Creative expression and breaking convention: we dive into the exploratory work of Appear Offline
Characterised by a plethora of textures, type pushed to the very limits of legibility, and a stark, literal black-and-white approach, the work of Appear Offline sits at the intersection of art and design. As a side project and ‘one-man creative practice’ of designer Marko, it is its own comprehensive world, separate from the frameworks and limitations of typical industry demands. Marko provides further insight into Appear Offline, discussing his process, what his practice means to him as a creative outlet, and what future releases we can look forward to.
PT Hi Marko! How’s everything going?
M Hey! I recently returned from my summer vacation, just a few days ago. So, things are still pretty relaxed here. During my break, I dedicated a lot of time to those activities that usually get pushed aside – reading, seeking inspiration, and simply enjoying life’s everyday pleasures. Now, I’m feeling full of energy and am well-prepared for whatever exciting adventures lie ahead.
PT That sounds perfect. How would you describe your practice at Appear Offline?
M Appear Offline is my artistic playground, where I bring together various design and art ideas under one roof. I focus mostly on typography, but not in the usual way. I’m curious about discovering fresh and unconventional ways to use letters as the core element of creative expression, striking that balance between being abstract and relatable. And when it comes to what I create, I’m pretty open-minded. You’ll find a mix of different types of work, in various mediums and formats; it’s all about exploring new possibilities and just having fun with it. I try to keep it multidisciplinary, to expand my field of work, and tap into unknown areas day by day.
Appear Offline is my artistic playground.
PT And how did you get to where you are today?
M I started my career as a designer in various design studios. However, I soon realised that I couldn’t fully express my creativity within client projects. I rarely had the chance to explore alternative visual ideas that didn’t conform to mainstream design. So, I decided to create for myself. I began working on designs that I personally enjoyed, without any specific practical purpose other than expressing my own visual style, free from external constraints. I began sharing my work on Instagram, and to my surprise, it started gaining some attention. After some time, I received some interesting commissions. This encouraged me to keep evolving my design style and finding new ways to explore my passion for typography in unconventional ways. Along the way, I connected with some amazing people who provided me with opportunities to work on their projects and collaborate creatively.
At first, I didn’t have any expectations. But now, it’s incredibly rewarding to work on dream projects that have grown just from a creative urge-driven initiative.
PT Why did you decide to operate under the name ‘Appear Offline,’ rather than your personal name?
M I come from the graffiti culture, where it’s common to create art under a self-imposed moniker or alias. I found it more natural and liberating to create in this way, stepping away from my own identity and crafting a persona that can stand on its own. I wanted something versatile – a name that could be used as an art name, a brand name, a name for a store, or a platform that involves more people. ‘Appear Offline’ felt understandable enough for the broader audience, but also had a meaning for me personally, so it just made sense to stick with it. In the end, I believe that by taking this approach, it can remain flexible and evolve into various forms, as it’s not tethered to the identity of a person behind it.
PT What kind of work do you typically do now on a day-to-day basis?
M At the moment, I’m keeping quite busy with a few different things. First off, I’ve got some client work in the mix that I need to prioritise. Then, there’s the online shop I’m running, featuring art prints and t-shirts – and I’m preparing a second batch and shipping existing orders. Plus, I’m always up to some self-initiated stuff, experimenting with new ideas and seeing how they pan out. I try to stay constantly in motion so that none of these things are set aside, and I have enough time to refine the ideas and be satisfied with what I put out.
Now, speaking of clients, I’m currently knee-deep in two interesting projects. For one of them, I’m crafting a unique lettering and typography system tailor-made for a product packaging and campaign. It’s pretty exciting. And for another client, I’m creating a special artwork that’ll be part of a charity exhibition and dinner. So, you could say I’ve got a lot on my plate, but that’s the way I like it.
I wanted to create real, lasting items that people could own, wear, and get inspired by.
PT Can you tell us about your store? Why did you decide to launch your own products?
M I started the store because I wanted something more than just digital creations. Additionally, it was a nice way to give something back to my supporters. I wanted to create real, lasting items that people could own, wear, and get inspired by. It’s also a way for me to see how my designs work when applied to different products, learn about the production process, and explore what it means to have a brand. The plan for the online store officially took shape when I posted a mockup of a summer shirt with an all-over print, and people went crazy about it. That’s when I realised there was interest in limited, custom-made pieces, so I decided to put all my efforts into making it a reality.
PT Was there an overarching concept in mind when designing them?
M It all began with a simple idea – creating things that resonate with my personal tastes, and make pieces I’d genuinely love to own. Every item in my collection is crafted with care, meticulously produced through collaborative efforts with local businesses in my community. My approach is intentionally small-scale, focusing on limited edition batches that allow me to experiment and explore a variety of unique products and items with each new release. This approach not only keeps things fresh and exciting, but also ensures that every piece carries its own distinct character and charm, making it all the more special for those who appreciate the artistry behind it.
The first batch consists of only seven products, with a maximum production limit of 50 units.
PT What was your process?
M Being a one-man band, the whole process was quite a rollercoaster ride, filled with surprises along the way. I handled pretty much everything, except making the actual products – like coming up with the shop’s idea, designing, directing photoshoots, and even building the e-commerce website. I also personally packed and shipped every order. The first step was figuring out what the shop would look like, how many items I wanted to showcase, how many of each, and how often I’d introduce new stuff. Then, I had to select the designs for the initial batch and find the right partners to make them, ensuring they met my quality standards. From there, it was all about the nitty-gritty logistics – finding the best way to package the items, where to store them, and the most efficient way to get them to customers. I’m still learning as I go, but I have to say, it’s been an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience, especially when you step into unfamiliar territory that directly impacts the final product you’re offering to others. For example, the ‘Vivid Dreams’ shirt is the staple piece that encapsulates all of the mentioned attributes, and serves as a blueprint of what type of items I would like to do next.
I’m interested in creating things that can exist in the real world, not just on screens.
PT Which creative areas would you like to explore that you haven’t yet?
M Lately, I’ve been really getting into animation and short films. I love mixing visual art with music and motion. Instead of using fancy software, I’m doing it the old-fashioned way by drawing each frame by hand. It gives the animations a warm, human feel that you don’t get with computer-generated stuff. Plus, I enjoy the process because it takes time and effort to make something real. My dream is to create designs for exhibitions, backdrops for shows, or concerts where people can experience my work in person and on a larger scale. I want my designs to be a part of a total, immersive creative project that involves creatives from various fields of work. I’m also interested in doing paintings, murals, or installations – anything that’s hands-on and exists in the real world, not just on screens. Every now and then, I need a break from digital devices and want to create something that has its own presence outside the digital realm.
PT Why do you choose to primarily work in black, white or grey?
At first, I decided to work in black and white because I wanted to really emphasise the essence – the shapes of the letters, how they fit together, and the composition they create. Using colours and images can sometimes be like taking the easy route to make things look nice, but I wasn’t feeling it. I wanted to strip down my work to its essentials, and get rid of anything that added unnecessary distractions. In the beginning it was more bold and ‘in your face’ but lately I’m trying to keep it more refined and subtle. So, I stuck with the grayscale palette, and it became a unique part of my work. I found that having this limitation actually helped me be more creative because I didn’t get stuck trying to choose from too many options. It’s now a signature aspect of what I do, and I have no regrets about it.
I wanted to strip down my work to its essentials.
PT What do you look for in collaborations and client work?
M I’ve had the chance to work with a wide range of clients, which keeps things interesting. Sometimes, it’s design studios handling projects for their clients, and they ask me to add my creative touch to the project. Other times, it’s independent publishers, musicians, type foundries, or fellow creatives looking for custom artworks. Recently, I got a project to create a custom-made font based on one of my letterings, and it was so much fun. Usually, these collaborations happen because they see that my style and approach align with their creative vision. In most cases, they’ve seen my previous work on the web or IG and want something similar. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate so far to receive fairly open project briefs. They provide a few initial references, but they trust me to interpret the brief in my signature style without too much interference. It’s been a rewarding journey so far.
I aim to collaborate with people who share a similar style and creative outlook. In most cases, it doesn’t have to be a big deal or require a huge budget to create something cool and exciting. Most of the time, I’m working with other creatives who appreciate my creative freedom, and that’s why they brought me on board – to do my thing. Our communication is straightforward, and we just click.
PT What can we expect from Appear Offline throughout the rest of 2023?
M I’ve got a feeling that the rest of this year is going to be incredibly productive and exciting for me. First up, I’ll be launching the second batch of items in my shop, including some new prints that I’m really thrilled about. On the other hand, I’m wrapping up two art collaborations. One with an international selection of incredibly talented artists for a group show, and another with a design studio from Australia. The best part is that both of these collaborations are driven by a shared passion for making a positive impact on the world. Besides these plans, I’m always enthusiastic about visiting new places, connecting with new people and discussing potential projects and collaborations.