December 6-7, 2019
Las Vegas Festival Grounds
Dec. 6-7, 2019
Las Vegas Festival Grounds

OCT-08-2019

Nikita Iziev has a way with words. Flipping them around, stretching them apart, spinning them into kaleidoscopic formations–the 21 year old designer has discovered a seemingly endless supply of ways to distort, mangle, and manipulate words to create the fascinating works of typographical animation that have earned him a rock-star-sized fan base on Instagram.

Explaining Iziev’s specialty is simple: he makes bite-sized videos of letters in motion, almost always sans serif type, and always in stark black and white. But what to call it is a tricker question. His work straddles graphic design and animation, art and engineering, and with his affinity for literal wordplay–creating a pulsating cosmic field out of the word “STAR,” making the letter B breathe like a lung, and replicating the word “REPLICA” across the screen until it turns abstract and distorted–it often feels as much some kind of typographical poetry as it does visual art.

What’s not hard to figure out is his work’s appeal. Most designers who embrace strict monochromatic minimalism make work that feels stiffly formal. Iziev, on the other hand, balances the slick coolness of his visual style with a vibrant dose of fun. On top of all the visual puns there’s something simply enjoyable about his animations. It can be hypnotic, like the complex mechanics of motion he created for a spinning collection of rays made out of the word “RAY,” which can absorb your attention the way looking at the gears of a mechanical watch can be. Watching the words “SPEED UP” spin faster and faster in a loop until they begin to tilt, italic-style, is strangely, viscerally satisfying.

And at a time when overstimulation is epidemic, there’s something immensely gratifying about the elegant simplicity of Iziev’s aesthetic. “Words and letters are the foundation on which all communication is built,” he says. “Nothing has a clearer message than typography set in black and white.”

Iziev was born in Russia and educated in Germany, where he moved with his mother and grandmother when he was a kid. Although he has high praise for the German educational system, his design education was largely self-directed until he enrolled in Ravensbourne University in London, where he currently studies. As a teenager, he explains, “I got interested in making those really messy space wallpapers, so I looked up some tutorials online and started messing around.” Internet digging formed the foundation of his design knowledge, and music played an early influence as well. (“The more I learn and the more open minded I remain, the more subtleties and love I find for music of all kinds of genres,” says the designer, who counts Anderson .Paak and Thundercat among his favorites.) Pretty quickly he had a stable of clients and steady freelance gigs, enough to where he spent his last two years of high school juggling school work with a 40-hour-a-week work schedule.

Since coming to university, Iziev’s dialed back his “side hustle,” as he calls it, to concentrate on his studies (although he’s done work for a few clients you’ve definitely heard of). “I am still fairly young,” he explains, “so everything I discover in old art or design books, or even Instagram is more often than not really new to me.” You can feel some of that sense of discovery on his Instagram, where you can watch him experiment with variations on his themes, switching up from sharp, flat graphics to bouncy, organic 3-D volumes or softening the contrast between black and white to play with shades of gray. He’s also branching out into fields like AR and interactive design that offer new ways of connecting with viewers’ senses, and new ways of blurring the lines between disciplines.

One thing he won’t be changing anytime soon is the simple set of rules that he’s used to produce so much great work so far, and still has plenty left to give. “I need boundaries in order to excel,” he says. “I was never good with pen and paper.”

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