n.564 Hewlett Packard by Celeste Watson is part of the exhibition “Print error / publishing in the digital age” proposed by Alessandro Ludovico, for the Jeu de Paume virtual space.
There are designers whose approach is so close to contemporary art that it becomes difficult to definitively categorise their work. One of these designers is the Australian Celeste Watson, whose experiments create a stable bridge between the two worlds. In her “n.564 Hewlett Packard” she constructs a narrative based on the (socially accepted) business paradox that ink cartridges for personal printers cost more than the printers itself. Watson goes beyond that, calculating that their cost per litre is twice the price of Chanel n.5, even with their technically proven toxicity and environmental waste if abandoned in the landfill. So she redesigns the packaging of cartridges mimicking the original Chanel one, in a perfect aesthetic camouflage that is definitively revealed reading the text notes on the back. A critical position about the expensive and careless policies of the printing industry, passively accepted and indirectly supported by customers is then embedded in a well known aesthetics, differentiated for each of the CMYK basic colours. The act of printing then can’t be a neutral one anymore. The acknowledged luxury of the product becomes a deadly one, and the contrast between the sophisticated design and the bare facts is then imprinted in the viewer’s visual memory.
Celeste Watson is a communication designer whose work meanders somewhere between design and contemporary art. She is known for throwing design back in the face of its expected audience, but in unexpected ways. Her philosophy is that design should challenge the status quo, make people question why certain conventions exist and before anything else, make people think.