This Illustrator Loves Change
Miniature worlds, robots, organic explosions of color, and more—Yann Sadi, the Paris-based illustrator who goes by “blindSalida” online—contains multitudes.
In early 2016, when Sadi designed a teaser for a yet-to-be-announced Chrysler model, he inserted subtle clues to the car’s identity. The whole illustration consisted of the numbers 880, though each number became a self-sufficient storyboard of sorts. The design firm Wieden + Kennedy had seen the way Sadi turns numbers into stylized miniature worlds, and enlisted him because of it.
A two-lane road that turned into a fuel pump wound around itself to make the first 8, while a family of eight, a puppy, a few bicycles, a stroller, snorkel, and smooth, silvery vehicle popped up out of stripes of watery blue surrounding the road. The road that made up the second 8 turned into an electrical plug-in. This excited Chrysler aficionados, who began picking apart the image on discussion forums, hoping to divine what Chrysler would unveil at the upcoming North American International Auto Show. On Torque News, blogger Patrick Rall guessed that the 880 would be a next-generation hybrid minivan, pointing out the large family and “variety of scenic-looking locations” as evidence. On Reddit, commenters guessed at the numbers' meaning—“8 passenger? 80 MPGe? 80 mile electric range?”
“It’s really fun for an illustrator to have fans just trying to get the answers about this car,” says Sadi, speaking by Skype from Paris.
Over the past decade, Sadi has built up a portfolio with impressive range, though he still returns to certain themes and tropes. Vintage tech reappears, as does numbering made up of that dense, meandering imagery, and three-dimensional graphics alongside flattened geometry. He’s done jobs for a number of highly visible international clients, including Duracell, Honda, Kiehl’s, and Google. Sadi works exclusively in Adobe Illustrator CC.
When Sadi began his career, the millennium was dawning and it was unusually easy for a young creative to slide into a design industry that was still trying to understand the Internet. His first stint was as an art director, and a subsequent job involved producing events. “We put jeans on trees, for example,” he recalls. “Another event that was funny involved ninja turtles in the sewer.” His break as an illustrator came when a client asked him to produce ten digital paintings that could be printed on canvas. He used the linear, wiring-inspired visuals that he still occasionally employs, and the magazine write-ups about the paintings jump-started his illustration career. “It was a great acceleration in just a few months,” he remembers. He continued to art-direct during the day for the next two years, working freelance at night.
Lines remained his core tool at first: three-dimensional electrical wires would circle around and double over themselves, making letters or the outlines of gadgets. “We can do anything we want with line,” notes Sadi, adding that the intricacies and contours of new and old technology, wiring, cranks, speakers and dials intrigue him. “I always think they’re really beautiful.”
In 2014, Sadi created a series of self-portraits: his own profile composed of dripping, swirling volumes of color. It had a high-tech, sci-fi quality—perhaps some future hologram technology will render human form by pulling together light and color so fluidly. It also had an organic look that differed from his wire images. “For a long time, I was really interested in liquid, and I still think there are so many ways to navigate with liquid.” These portraits, which he did for himself initially, led to other jobs. For example, he illustrated a lush container of Kiehl’s body cream with milky drips, leaves, and nuts flowing across the picture plane.
“I work on several things at once,” says Sadi, who draws from his home and rarely travels for work despite his international clientele. “I don’t want to repeat myself again and again.” He maintains diversity in his practice intentionally, taking on jobs that push him to think differently; for example, the Cannes Lion festival invitation he made for Google resembles a Richard Scarry storybook in its visual density. Still, he’s not sure he considers his craft art.
“To be honest, I’m not sure illustrators are really artists with a capital A,” he says. “I mean, an artist has something deep inside his mind or heart and he wants to provide and to express this to the world.” Sadi wants instead to adapt to his circumstances, and he welcomes client-imposed limitations. “Without limitations, my mind goes in so many directions,” he says. He also relishes the way certain clients challenge him to think and then create differently. “I like a lot of change,” he says.