BENCH.LI SETS THE BENCHMARK
Words by Laura Perm-Jardin
In an age where we are provided with a veritably endless pool of visual inspiration at the click of a button, it is becoming increasingly harder to draw any meaning from the knotted web of visual cacophony handed to us. Although websites FFFound and Tumblr serve as the most popular platforms of visually cataloging collected aesthetic (and provide the tools for anyone to do so) the lack of careful curation and credit to creators and artists leave the experience, as a whole, quite amateurishly ambiguous. The power to automatically reblog diminishes the significance of these images as ‘visual inspiration blogs’ often lack depth, from the constant spew of what can only be described as ‘image vomit.’ Bench.li offers autonomy from the average, a solace from chaotically disorganized archives in a manner that just seems effortless.
For those of you who haven’t visited Bench, the experience can be likened to flicking through a beautifully and thoughtfully published design magazine or coffee table book - refreshing, and relaxing. Bench.li isn’t too concerned with the individual place of each image, but rather the overall tone of library. Although like many designers, Bench.li founder Matt Lenz possesses a tendency towards perfectionism, bordering on obsessiveness he doesn’t agonize over how a new piece fits into the existing images. He describes Bench as his own unencumbered visual zeitgeist of his changing tastes over time. The driving motive is a disorder about order - and it’s evident. There is no obsessive classification or categorization of images, which in turn allows readers to flow through the images at their leisure, leaving them open to new discoveries but straying away from the usual bedlam of images slapped across a page.
Although nobody, including Lenz knows whether the site is called "Bench", or "Benchli", ( even or "Bench dot L.I.”) Lenz is content in whichever way people choose to express the name. “The name is a reference to the term "benchmarking"; the act of testing the air and collecting visual stimulus in the early stages of a project.” Bench was conceived by Lenz from a personal need to expel and showcase the thousands of images accumulated throughout his study of design. His urge to arrange and organise his visual inspiration into a permanent public space grew naturally into a referenced library of varying design ethos’ and aesthetics.
Lenz later invited Ted and Luke, to curate Bench.li alongside him. Matt explains they all share similar tastes in design, with clear variations - “That keeps it interesting.” What is obvious is that the contributors all share the same flair for finding pieces of work that collectively captivate a design obsessed audience and interested followers. In ‘the real world,’ Matt, Luke and Ted are all designers in respective fields, sharing an intrinsic love of all things design. Luke, who was plucked by the most recent wave of graduates by The Letter D, was originally seduced to design by a love of communication in all of it's forms - stories, forms of expression, inquiry, curiosity, honesty, people. Matt who recently left The Letter D to persue his own passion of both design and a programming has founded a design and development practice named ha-lf, seeing the absolute beauty and purity in both disciplines and noting the many converging points left to explore.
Whilst there is no particular criteria for the work that is showcased on Bench, each curator has a checklist of their own. Luke who describes himself as curious, considered and committed explains the work he chooses must be typographic, purposeful, political, conceptual, emotional and restrained. He seeks these qualities rather than bare aesthetic. Matt however, searches for anything that makes him giddy or jealous. “Whatever brings up that unmistakable feeling. It's an absolute personal subjective choice.”
Bench.li isn’t alone amongst a slew of impressive achievements that Lenz packs under his belt - the most recent a twitter based CMS website created in conjunction with Dan of The Letter D and featuring Luke as a contributor. Whilst Capital P has not yet launched (talk about an impressive sneak peak!) it has already landed on the radar of Australian In Front and launched into the stratosphere of many social media sites. With all this acclaim and success, Lenz remains humble - “I still see myself as "starting out", to be honest. I get daily pangs of Impostor syndrome. Every thread of experience I pull on seems to unravel more to learn or overcome.”