Semi Permanent’s 20 YEARS FORWARD & BACK publication celebrates the past and plans for the future
“Two decades is a long time and something hard to capture or share in a single gesture, which is why creating a book felt like the most personal and generous way to mark the milestone,” explains Mike Souvanthalisith, Design Director of Semi Permanent. Exploring two decades of existence for the Australian experience company and creative platform, Semi Permanent’s 20 YEARS FORWARD & BACK book is an archive of significant projects from the past as well as significant ideas that will guide them into the future.
It describes itself as a ‘non-linear time capsule,’ owing to its non-chronological structure. “Print invites you to take in the journey however you want and from wherever in the timeline you choose to open the page to,” Souvanthalisith continues. “We made a conscious effort to not just start on year one and move in chronological order. Instead, we chose to showcase a sweeping view of creativity past, present and soon-to-be through the lens of industry icons and friends we’ve made along the way.” Among these include contributions from the likes of filmmaker Roman Coppola, industrial designer Sabine Marcelis, architect Bjarke Ingels, artist CJ Hendry, and digital entrepreneur Mikaela Jade.
As a weighty collection of history and insight, it was fitting that the physical form took on an accurate and equally weighty appearance. As an object, the book design is “teched-out” and playful in the conventions of bookmaking: employing a semi-reflective cover, a full front-cover index, custom fonts, and flush page edges that create a hefty box-like feel.
“We wanted the book to resemble those time capsules your city would bury for decades or shoot out into space for aliens to discover,” Souvanthalisith says. “It needed to feel important and robust, but have an otherworldly quality to it that would draw in curiosity. We were fascinated by the idea of leaving behind this artefact for future creatives to find. The spaceship-like silver and the industrial-sized stamp on the front help to make this feel less like a book and more like a relic in need of appraisal. Seeing it as a practice in object design, allows it to live beyond the library bookshelf and gravitate closer to new spaces where humans or other creative beings exist.”
Whilst the team were hard at work creating the publication, they were also in the midst of a Semi Permanent brand refresh. The stripped-down typographic direction – a custom version of Universal Sans (in 600 and 400) from Family Type and Klim Type Foundry’s Founders Grotesk Mono – feature throughout the book. “With such dramatic contrast in the two typefaces, it meant we didn’t need to rely on colour or overly stylised layouts to create rhythm in the book,” Souvanthalisith reflects. “Supersized usage of Universal Sans commanded your attention and gave pause between features, whereas Founders Grotesk Mono invited closer inspection of the pages to discover the rich technical details being annotated. The usage of type played off the editorial direction of the book; ebbing and flowing between past and future, reflection and prediction, macro and micro.”
Having given plenty of time to reflect, it’s also a time for the Semi Permanent crew to look forward. “Semi Permanent is synonymous with celebrating world-class talent, creating thought-provoking dialogue within the industry and gathering a community around creativity, but that’s only half of the story. We’ve been building this amazing team to not only evolve the festival, but elevate the work we create as a studio around the world. Having worked over the years with the likes of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Google, Nike, Gucci and Highsnobiety, there’s a hunger to continue in supporting ambitious brands in crafting their vision, storytelling and cultural impact. As well as further dreaming up new properties and passion projects, like our Sia x Daniel Askill project in Porto or the Semi Permanent Hotel takeover at Paramount House Hotel. In between all of that, there’s sure to be a few more books, some staff karaoke parties, more visits to Europe and a few exciting brands along the way. We’ve spent the last 20 years putting on amazing experiences for the community, the next 20 years we want to show everyone how experience is in everything we do,” he concludes.