Zofia Oslislo is a graphic designer from the Silesia region of Poland, born in 1985. She designs book layouts and exhibition catalogues, as well as album covers. Her work has received several awards at the Śląska Rzecz competition.
She graduated from Fine Arts Academy in Katowice, majoring in graphic design. She has also taken Inter-Faculty Individual Studies in Humanities, resulting in a Cultural Studies degree. In 2014 she succeeded in defending her doctoral thesis at her alma mater, with her thesis The New Silesians: City / Design / Identity, in which she explores cultural changes in the region which try to transform the negative image of Silesia with the help of design. When asked about the origins of the term ‘the New Silesians’, which she coined, she says:
After I had begun working on my thesis, I realised that I need to rename the element of reality that I study and that I feel is named incorrectly, or even not named at all. What made me try to give this group a different name is the old distinction between Hanyse and Gorole, that is, an artificial division between Silesians and outsiders, an opposition between Poles and Silesians, which only radicalises the differences. I believe it does not reflect the reality. I am a true-born local, and this distinction does not work with me and my friends, but it also makes it easier for me to create this new name. If someone asks me if I’m Silesian, I can immediately answer positively. My family is from Upper Silesia and Cieszyn, Silesia. I consciously used the fact that I’m a native Silesian in order to be able to create a new category, the category of people who were not born here, but who are in love with the place and help it as much as they can. That, not their origins, is the most important.
Oslislo is an undoubtedly prolific activist for Silesia, and her whole portfolio is connected with the region. For example, in 2011 she was responsible for the two Katowice submissions for the European Capital of Culture competition 2016, with the theme Katowice – the City of Gardens. The first enabled the city to get to the second stage of the elimination process, and was created together with Marcin Kasperek, Ksawery Kaliski, and Kasia Sokołowska. Their submission consisted of a book with a white cover and engraved letters, enclosed in a square box with artificial glass and a pendrive inside. The second took the form of a catalogue with maps and infographics. Green, which connected the project to the competition’s theme, became the main colour of the publication. The designer used it in the lettering of the titles of each subchapter, as well as on the cover of the booklet.
As a part of her work, Oslislo organised the Ala Ma Font(a) [trans. Ala Has a Font] series of typographic workshops, as well as the Ala Ma Pióro [trans. Ala Has a Quill] calligraphic workshops. These became the basis for Fajrant [trans. Job Done!], a publication documenting the workshops. It included texts by invited guests, as well as twenty different fonts designed by the people attending the project. The book, printed using only two colours which were sometimes mixed to create a third, became an instant hit and received numerous awards, among others, for the Most Beautiful Book 2012, as well as a nomination in the Śląska Rzecz competition.
She also took part in creating Silesian Design Icons, a book wherein authors explore the Silesian design trends of the 20th century. The book featured 10 chapters, each about a different icon of design. It was heavily influenced by Oslislo’s choices concerning the graphical layout. The 10 icons are presented using pictograms engraved in the cover, and references are highlighted with a yellow overlay. Furthermore, the descriptions of the designers are in bold. The whole colour scheme boils down to white, black, and yellow, which only strengthens the book’s idea. She used the same colours in her calendars for Design Silesia, connecting minimalistic design with high quality materials, and enclosed them in PVC casing. The calendars themselves are printed on ecologically friendly paper.
She has also designed some projects for a younger audience. Nasza przestrzeń [trans. Our Space] is a booklet for kids between 6 and 12, which engages them in various interesting drawing games. The premise is quite a daring one, as she works only in black and white, leaving children completely free to choose the palette.
Originally written in Polish by Agata Morka, translated by AS, April 2017.