Ludovic Balland is a Swiss graphic designer who embarked on a 4-month road trip across the United States as a continuation of his ongoing project, Day After Reading. Day After Reading is an investigation into our memory of the news, one day after reading. Beginning in New York and ending in San Francisco at the swissnex office, Issue N°3 of Day After Reading covers more than 12,000 miles and 20 US cities. The portraits and interviews collected along the way emphasize everyday news, highlighting the relationship between readers’ memories, expertise, and the contexts in which they live.

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I am a graphic designer by training, focusing more in editorial and print materials rather than in digital matters. I studied at the Basel School of Design and have been working as an independent graphic designer since 2003.

One of my current projects is called Day After Reading. In January 2016, I received a call from the United States Embassy in Switzerland. They had heard about the project, in part due to swissnex San Francisco, and asked if I would like to continue Day After Reading in the United States to cover the  2016 presidential election.

The support of the Embassy really motivated me to continue the project, which initially began in 2014. That year, I was invited to participate in an exhibition called “All Possible Futures” at the SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco. The curator, Jon Sueda, invited designers from around the globe to contribute an “unrealized” project to the exhibition. I told Jon I would be happy to participate, but I did not send in anything unrealized- I believe that designers always have an opportunity to complete a project because we don’t need much money, there are no technical limits, and we are free.

I decided to come to San Francisco for one week, and interview San Francisco residents about what they read in the news the day before. By asking people about their memory of what they read in the newspaper, we might form a vision of what content we expect to read, specifically news content, in the future. Since the newspaper is also a matter of design, and since information is always designed, it was interesting to explore how the consumer of design is involved in the process.

There was a huge positive response to the final printed newspaper at the opening reception in 2014, and it revealed something very interesting: People were not interested simply because it was the news being presented, but rather it was reading the news through someone else’s eyes. If I’m interested in your age, background, expertise, or social network, I might be especially interested in what you are reading.

WHY DO YOU DO IT?

I started Day After Reading because I wanted to be the content producer of a project. As a graphic designer, you always get the content from an outside source, and you define a beautiful, adaptable container for it. I was interested in also controlling what came into the container, to see how it would change the output of the project.

For Day After Reading, I’m involved with how people read a book, and after an extended period of time this experience lead me to ask: What draws people to a certain type of reading experience? Why are some people interested in a specific type of text as opposed to others? What is my memory of something if I am reading it on a screen rather than on paper?

The method of reading was always of interest to me because it has a direct relation to the device, the design, and of course, the content. I foresee these three layers merging in the future, allowing authors to also be producers. I have always believed that content produces form, and this idea will lead to a big change in the editorial layers of producing work. I wanted to be a part of that change.

I think this election showed us that the mass media was unable to find the right format to explain to the public what was going on in the campaigns, and I don’t think this is a political issue, but rather a matter of format. It will be necessary in the future to find a standard format that we can all agree is credible, and that we are all interested in reading and following. As long as the news feels blurry to people, it will feel unsafe to them. I was interested in challenging this, and I was particularly enthusiastic about turning the readers into the artists of the project. When the readers are in the spotlight, it’s easier to determine how they’ve built up their own truth, and their own reality.

WHAT’S NEXT?

There are two parts to this answer. The first is a typography project, coming from 15 years of experience in font design. I am launching a new font, coincidentally named “Next.”

The second will be focusing on editing all the material collected for Day After Reading. This will include going through each interview and the thousands of photographs I’ve collected, since the project is not only about interviews but also about creating portraits of each person within a specific context. Each interview was conducted in the subject’s “natural habitat.”

Day After Reading has been an exhausting, demanding journey. As an experience, I felt that it was necessary to see America through this lens, and to try and understand people who live in unknown places between the two coasts. I’m looking forward to not constantly traveling, and to returning to my friends in Switzerland. The goal is to have all of the content completely edited for the book by March or April of next year.

My long term vision as a designer is continue acting as the author, designer, editor, and producer of my books. I’d like to see more customized content. Books have become more complex and interactive, with a bigger variety of visual material. I’m interested in strengthening my own range of skills to continue managing each step of the production process, including editing, printing, designing the typefaces and visual content.

In a world that is becoming more and more digital, I have to fight really hard to keep people interested in printed books. It is expensive to produce a quality, customized book, and it is difficult to find people to invest in a project as a result of that. It’s really beneficial to promote content that will eventually end up in a book through different digital layers, which is what we tried to do for Day After Reading by uploading weekly interviews and portraits along the way. Digital media makes processes visible, it builds a community around a certain topic, and it allows for promotion of content, which are all really exciting trends. I want to continue working at an intersection that celebrates both digital media and printed materials. I’m planning on making books for the rest of my life.

Further Reading

Ludovic Balland (website)


Photo courtesy of the artist.