When graphic designer Broos Stoffels and illustrator Lukas Verstraete were invited to give a lecture about their project ‘Een boek waarmee men vrienden maakt’ at the graphic design festival Grafixx extd. #3, the duo decided, without further ado, to prepare a brand new project for this occasion. “We felt that this project was too small to talk about it for an hour so we challenged ourselves to collaborate on something new”, Broos and Lukas tell C24. As a result, the idea for the publication ‘Onomatopee’ was born, exploring the visual and typographic representation of sound. “We are both interested in language. How words look, communicate and even sound fascinates us”, they explain. During the next two weeks, the duo set themselves a daily challenge to play around the theme of onomatopoeia which is the process of creating a word that phonetically resembles the sound that it describes.
“We questioned for example how sound can be visualized if expressed by different characters in different situations, how onomatopeia can be designed as superlatives, and how we interpret onomatopoeia from foreign languages or undefined sounds”, Broos and Lukas explain their concept. Starting with some sketches on paper, both of them stayed within their specific field to bring their unique skills to the project, while working according to the rules on format, color, and time limit which they set from the beginning on. “We intentionally did not look at each other’s work until the end, so that we would not influence each other. Each day, our faith in each other’s progress grew.” At the end of the two weeks, they switched roles for one last challenge, with Broos illustrating and Lukas designing the typography for a change. “The outcome of this challenge was not published”, they joke.
At the beginning of the ‘Onomatopee’, Broos and Lukas intended to create their artworks solely for the presentation at Grafixx extd., but decided to publish them as a small zine later on. “We already knew from the beginning that we would both give each other total creative freedom – and this project is definitely proof for that”, they tell us, “The rules of each challenge allowed us to embrace coincidences and to surprise ourselves when combining our different styles.” However, juggling between their commissioned jobs and personal projects was not always easy. “On top of our own projects, we came together every night to collaborate on ‘Onomatopee’, starting only two weeks before the presentation.”
Broos and Lukas met each other during their studies at LUCA School of Arts in Ghent where they first collaborated on the previously mentioned project, Lukas’s debut graphic novel ‘Een boek waarmee men vrienden maakt’. “I was trying to design the typography on the cover, when Broos stepped in. This could have worked out if my confidence in the art of typography had been bigger. But after many failures, I turned to him for advice”, Lukas remembers, “He came up with the idea to make the design of the title resemble those markings that can usually be found on tiles, plates, and frames. I provided an illustrated tile on the cover design and gave Broos to implement his idea.” Since this collaboration turned out pretty fruitful, the duo has since worked together on various book covers and workshops.
“I really like to collaborate with artists from other backgrounds and with other expertises than mine. Collaborations with illustrators, musicians, or developers always tend to be the most interesting”, Broos states, and Lukas adds: “As an illustrator, being your own boss is a great luxury, but getting inspired by others enriches you and your work enormously. Of course, you need to feel the same drive regarding the project for it to work out. The best feeling is when you push yourselves beyond your limits.”
After their workshop on ‘Onomatopee’ at the Zine Club of the public library of Brussels, the duo hopes to follow up with a second issue in the future. “We already came up with some new games on the theme of language, we just need the opportunity and time to play around.”