Ugly Brno is a joint project of Risto Ilic and Johannes Christian Trostler.
It revolves around the work of the winner of the last Czech Grand Design Veronika Rút Nováková and her “Manual of Good Practice and the advertising and labeling of shops in the city center of Brno”. This manual was created with the intention to eliminate “visual smog” and make Brno a prettier place. But prettier for whom? For guys on fixed gear bikes? For designers stuck in 2010?
Veronika, the nemesis of Ugly Brno and creativity, pitched this manual to the City Hall. With the help of local politicians, it is now being enforced. Some of its points are recommended, some are mandatory. We then knew that these unique design creations will eventually disappear from the city center. As citizens, we were outraged and decided to take a stand against it in the form of an Instagram account, which would not only function as an archive but also as a place for admiring and discussing these hated as well beloved “ugly” design seen in the streets of Brno.
We chose Instagram as it is the most widely used online platform for presentation with the highest reach. Furthermore, we like the possibility of responding to the contributions compared to the archive on the classic website. Communication with the viewer is multilayered, takes place in several levels – classic feed, story, live, hashtag or highlights. Which is much more functional than a closed system on a website.
When you look at the posts of Ugly Brno you may ask yourself… Why does it look like a mockery? Exaggeration and comedy is, in our opinion, one of the most attractive and effective ways to raise awareness of a particular issue.
The output of Ugly Brno is not only in the form of an archive but also consists of associative assemblies in which we appropriate already used techniques taken from shop fronts/vitrines of Brno. These assemblies emphasize what we like about these graphics or what we find funny or interesting. Of course, it also gives an accent to our exaggeration. Basically you can see it as some kind of comedic relief to an otherwise serious topic. Apart from that we use the assemblies as a way to add our own commentary, which contains phrases and punch-lines addressing gentrification and the problematic of fascisizing visual culture in general.
Nostalgia and the fact that we find “ugly” designs beautiful are additional factors that were present in the making of Ugly Brno. But what we care about the most, is the freedom of creativity and awareness about how systematic oppression affects our surroundings.
Ugly Brno Manifesto
Vulgarisms exist only in linguistics, and smog exists only in the air, not in graphic design.
Restrictions of freedom for entrepreneurs and shop owners to design their own shop fronts demanded by ”Manual of Good Practice and the advertising and labeling of shops in the city center of Brno” could be compared to the prohibition of smoking in pubs, but “visual smog” does not harm human lungs nor the eyes.
Moreover, as we can see in the city, in the end, the owners perceive the manual as a regulation that they have to obey and not as an opportunity to improve the “situation” in the city, as a result the implementation itself looks bland and boring. We do not want Brno to become one big black and white sterile advertising banner for a funeral service!
Let us not destroy something that is a part of our history and a part of our visual identity. Let us not destroy something that tells us what society and trends were like in the 1990s in the Czech environment after the fall of the regime when, as they say, everything was possible.. This ‘’naïve’’ mindset is also reflected in the design of show-cases/vitrines.
Let us not destroy the products of this crazy yet magical time. Today, at this moment, these “ugly” outputs might seem tasteless, ugly or unprofessional, but only after a while will we be able to appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of this visual style. In the 1990s, everyone could suddenly be a graphic designer. Software, materials and color printing were available to everyone at affordable prices. Nothing seemed impossible. The world could shine in all colors…