We’ve been well aware of the talents London-based studio Inventory for some years and after a while, consistency inescapably slips into taking their skills for granted. “Lovely new stuff from Inventory again…” But since they’ve just given their website a bit of a tweak to better showcase their work, we decided it was the perfect time to catch up with director Robert Boon.
We have a chat about some of Inventory’s recent work; from a book for Dutch artist Jeroen Verhoeven documenting his quest to create “an impossible table” to album artwork for Lapalux created using a collage of old family photo slides, and the most recent Bompas & Parr book to an exhibition for Sky News celebrating exceptional journalism in a tumultuous year.
We also asked Rob about the challenges of changing up your website…
What was the thinking behind the website changes?
It has given us the opportunity to feature more art directed images as well as details of works in situ. Books, record sleeves and identities live out in the world not just are archive/bookshelf so reflecting these environments is something we’ll continue to explore. I wanted to showcase some key projects and create a space to talk about how we approach different challenges as opposed to purely documenting them.
How important is documenting your work in the right way?
Is it a time consuming process and we’ve become a lot better with keeping on top of it. If you have great briefs coming into the studio it makes little sense to reject them in favour of documenting work with the purpose of getting good briefs.
We shoot the work ourselves and have developed a very simple formula of documenting our work on simple coloured backgrounds that allows projects printed last week to sit next to those produced several years ago.
Tell us about the Joreon Verhoeven book – what are the challenges of working with quite complex content? How did you get round them?
The Lectori Salutem table is an incredible piece of craftsmanship and the telling of its making is an important aspect of the work. Jeroen wants to inspire you with how the impossible was made possible. The challenge with this publication was to tell the story behind the finished piece as well as represent the design principles of Jeroen and the Demakersvan Group.
Co-existing opposites and narrative are central to his practice so we collected all the material available, sketches, renders, tests and started to arrange it into chronological order so we could take the reader on the same journey from first sketch to finished table.
The piece has this inside/outside dimension, so our cloth covered book uses a swiss bind and has an exposed and rugged interior and external formality. The design features typefaces from two opposing era’s of craftsmanship; traditional carved and modern digital. The book combines a single colour process section on rough uncoated stock with a full colour exhibition section on a high gloss.
“I don’t always want to listen to the same songs and that’s how I feel about graphic design – it’s not always an Otis Redding day.”
The Lapalux work looks amazing – where did the idea of using the family photo slides come from? How does it feel that most people picking up the work won’t necessarily understand that element of the design?
We wanted to pair the music with imagery that was suitably layered and textural, and typography that was graphic but still enigmatic. We played with custom typography from the off (I’d been working on some geometric display fonts that felt right at the time) and originally we kept things simple, combining type with low res snap-shot images that Stuart (Lapalux) provided.
Something wasn’t quite working and Stuart arrived one day with a box full of family photos slides that documented years of their lives and had this idea about collaging them. We tested it and it looked great, the colours, the hazy quality, it did everything we were trying to do but better, so all credit to the man. We then designed everything around this collage and kept the custom type aspect but used it as a die cut in the slipcase.
I love that fact that on the surface the results look like a “cool digital collage” but to anyone who digs deeper (and this is the kind of artist and label where people do) you can make out slithers of child’s faces, bit of furniture and garden, and you start to piece together and imagine the life that led up to this point.
The Sky News work is very serious while the Bompas and Parr stuff is quite fun and quirky – do you enjoy working on such different content. How do you move from one approach to the other?
Observation and empathy are two of the most valuable skills in a designer’s arsenal. Each project has its own possibilities and limitations and it’s pushing them that is the rewarding part of the job.
Although the finished visuals may vary, each project can teach you something new about your process, making, clients and collaboration that you should use to feed into, bit not limit, the next. I don’t always want to listen to the same songs and that’s how I feel about graphic design – it’s not always an Otis Redding day.