The most recent assignment for my Survey and Principles of Design course is an Art Nouveau style soap package. I started by researching the movement, and was surprised and impressed to learn that it’s a complete art form that covers pottery, architecture, and illustration. However, I was most shocked to learn that one of my favorite artists of all time, Ivan Bilibin, was part of the movement and I have been a secret Art Nouveau fan for years. Despite owning all the books he’s illustrated, and with three of his prints decorating my wall, I never made the connection.
Naturally the design I created is an homage to Bilbin’s beautiful work. I picked a few key themes from the Art Nouveau movement to feature in the piece: a beautiful woman (Alkonost), organic forms (the ocean), smooth, curving lines, the use of silhouette, and a careful variation of line thickness, or lack thereof. I also tried to emulate color palettes from Bilbin’s work, and the softness I often see in Art Nouveau illustration. Typographically, I created an Arnold Bocklin style font.
In terms of content, I chose to depict Alkonost, a creature Bilibin also featured in his work:
“The Alkonost is, according to Russian mythos and folklore, a creature with the body of a bird but the head of a beautiful woman. It makes sounds that are amazingly beautiful, and those who hear these sounds forget everything they know and want nothing more ever again. She lives in the underworld with her counterpart the sirin. The alkonost lays her eggs on a beach and then rolls them into the sea. When the alkonost’s eggs hatch, a thunderstorm sets in and the sea becomes so rough that it is untravelable.”
Since it’s a soap package, my Alknost is bathing in a stormy sea full of stars and lighting. I think that the aquatic theme is appropriate. I hope that a combination of these elements (a figure Bilibin drew that is also congruent with Art Nouveau aesthetics and the theme of bathing) makes this design effective and appealing.