After a long day of speculating about the geopolitical futures of fictional territories or “borderlands,” it seemed odd that Vit Ruller, half of the Amsterdam-based design duo The Rodina, would steer our conversation toward the ideas of a Mid-Century Broadway theater critic, known for his thoughts on character development. Walter Kerr writes in his book, How Not to Write a Play:
“Character is primary. If not character, mood. These are not only the dramatist’s sources, the wellsprings for his creation, they are the actual ends toward which he is working; they fulfill, in themselves, the requirements of drama.”
When I asked how all this related to their design practice, he pointed to his collaborator Tereza Rullerova and said,“She’s the main character, the rest of it just comes from that.” He was half joking, but the idea seemed to connect some dots.
As graphic designers we often think about things like the “personality” of a typeface or the “mood” of a layout, but we probably wouldn’t develop those ideas the same way a playwright or someone working with traditional narrative formats might. I would argue that some of the video/performance work by The Rodina are exercises that help them to open up their practice to alternative and maybe even richer ways of thinking about design. On the surface the videos seem to be an ironic comment on internet narcissism, but the satirical Euro-
Whatever they are doing, it’s working. They’ve won several awards and are consistently invited to curate, teach and exhibit work in The Netherlands and internationally. They will also be back in California this summer for a residency at Otis. I recommend stopping by if you have the chance—they usually put on quite a show.
The Rodina is design studio founded in 2012 by Tereza and Vit Ruller, currently based in The Hague, Netherlands. They are most well known for their print design and video design, including their award-winning video “Dutch Education: Budget Cuts”.