Graphic Design Archive

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    It’s the overriding rule of all things trend-driven that as soon as we take a big leap forward in technology we start to look back nostalgically, triggering all manner of retro imagery, touches and techniques. At least it seems that way, and I’m sure I’m not alone in how often I’m drawn to graphic design which places hand-drawn type and recycled imagery alongside high-tech touches.

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    At its core, dance is about innovation, beauty and movement – ideas executed brilliantly in this identity for a European contemporary dance festival by Verena Hennig and Ludwig Janoff. The clever designs take a very hand-crafted, even scrawled look, aiming to play on the idea that “the classic ballet thrives on the idea of perfection,” according to Verena.

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    Parisian studio Playground’s website really does reflect its name – a joyful metaphorical ball-pond of colour and fun. The studio works on graphic design, illustration, branding and motion graphics projects; uniting all their work through a fantastic eye for colour and line to retina-grabbing effect. As something of a huge Of Montreal fan, I was particularly drawn in by their work for the band’s 2012 release Daughter of Cloud, which offers a lush, psychedelic alternative to their usual illustration-led artwork.

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    Wilfred van der Weide was once part of Dutch design duo wilfredtimo, whose work we’ve been admirers of since we came across these superheroic graphics in 2012. After several years in each other’s pockets they’ve gone their separate ways, but unlike most break-ups, some of the results have been beautiful.

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    Dutch designer Roosje Klap recently set up an international initiative known as The Design Displacement Group with the intention of approaching modern design in new and unusual ways. Their intention is to “form a group together which creates work as seen from the future. Yes! We time-travel 20 years and look back on today, to understand the discourse of graphic design as it is happening today – with different eyes and speculative future categories.

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    Belgian designer Corbin Mahieu learned his craft at the prestigious Sint Lucas School of Arts in Ghent, following in the footsteps of a legion of other respected Belgian designers and illustrators. His work is academic in style; specifically focussed on arts projects for the local creative community in Ghent. Although he’s recently completed an internship in London at Zak Group, presumably developing into further spheres of design in the process. Pictured is a beautifully realised catalogue for his alma mater, exploring the facilities and faculty in detail.We’d say he’s definitely one to watch, and hopefully he’s sticking around in London a little longer.

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    Berlin-based consultancy D describes itself as a “two-headed quadruped that focuses on graphic design and illustration” that “was born, speaks, thinks, and of course eats Italian.” It’s this heritage and appetite that explains the beautiful identity work the studio has created for Italian furniture design factory Edizione Limitata. We don’t often get excited about catalogues, but this one really is lovely, showing well-shot images of the furniture alongside more playful, painterly illustrations with brushstrokes and doodle-like patterns acting as a lovely contract to the slick imagery of the pieces on sale. It’s great to see the usually rather serious world of furniture given a less stony-faced identity, though the careful use of colour and typography as shown on business cards, stationery and technical sheets still shows Edizione Limitata as very much the high-end Italian operation.

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    There’s nothing heavy-handed about Seoul-based design studio fnt’s work. It’s like the graphic design equivalent of that little dish of mint-flavoured ice cream you get handed between courses at fancy restaurants to refresh your palette; something about their refined use of thin lines in muted colours on a white background feels newly delicate, when you’ve spent several hours being accosted by great slabs of colour and text that feel like a knock to the head. Maybe it has something to do with the Korean script, introducing a whole new realm of possibilities to the ways they treat typography, or the studio’s willingness to dabble in patterns and geometric shapes in a simple and understated way to jazz up otherwise clean layouts.

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    Furniture, typefaces, identities and posters, websites, limited edition fashion lines, music packaging and abstract works all exist within the broad practice of Berlin-based designer Till Wiedeck. Under the moniker of HelloMe, he’s been a constant creative force on the contemporary graphic design scene for the past six years, accumulating big-name clients like The New York Times, COS and Warp Records among others. This recent work for German/French art fund Perspektive, is characteristic of Till’s holistic approach to his process, with print collateral, web and all other elements of the identity created by the studio, all united by a bespoke typeface.

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    It’s all well and good writing about slick, big-client, big-agency graphic design. But once in a while it’s bloody lovely to cast our eyes over a graphic design project that takes itself not-so-seriously. One photographed using Polaroid, and sent to us as if broadcast directly from amidst a 90s Kevin Smith film. The projection questions is the visual identity for Baohaus – a restaurant that takes its name as a smart little play on, er, bauhaus and Bao – the form of Taiwanese food the restaurant specialises in.

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    Some people may be already winding down for Christmas but not so Rob Gonzalez and Jonathan Quainton, aka Sawdust. They’ve just updated their site with so much new work that we were genuinely spoiled for choice when it came to selecting what to focus on. Great typographic illustrations for_Men’s Health_,_ Wired and The New Republic didn’t make the cut on this occasion; instead we decided to showcase two very different, but equally excellent, print projects.

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    It can’t be easy working on a brief set by a client that’s both an art event organised by a non-profit and a big banking firm. How best to balance a slick, serious look with one that shows creative awareness? For The Partners’ branding for the new Bank of China-sponsored Hong Kong Art Gallery Week event, the consultancy cleverly chose to look to a sense of place to inspire its look, which is informed by the area’s hilly topography. The event bring together more than 50 local galleries and museums, who spend ten days opening their spaces up for all, aiming to promote the work of local artists and contemporary Chinese Hong Kong art to the world.

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    There’s something deliciously tactile about Anne Jordan’s book cover designs. Much of her work unites a very materials-driven approach with clever typography, resulting in work that makes a two-dimensional image feel extraordinarily physical. The designer is based in Rochester, New York, and is also one-half of the duo behind the Walking blog, a rather sweet project in which she and her husband take half an hour a day to make something creative and post it online. However, we wanted to focus on her designs for books; and especially hone in on the way she takes an often oblique title and creates a design that plays off it, frequenly in smart, unexcited ways. Her look for The Woman Who Read Too Much, for instance, plays with cliched images of femininity like hair and curves to render the title less legible; and the look for Kevin McLauhlin’s Poetic Force uses feint lettering and thin-to-breaking-point paper as a backdrop. The choices seem obvious as we write them down but her work is anything but, creating covers that delight and make you think in equal measure.

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    Many a trite fridge magnet, when not busy reminding us how a minute on the lips is a lifetime on the hips, has extolled some wisdom about failure being a good thing, or a reason to try again, or a learning curve or some-such. But that might just be because it’s true. Failure is, indeed, a precursor to learning – something designers are perhaps even more aware of than most. Vince Frost, the former Pentagram designer who founded Frost*Collective, where he holds the post of executive creative director and CEO, is well aware of this, devoting a chapter to failure in the book he launched a few months back, Design Your Life.

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    When graphic designers discuss working for arts clients, more often than not they tell us about how important it is that an identity or series of exhibition graphics can sit back, being confident enough to let the artwork speak for itself. The real skill lies in doing this while also managing to devise a look that’s instantly recognisable. It’s even better if said look is, in its own way, as beautiful as the artworks it’ll be used to help promote.

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    Lyon-based studio Catalogue make the sort of no-nonsense, pared back graphic design that shows that being experimental and forward-thinking needn’t be at the cost of being super slick. Working across projects including identity design, web design and signage, they frequently take on commissions for equally experimental clients – one of which caught our eye in the form of this identity for Saint-Étienne-based musique concrète Festival des Musiques Innovatrices.

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    Recently we’ve all been fawning over a Glaswegian studio called Risotto for their super-fun risograph posters, prints and flyers. To be honest, I never thought we’d find an equivalent over the Atlantic in Montreal. Last week, one of our go-to French guys over in Paris, Raphael Garnier, got in touch to tell us about Charmant & Courtois, a French-Canadian design studio with a penchant for printing and some very good parties to go to.

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    If our ancestors in the early 20th Century were outwardly governed by modesty then I think we can safely consider the modern age a revolution against their way of thinking. And with a new nudie mag on the stands every few months or so, printed media seems to be leading the way. Brava proposes to be different to the others though, by creating an online platform focusing on the physical form in all its iterations, rather than just on sex. "_Brava_ is the place to talk about the body,” explains Madrid-based design studio Naranjo—Etxeberria, which was called in to create a visual identity for the new site. “The naked body, the one with power to provoke desire, scandal, shame, sensuality, exhibitionism, eroticism…”

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    Back in March, Unit Editions published Manuals 1 – a weighty tome showcasing corporate identity design manuals for the likes of NASA, Lufthansa and the NYC Transit Authority. A book you’d assume to be for a rather niche, terrifyingly geeky contingent of graphic designers. But niche or not, the book was hugely popular and quickly sold out, prompting Unit Editions to create a second volume, efficiently named Manuals 2.

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    Most completed identity project result in a neat digital suite of assets – a carefully constructed series of jpg and eps files, a neat PDF of easily-emailed brand guidelines, perhaps a GIF version of a logo to liven things up. It’s all so tidy and efficient – which, of course, good design is all about. So it’s a very brave move to create an identity that exists only in a very physical format – big blocks of wood, to be precise, with no digital form whatsoever. But that’s exactly what Kent Lyons did in their identity for the Jarman Awards, a renegade move beautifully in sync with the filmmaker the prize celebrates, Derek Jarman.

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    Whether we’ve been laying down on a pillow pair of trousers to gaze at Pipilotti Rist’s projections, diving among Martin Creed’s white balloons along with everyone else on Instagram or gasping in delight at Antony Gormley’s wee terracotta populous, the shows we’ve seen at the Hayward Gallery have been consistently among the best we’ve ever visited. And as is befitting for such an incredible institution, over its history the Hayward has been promoted by some equally incredible posters.

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    It’s always a treat to get updates from Bureau Mirko Borsche, all the more so when there’s a Home Alone reference involved as well. Mirko and his team have just redesigned Super Paper a free newspaper that prints 15,000 copies for the good people of Munich. The phrase “free newspaper” conjures up certain connotations not always aligned with good design values, but this is Mirko at his mercurial best; weird, confrontational and not afraid to rip up the rule book. And of course, any excuse to get Kevin McAllister on the homepage is not to be sniffed at.

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    I first met Gabriella Marcella at one of those occasionally-awkward drinks mingling sessions which happen after talks and other events. We spoke about her Glasgow risograph print and design studio and did our best to pilfer canapés from any and every passing waitress. But it was only when my colleague Liv came across her work at the Graphic Design Festival Scotland that I took the time to check out her work again and was bowled over not only by her smart new site but also by her bright and vibrant print and poster design.

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    French type designer Benoît Bodhuin is certainly not a man afraid of experimentation. He’s created some great protest poster type, the ZIGZAG typeface to help “break the rhythm of reading” and the rather lovely fractured-looking Mineral; and now he’s back with some lettering formed only from bars and triangles.

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    As university projects go, it’s safe to say this theatre branding by a designer who goes under the name Brandon mg is superbly considered and strong. Created as a live project at Camberwell College of the Arts, Brandon’s bold, direct work is something of a contrast to the company’s former look and feel, which you can see on its site here.

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    There’s a lot to be said for the role of the collector in the design community, given that new trends in graphic design are so often informed by vintage and retro styles. Sourcing, hunting down, collecting and then carefully preserving graphic ephemera, these archivists have a passion for their subject which tends to go unrewarded by the designers pinning archival scans to mood boards and reference sheets.

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    One of the nice things about going to magazine launches is running into talented folks while you’re queuing for a sponsored-vodka-based drink. I can’t take credit for the meeting myself – I was too focussed on jumping the queue – but our art director Jamie got chatting to Gabriel Finotti through a mutual friend and it turned out the Brazilian designer’s work was pretty damn slick.

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    We like a creative solution that is a little obtuse here at It’s Nice That and so this identity work from Dublin-based designer Dolce Merda truly tickled our fancy. Not Saying Boo organise secret gigs and late night parties across the Irish capital, but the designer decided to eschew the visual treatments often associated with exclusive, hidden or little-known cultural events when it came to creating the gig posters.

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    I’d like to think that somewhere a kind critic got drunk one night and confessed to his typographer friend that “presentations of new typefaces can be kind of boring, y’know.” If so, we have him to thank for the number of the innovative new projects we’ve seen this year, as type foundries and designers alike come up with new and ever more intriguing ways to show off new letterforms; from Commercial Type’s Showcase site a couple of months back, to this cool film yesterday. Not to mention this ace new minisite by independent foundry Grilli Type.

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    Since we last featured their work, the good people of Rotterdam-based Studio Dumbar have been quietly beavering away at what they do best – making some striking and brave graphic design work, this time for Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design. Known as PolyU Design, the school recently opened its new Zaha Hadid-designed Jockey Club Innovation Tower building as part of its broader drive to showcase Hong Kong to the world as an Asian design hub and bring in more students, according to Studio Dumbar.

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    If we put a penny in a jar for every time we gave a nod to Berlin-based studio Haw-lin relentless sourcing of cracking creative talent we’d likely have at least a fiver in there by now. And by way of adding to the growing stash, here’s another gem we came across on on their online moodboard – Alexander Medel Calderón. The Santiago-based graphic designer and illustrator makes work which is colourful and playful above all else, championing a palette of primary colours and a selection of shapes straight from Microsoft Word with an admirable nonchalance. While it’s not all fun and games – Alexander has an innovative and experimental approach to typography too, proven by some super sharp poster design and flashy lettering – there’s a healthy dollop of irreverence in what he does, and we’re complete suckers for a bit of that.

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    Benjamin Kivikoski and Philipp Staege are Bureau Progressiv, a Stuttgart-based design studio with an already impressive portfolio to their name. The German designers are both graduates of the Stuttgart Academy of Fine Arts, where they’ve honed their typographic skills and become expert practitioners of publishing projects, branding and identity creation – and even the odd bit of web design too. Their passion lies in print though and books like Willisau and All That Jazz (pictured) show off an affinity for ink on paper that’s evident throughout their portfolio. Sadly we can’t show you the whole thing, so recommend at least a good half-hour spent perusing their various projects.

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    We get no shortage of submission emails at It’s Nice That, so when one arrives from someone with a name that comes out as brilliantly as “Vincent Champagne” when viewed with Google translate enabled, it certainly livens things up. Real name the marginally less exciting Mr Champenois, Vincent is founder of Paris-based studio Atelier à Propos, which works on graphic design projects for clients as diverse as fashion brands, technology companies, writers and Bums, which is apparently a voucher site. However, of the studio’s recent work we were most impressed by the visual identity and print designs for the band Inkwood.

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    It’s customary at the annual Swedish design awards, Design S, for a three-dimensional S to be awarded to the finest of Scandinavian practitioners; and it’s always made from traditional Swedish materials. Previous years have seen it crafted from finest Swedish wood, but this year’s award by BVD is folded from Swedish paper, fashioned into a giant origami letterform. We hadn’t a clue how they’d done it, but pleasingly there’s an accompanying video that shows you how to make your own.

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    Whether you’re a gherkin lover or a fastidious type who sits carefully peeling the little green things from between burger buns, there’s no denying just how awesome the identity for this Madrid pickle stall is. Barcelona-based graphic design studio Bendita Gloria is behind the look for the stall, named Bombas, Lagartos y Cohetes, which joyfully translates as Bombs, Lizards and Rockets. Owned by Kike Martínez, it specialises in “banderillas” – little morsels of different deli foods skewered together.

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    Pitting black and white photography against block colour, Pentagram’s new identity work for Queens Theatre in New York is slick, bright and strong; with as much vibrancy and grace as the performers that tread the venue’s boards. Designed by Paula Scher, the identity is based around a logo created from simple, geometric shapes alluding to the theatre’s architecture; which can be pulled apart and rearranged across various different applications to demonstrate the theatre’s broad and diverse programming, and appeal to an equally diverse audience.

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    Year six is a tricky time to remember. Clearly we were too busy counting pogs, furtively worrying about training bras and forging detailed plans of how to marry Damon Albarn to forge many other remembrances. What it’s likely we’ve forgotten, then, is the terror of leaving for senior school and all that entailed – going from being a big fish (relatively) to a tiny one who suddenly felt a bit embarrassed about still wearing her hair in two plaits.

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    Featured back in January, Barcelona-based studio Querida has had a busy few months churning out more of its stylishly colourful and well-considered design work. One of its latest projects is this catalogue for Spanish opticians, Optiques Prats which takes the form of an incredibly stylish magazine catering for the optically challenged.

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    It’s wonderful when graphic design perfectly unites two seemingly disparate concepts – and Commission Studio’s branding for a Lewes-based homeware brand is a quietly brilliant example. The project saw the London studio (which designed our 2013 Annual) create the look and feel for a range of delicate, subtle pieces like candles and soaps with a name that deliberately sounds anything but delicate and subtle – Freight.

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    There’s a whole heap of great design studios in Barcelona with which we’re very familiar but it’s always a joy to discover talent we haven’t come across before. Such is the case with P.A.R, a graphic design and art direction studio run by Iris Tarraga and Lucía Castro. The way they talk about their approach eschews any kind of bullshit, as they write on their website: “Our methodology is simple: We listen to our clients, we understand their needs and we solve them. Our style is clear and direct, we take care of the balance and harmony in our designs, we use typography and colour accurately, we believe in functional design.”