Today is Canada Day, and to honour this festive event I’ve decided to feature a very talented Canadian Graphic Artist Marian Bantjes. Her work with custom type, ornament and illustration is awe-inspiring. Her clientèle is overwhelmingly famous and includes names like Stefan Sagmeister, Pentagram, Saks Fifth Avenue, AIGA, TypeCon, WIRED, The New York Times Magazine, InStyle, Wallpaper magazine and many others.

Wallpaper magazine cover

Marian draws inspiration from various sources, as different as Islamic Art and Victoriana, as vast as 14th-18th century calligraphy, styles as divergent as Baroque, Rococo and Gothic. She’s influenced a lot by the Arts & Crafts movement, old lace. Even though Marian claims that she’s not a big fan of M.C. Escher, I do find his impact on her work, especially in pieces like “The Struggle” and “An Orgy of Reading“.

There are very few Graphic Designers who managed to create a unique style in their line of work, that becomes instantly recognizable without compromising the needs, values and the image of their clients. Marian is one of such designers. Her signature intricate illustrations are painstakingly detailed and delicately beautiful.

stora enso sustainability

Bantjes’s work received a huge recognition and numerous awards. Her first commercial typeface Restraint, which is more of an “ornament font which happens to contain letterforms”, was awarded with a Certificate of Excellence in Type Design from the Type Directors’ Club.

Restraint font ornament

She also received a Gold Racie award for the Want It campaign that she was hired to create for Saks Fifth Avenue by Michael Bierut at Pentagram.

Want It campaign for Saks Fifth Avenue

Stefan Sagmeister calls Bantjes “one of the most innovative typographers working today“. He likes her so much that Stefan asked Marian twice to contribute to his series “Things I have learned in my life so far”. He was so impressed with her sugar piece she did for the Fox River Paper booklet that asked to use sugar to create his phrase “If I want to explore a new direction professionally, it is helpful to try it out for myself first“.

Stefan Sagmeister: Sugar

… and here is the close up of this stunning piece of work:

sugar type close up

Marian always pushes the boundaries of the conventional design. Check out her outstanding design of TypeCon 2007 program, that includes 80 pages with the program details and 88 speakers bios. I really like the 3D structure on the cover and the poster that’s built with letters, intricately connected with each other:


Another Marian’s work that I find very beautiful is the identity and Call for Entries that she designed for Graphex 2006 — Canada’s Biennial Design Awards, organized by the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada. She explained her choice of design with her decision “to focus on nature, and the things that we all have in common in this vast country: plants and insects“. She made the logotype from maple leaves and used all Canadian fonts.


She followed this beautiful application form with a stunningly designed Graphex catalog with a laser-cut cover that allows you to see through the underlying page of magnificent florals.

So if you happen to ask me what is it that I like the most in being Canadian, my answer would be very simple—I’m proud of this country that produced so many talented individuals: from the most gifted Canadian artist Emily Carr to the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry to the iconic jazz pianist Oscar Peterson to the eccentric Glenn Gould to the remarkable writer Margaret Atwood and to my most favourite singer-songwriters k.d.lang and Leonard Cohen. This list can go on and on and on.

If you need more reasons to visit Canada and perhaps never leave it again then check out Isabella Mori’s 26 Reasons why she’ll never leave Canada.
Happy Canada Day! :)

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15 Insightful Bits in response to “Amazing World of Marian Bantjes”

  1. Very beautiful works. I’ve never heard of Marian Bantjes before. Indeed, Canada has a lot of talented artists.

  2. I haven’t heard of Marian Bantjes either, but I’m glad you have bought her to my attention. As you mentioned her work is so delicate and distinctive.

  3. I really enjoyed seeing the showcase of Marian Bantjes’ work. She displays not just artistic skill but a mindboggling level of creativity. It’s my goal to achieve a level of artistic, creative and design ability, with a reputation to match, such that I can work on a diverse and interesting range of pieces where I can really let my creativity flow like this. Not a small goal, but worth pursuing! Thanks, this is very inspiring.

    Happy Canada Day!

  4. Great artist.
    I always liked arabic art and the influence is very interesting.

  5. Thanks, everyone. Glad you enjoyed this showcase.

    Tracey, you got it perfect: Marian has a “mindboggling level of creativity”. I wish you to achieve your big goals. You’re very creative. So I don’t see why you can’t achieve those goals, as long as you always keep yourself focused on that.

    Lucinda, thanks for your comment. I’m glad I’ve discovered your site. I really enjoyed reading about the design process behind your site, branding and logo.

    Simonne: there are indeed many talented Canadian artists. How about some gifted Romanian artists? Could you perhaps, send me a couple of links, or name some?

  6. Warenwirtschaft, I too liked how Marian is able to incorporate some of the Arabic art influence with traditional lace motifs. It’s always interesting to see the mix of styles and traditions in designs.

  7. She’s incredibly talented, and her work is inspiring. She’s also proof that “simple is not always best”—the complexity in some of her work has one staring at it for ages. Yet it’s a choreographed complexity—one crafted from a sublime vision.

  8. what an amazing post, vivien! and you’re a kd lang fan, too? i don’t know why i didn’t put her on my list but then fortunately one of the commenters did :)

    and thanks, as always, for the shout-out.

  9. You’ve made a very good point there, John: she’s definitely a proof that complexity can be very beautiful. I like the way you phrased it though: “choreographed complexity” indeed.

    Thanks, Isabella, and for the Stumble too. Yes, I’m a big fan of k.d. lang—from the moment I first heard her sing Constant Craving 8 years ago.

  10. my enjoyment of kd lang goes back to the eighties. i love her covers of the old C&W songs.

  11. Quite a diverse style she has. Very original too.

  12. Vivien,

    How wonderful to see Marian Bantjes’ work here. (I remember doing sugar-writing when I was a kid in art class but it never looked like that.) Sorry I’m late to the party, this article is well-researched and I really enjoyed it.

    I didn’t know Oscar Peterson was Canadian. I have a CD of his. Neat fact for Canada Day. Hope you had a good one!



  13. The work that you have put in here is simple awesome. Its different and very striking too.

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on