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Mysticism in Design – A Conversation with Oksal Yesilok

Mystical, elegant, blended in time. A few words that come to mind when you look at Oksal Yesilok’s reminiscent take on design. Turkish-born, Yesilok studied Art & Design at Dokuz Eylül University’s Fine Arts Faculty and has successfully run his own studio in Izmir, Turkey, since 2016.

The appreciation for what came between, applied to a timely style defines the work of the daring minimalism that Oksal produces. With multiple awards to his name, he puts his mark on many stages, from board games and card decks to posters and publications.

While chatting with Oksal, we take a look at mysticism in design through Oksal’s eyes, explore where his inspiration comes from and what are the overarching principles of his design work. Enjoy the read!

Oksal in his Studio
Oksal’s Studio
Oksal’s Workspace

Ancient Cultures as a Primary Source of Inspiration

Deeply inspired by his cultural heritage, Oksal grew up in a country with a rich blend of history. With what is believed to have been one of humanity’s first established towns erected in 6,500 b.c., Turkey has served since time immemorial as sacred ground to societies with influences from Asia, Europe, and The Middle East. Oksal described how he is influenced by this blended culture:

“The biggest benefit of being born here is the motivation to understand and research many cultures and civilizations. Ancient Rome, Byzantine Empire, Lydians (Anatolian Civilisation), Ottoman Empire etc. Fascinating objects, patterns and designs were discovered in each period.”

The Roman Empire in particular feeds Oksal’s creativity, with its mesclage of sculptures in art and architecture. The heavenly system has almost always reflected the governmental order of the time. Similarly we can see how the Roman order viewed itself in its version of the heavens. Mysticism in Design from Roman times has inspired Oksal. Helooks to buildings and architecture to understand the Roman societal structure. 

Basilica of St. John
Library of Celsus 110s A.D

“My favorite period is the Roman Empire. A great culture, both art and myths that reflect as much as today. Roman art, sculptures and architectural features in the historical ruin are very fascinating. I also find the various gods, goddesses and stories that emerged during this period inspiring.”

The Artemis of Ephesus, 2nd century AD (Ephesus Archaeological Museum)
Titus Caesar Vespasianus – Selcuk Museum

Inspirations from Murat Palta’s Mysticism

For example, “a wonderful project that blends ‘oriental’ Ottoman motifs and contemporary ‘western’ cinema” that Oksal loves is by Murat Palta. Here’s how he renders popular culture elements in the traditional style of old Ottoman miniature art:

Murat Palta Kill Bill
Kill Bill by Murat Palta
Star Wars by Murat Palta
Mysticism in Design - Goddess
Mysticism in Design - Macbeth Characters
Macbeth Characters – Oksal Yesilok

Inspirations from Efil Turk’s Oriental Symbolism

Here’s one more inspiration that Oksal has shared with us. It’s a paper clip set created by Efil Turk. The importance of blending “modern and usable” with “inspired by tradition” were two factors that Yoselik described. This paper clip is modeled from the motifs found on Kilim Turkish Rugs. It’s a prime example of how symbolism can lead to new ideas.

Mythology and Deities as a Source of Inspiration

Oksal also has a fond interest in the mythology and deities that emerged throughout the interlocking histories of his birthplace. For example, here’s one of his personal projects – a Jikanvis set for dream interpretation. As you can see from the image below, there’s a goddess in trance at the center of the box cover:

Mysticism in Design - Jikanvis Dream Set
Jikanvis Cards – Oksal Yesilok

The symbols used within the graphics denote: A place to sleep (room), Time to fall asleep (hourglass), Sleep and transition to the dream phase (gate) and Reaching the dream point (ladder). Other symbols are associated with luck and abundance. It’s a fantastic examples of Oksal’s elegant version of Mysticism in Design.

What are the overarching principles that guide your design work?

Oksal’s work sets out to take complex ideas and simplify them into visually striking aesthetics that capture the eye and the mind.

“Design is a feeling and an innate talent that comes from inside of every designer”

A diverse range of clients work with Oksal such as cologne companies, board game designers, clinics, all with different desires, styles, and standards. He told us how clients often have lots of complex ideas that they want to merge. Collaborating helps them refine what they want to achieve. Often more is said through design with less noise, as seen in these examples of his work:

Illustration for 37. International Book Fair
Women in Niqab
Beetle Poster Series
In the Oksal’s Studio

“I like to add my own interpretation by the brief we prepared in line with the customer’s requests…Use of 2 or 3 colors at the most. Symmetric pieces. Minimal illustration lines. Clients like these details and alternatives.”

Stand in Balance – Oksal Yesilok

L’OIE – Brand Identity for a French Patisserie

When curating our second volume of the Style Cards, it was Oksal’s elegant consistency with an oriental touch that stood out to us. We’ve decided to include his logo design for a French Patisserie, L’OIE into the Style Cards vol.2:

Mysticism in Design - L’OIE Patisserie

“While determining the concept, we wanted the design to look lively and minimal. I think macarons were also a source of inspiration.”

The effortless blend of tradition and modernism, with the bold and eye-catching color scheme, rightly deserved a place next to the other inspirational designers featured in our Style Cards Volume 2. 

Oksal’s use of serifs which seem inspired by old scripts sets the tone of a brand that is offering something as part of the local culture. He expertly applies stretched, tall lettering to help the brand sit tall and proud, in the present, excited to share its delicacies with passers-by.

Mysticism in Design - L’OIE Patisserie

Oksal is living proof that design has the power to connect cultures and cross borders. Using inspiration from a range of myths and legends from throughout Turkish and wider history, he brings historical elegance into the present.

Oksal’s work stands out due to its bold color schemes, the beauty he instills in even the simplest project and his fine attention to detail. We especially love the character he projects onto the various cards and games that he designs and are excited to see what mystic design he will create next.

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You can find more of Oksal Yesilok’s designs and products at his website or head on over to his Behance portfolio.