Graphic Design Archive

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    Boasting PVC-clad bottoms, surreal jazz photography and beautifully-rendered risograph prints of basketball hoops, Shabazz Projects’ homepage certainly offers a well-curated and striking experience. The LA-based publishing platform was founded by Hassan Rahim and Brian Okarski, releasing art, photography and design-focused books and objects, all with a run of 200 or fewer editions. Stand-out pieces include the Various Basketball Hoops risographs, which put a whimsical spin on these often weary-looking monoliths; and Eric Wrenn and Antje Peters’ Jazz photographs, which place instruments against a dramatic plume of smoke. Hassan and Brian say their aim is to “provoke and surprise,” and from the images on their site alone, they’re certainly not letting themselves down.

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    Many a blue-sky-thinker and envelope-pusher has been extolling the virtues of meditation and mindfulness to pseudo-spiritually swell their business jargon lately. So it’s refreshing when a beautifully branded, creatively-minded product emerges that promises to offer that lucrative “pause from modern life.”

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    If all the magazines and small publications that used the internet as their subject matter were dumped on your head it’d be curtains for you – there’s bloody loads of them. Some, like Offscreen, deal with the people that make digital culture happen and try to bring these unsung heroes out from behind their screens into the RGB limelight, others, like French publication Nichons – Nous Dans l’Internet (Tits – We In The Internet) are more conceptually-minded, analysing and assessing the social and cultural phenomena brought about by the ubiquity of technology.

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    Setting up a design studio and changing your name to a cool pseudonym is a good two-fingers-up to life on the quiet side. Parisian designer Julien Ducourthial decided to make this leap, and now overseas The Jazzist, offering bold, fluoro design work “serving in fields of graphic design, illustration and art direction in digital & printed media.” When Julien emailed us he told us he was inspired by 8-bit imagery and cartoons, which gave us an immediate inkling that we were going to like his work. Anyone looking to commission a great French designer any time soon? Julien is your man.

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    We haven’t featured Oslo-based studio Heydays on the site for a while but a quick check-in with their portfolio shows they’re still producing top-quality work for an eclectic range of clients. Nöra is a design house based between London and São Paulo which among other things supplied the seats for the World Cup stadia in Brazil. Heydays wanted a look and feel that felt “sophisticated with a stylish twist.” The pointillist type treatment pulls this off neatly and there’s some impressive animated elements you can see below as well. Keep up the great work team Heydays!

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    When it comes to a trendy commission, a restaurant in east London that serves everything on the bone is right up there. Credit is due then to Burgess Studio, whose identity for the eatery doesn’t take itself too seriously. Built around a nice typographic wordmark and the simple idea of making the all-important bone into a smile, the look and feel rolls out seamlessly across everything from bags to cups, menus to the website. It’s simple, it’s striking and it steers well clear of some kind of terrible hipster overload, all of which is to be very much commended.

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    It’s been a while since we last checked in with Stockholm-based Bedow studio but there’s a host of new work to enjoy over on their site as ever. I was particularly drawn to their ongoing collaboration with Essem Design, “a Swedish manufacturer of artisanal hallway interiors.” Bedow used a refreshingly straightforward way in to what might seem like rather a niche product, building an identity around the Swedish words for “hello” and “goodbye” – the utterances most commonly heard in a hallway.

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    Producing graphic collateral for one of the world’s largest international contemporary art fairs is a brief that would have some graphic design studios quaking in their boots, but when London-based Studio Frith was approached by Frieze Art Fair they accepted with relish.

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    “Churn out” always sounds like a derisive expression when referring to exceptional creative work, but the prolific nature of some studios means it’s the only one I like to use use to conjure up the relentless mechanical precision with which these studios proceed – and I definitely don’t mean it derisively. And so to Praline, the products of whose churning we’re here to admire.

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    For graphic design types, the opportunity to run wild with a printer’s various techniques is pretty much the dream brief, and Mexican agency Anagrama have well and truly lived that dream. They were one of seven agencies studios invited to create a notebook with Imprimerie du Marais, and they were given free rein to experiment with effects like hot foil stamping, microembossing, silk screening and sewn binding.

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    When David Mckendrick told us he was leaving Esquire and setting hop a new venture with Wallpaper* art director Lee Belcher, we were fascinated to see what the fruits of such a top-notch collaboration might look like. Last week we got our answer, when a copy of the new Christie’s magazine came dropping through our letterbox.

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    When you’re set a challenge by Google’s UXA design team, there’s the expectation for something pretty darn special to be created. Fortunately for Manual, they nailed their brief and created a smart, clean, eye-catching interpretation of Google’s visual language.

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    It’s a widely-acknowledged fact that Tony Brook and his Spin team can do no wrong – they just design cracking stuff. So imagine our surprise when… no, just kidding, their latest project’s a belter too. Commissioned by Sim Smith, a London-based gallery representing emerging British talent, Tony and his team went about producing a slick, simple, monochrome identity that’s as unfussy as the artists the gallery represents. The logo, website and print collateral are all pleasantly understated, meaning the Sim Smith name won’t ever get in the way of the most important thing – the artists’ work.

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    Some design cultures outside the UK are very familiar to us, others less so, and it’s always fascinating to get a glimpse into how others are interpreting the visual world, which is why I was immediately drawn to the Prague-based Anymade Studio.

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    Few figures have impacted on the UK design scene quite like Neville Brody, and this week he announced the launch of Brody Associates, “a boutique studio network” that will specialise in digital, identity design and typography.

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    Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what our banknotes and coins would look like without Queen Liz’s face slapped all over them. As it looks like that won’t change anytime soon, I instead look to other countries for monetary inspiration.

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    When a studio with a back catalogue as impressive as Hey’s relaunch their website it’s tricky to know where to start in terms of choosing what aspect of it to cover. Is it the crisp design of their now fully-responsive site, the beautifully conceived identity for a Miami-based jam company that represents the product’s moreishness through the medium of randomly-generated die-cut patterns, or the 500 unique invitations they produced for ArtFad 2014, a contemporary Art and Craft Award? In this instance all of them because, as ever, all of Hey’s work is much too good not to show off.

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    When it comes to graphic design, there can be many reasons why certain jobs feel particularly pressurised; it may be the tightness of the deadlines, the ambition of the stated objective or the nature of the client. This latter comes in many forms but heritage can weigh very heavily, and when well-respected Berlin-based studio Double Standards were commissioned to overhaul the look of feel of Bauwlet, an architectural magazine that’s been around for 105 years, they appreciated the challenges they faced.

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    When there’s a design-themed film festival, you have a certain expectation for the branding of said festival to be executed perfectly. I imagine it’s similar to a gymnastics coach nervously watching their child protégé at their first big comp. We can all breathe a sigh of relief though as Singapore-based studio Anonymous have stuck the landing with this effortlessly cool and slick identity.

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    It seems to us that French designer Côme de Bouchony always has his hands full. If he’s not directing achingly cool music videos he’s busy launching new magazines with close friends and collaborators; adding a touch of class to the visitors’ guides at Parisian museums or, in this case, rebranding Paris’ foremost contemporary art fair. Choices Collectors Weekend is a three-day exposition that brings together 35 galleries in the French capital, each of whom choose an artist whom they represent and showcase their work in a large-scale exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Art.

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    Designer Shaz Madani has had an extraordinary year. As if it wasn’t enough to take on the art direction and design of Riposte Magazine, now in its second issue, she’s also been involved with a whole host of other projects. From the stunning exhibition catalogue to accompany Lalla Essaydi’s exhibition at Baku MoMA, to the identity for the 2014 summer shows at London College of Communications, and a documentary photography publication with Giles Duley, the diversity of her work is fascinating. Moreover it never dips below excellent. Each project is created with her clean, pared back aesthetic, unobtrusive and yet bold in its approach. We’re in awe. Can you tell?

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    American designer Elana Schlenker popped into the studio this week and came bearing gifts in the form of the new issue of her much-lusted-after Gratuitous Type magazine. There’s a humility about this printed venture you don’t often come across, with the very first sentence of the colophon setting the tone: “Gratuitous Type is a pamphlet of typographic smut. It is published infrequently.”

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    French designer Caroline Aufort is one of the co-founders of Acmé Paris, a design studio we’ve written about before, but her personal work as art director of Passion, a fanzine-like publication with roots in the mystical and the strange, deserves some attention too. Issue #3 of the publication is heavily influenced by the sublime, and takes as its theme the symbol of the blue flower from German Romanticism, representing a mythical truth which is sought by everybody. This flower crops up again and again in the publication as it references different aspects of this legend, and the mystery inherent in the subject is reinforced by design elements, from the woodland imagery which serves as a backdrop to overlaid articles to the calligraphic hand-drawn types used for headings. A bit gothic? Yes, but beautiful with it.

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    We featured the work of Verena Michelitsch back in June but on that occasion we focussed on the artier side of her practice. The Austrian graphic designer and illustrator was a founding member of the En Garde studio in Graz before moving to New York to work with Sagmeister & Walsh, Pentagram and RoandCo. Now working as design director at Sid Lee NY, Verena has an eye for stylish graphic solutions often characterised by illustrative touches and impressive restraint.

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    There are plenty of ways we hear about new creative talent, and we came across Ronan Kelly after his mate Tweeted us saying we’d be mad not to feature him. Turns out said friend was bang on the money, and we explored his portfolio with an increasing sense of excitement.

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    I’d say that when one of the few companies lauded by children the world over commissions you to design artwork for the interior walls of their HQ, you know you’ve made it. This actually happened to Patrick Savile, the graphic designer and illustrator responsible for splashing his irrevocably diverting artwork throughout the building that houses kids TV channel Nickelodeon, resulting in playful digital illustration, typographic experiments and cartoon eyes a plenty.

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    Just as you were thinking you hadn’t seen some truly joyous graphic design infused with sunshine for such a long time BAM! Here’s a bunch of magazines that are designed with one thing in mind: happiness. Javas Lehn Studio are based in New York and spend their days commissioning fantastic illustrators and not worrying about overusing exclamation marks for big brands that want a slice of the nice. Although a lot of this studio’s work is digital or signage-based, for me where they really come into their own is in the world of print. Saturdays Magazine looks delicious, and you could argue that Ace of Faith – the book they created for artist Brian Paumier – is even more lust-worthy than the art itself. I urge you to go and spend some time on their site, if it doesn’t make you want to start up your own design practice then at the very least you’re going to want to go and leave small offerings on the doorstep of Javas Lehn HQ.

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    It’s not immediately easy to get a handle on Casper Heijkenskjöld’s portfolio, but right from the off you realise you’re in the presence of an impressive creative mind. The Copenhagen-based designer and art director worked for a time for Sagmeister in New York, and seems to have brought the Austrian’s taste for pushing boundaries to his own studio which he set up in 2011.

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    With the many branches of Stoptober currently encompassing the social media feeds of our nearest and dearest, the notion of resistance is in full swing. For Muslims, the month of Ramadan is a lunar-based 30-day fast in which food and drink are consumed pre-daybreak and after sunset and other behaviour such as smoking, swearing, sex and many other sinful activities are forbidden.

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    We’re suckers for a bit of nostalgia here at It’s Nice That and this blog by renowned designer Emilio Gil provides it in gratifyingly regular doses. But to suggest that Emilio’s archive is just a way of getting a fix of retro imagery is to do it a disservice as Graphic Pioneers; Spanish Graphic Design 1939 – 1975 does much more than that.

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    Many of you will have seen Emma Watson’s spine-tinglingly good speech at the United Nations this week, calling on men to stand up and be counted in the fight for gender equality (and for the feminist movement to work with men rather than against them).

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    When I first joined It’s Nice That more than three years ago I had never heard of Elephant magazine, but it was one of those titles talked about in hushed and revered tones. As such it’s always a publication I’ve approached with high expectations, so it was interesting to hear that for the next issue, number 20, Astrid Stavro and Pablo Martin of Atlas Studio have overseen a fairly comprehensive redesign.

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    If you’re ever looking for a great reason why good graphic design is important, Pentagram partner Michael Bierut sums it up in this Kickstarter video. “New York City is a chaotic place and in the 1960s nowhere was more chaotic than the subway system,” he says. There was a “profusion of inconsistent signs” but “a lot of people were convinced that was the way it had to be; New York’s a complicated place, figure it out…”

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    It’s been eight years since the London Design Museum last redesigned its website, but last week one of the design-world’s most enduring riddles – why does one of the world’s leading design bodies have such an anachronistic web presence? – was resolved. Dutch consultancy Fabrique worked with q42 developers to create a new site with pared-back navigation, new type treatments and a much-needed elevation of big, beautiful imagery to the level it deserves.

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    To celebrate the launch of their new Paris-based art direction studio Avant Post, Quentin Berthelot, Johan Mossé and Adrien Weibel created Stop Départ. They worked with photographer Samuel Guigues to make a whole series around the neat motif of the start of an athletics race and so open their studio with a bang. Simple, stylish and well-executed, the theme hints at the studio’s ambition, gunning for gold, and suggests that it’s more than capable of achieving greatness with repeated gilt tones throughout the posters and cards. If they keep producing work of this calibre, we expect to see them on plenty more podiums in the future.

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    The mass Scandinavian cultural crush which saw us all become obsessed with the food, TV shows and chunky knitwear of our northern cousins seems to have abated somewhat but that won’t stop Lundgren + Lindqvist.

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    Ghent-based graphic designer Jelle Martens makes work which might be described as design with a heavy dollop of fine art added in. Working predominantly on record sleeve design since graduating two years ago, he has created projects for record labels Other People, Software and Unday Records among others, employing his unique mixture of colour, texture and manipulated imagery to create designs which are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

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    NACHTDIGITAL was once described as Germany’s “best kept festival secret” but now with a cult following that snaps up its entire ticket allocation in minutes, maybe organisers can be a little more creative with the visuals they commission.

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    Illustrator Eleonora Marton’s raw, bold aesthetic lends itself perfectly to large scale design, so we were happy to discover that rather than confining herself to witty, irony-soaked zines and sweet watercolour portraits, she’s unleashed her talents on a huge series of A3 posters and smaller flyers too. Using recurring imagery in varying forms – legs, animals, furniture and toys all feature – she creates posters for upcoming events which tick all the boxes event posters should. They’re eye-catching, interesting and incredibly informative, and what’s more, she makes it look incredibly easy. Just trying spotting that record player wheat-pasted up on a street corner and not taking a step closer to find out what it was advertising.

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    There’s something about the painstaking perfectionism of type design that doesn’t scream fun and frolics, but Commercial Type’s new webfont showcase is ready to prove me wrong. The New York and London based type studio run by Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes is widely-regarded as one of the best around, but the pair have struggled sometimes to communicate the personality of their fonts. Enter the Commercial Type Showcase which they built with Wael Morcos to show off the lighter side of 16 of their creations by way of 16 microsites, ranging from poetry and poster generators to a train schedule board and even a digital therapist.