did a wonderful job on creating a mesmerizing, almost hypnotizing soundtrack. It just complements the moving GIFs so well!
This project involved much more than a title sequence. How did you approach creating the entire package of items for the festival?
Ashley: It really was a search. We started off with the oil-painted title sequence, which needed some visual translation to work in graphic forms such as wristbands. We picked out the most visual elements we’ve already created and translated that to vector graphics.
Jurjen: For each piece, we made a unique design: wristbands, stage design, food coins, booklets and merchandise.
Ashley: So the wristbands, booklets and all other graphic design talked the same language.
Was it just the two of you? Did you have assistants?
Jurjen: We worked on it with our intern Leontien. She was a great help during the process and good company during our trips to the island.
Ashley: Later on we also got help from graphic designer Jimme Bakker who also works for the festival.
Jurjen: Along the way, we wanted to see if we could move our surreal world a step further. What if we could really transform the elements of the island?
We travelled back to the island and brought mirrors in all sorts of shapes and sizes. On the edges of our mirrors, we attached a strip of dark foil, which created a subtle suggestion of depth when reflecting. It really looks like you’re looking right through nature! We cycled over the island for about a week and held up mirrors in the forest, dunes, the beach and in the sea.
Jurjen: Although photography was a new discipline for the project, it worked really well with the designs we had so far. The most important thing we took from this project is that one idea can have a lot of forms.
When we came up with the concept at the start of our process, we had no idea that we would do a photoshoot with mirrors a few months later, or that we would work with oil paint! We just really let the concept do the work and from that a lot of forms flowed out.
When we arrived at the island during the festival, we saw that everything connected. That was such an awesome moment!
View the credits for this sequence
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