Graphic Design Archive

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    As far as we can tell the only criteria Leif Podhajsky has for collaborating with a musical artist is their current level of cool. A swift scroll through his now expansive portfolio reveals nothing but exquisite imagery for the very finest artists of the moment. Usually he seems to work for musicians on the cusp of global success (Foals, Tame Impala and Lykke Li being perfect cases in point) but his latest collaboration is with someone much more established; Kelis.

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    Rotterdam-based design studio Studio Beige might go by a moniker which calls to mind a mindless stretch of nondescript off-white, but their portfolio proves the work they make to be anything but.

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    There’s great anecdote in Rick Poynor’s introduction to Think In Colour, a celebration of Belgian graphic designer Hugo Puttaert and his Visionandfactory studio. In 2010 Hugo was commissioned to produce a poster for a contemporary art exhibition in Aalst but the clients eventually decided they didn’t like it and rejected it. No matter; Hugo paid for it to be printed himself and then had it flyposted across the city on the eve of the show. “Those who believe in the medium’s potential,” Rick notes shrewdly, “have no alternative but to keep pushing.”

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    If you’re into hand-drawn type then look away now in case you wet yourself with excitement. A quick visit to collaborative blog Friends of Type last week was enough to show us that they have been very busy in the last few years since we posted about them. Well, when I say busy I don’t mean busy as in staring at a screen all day like a chump, but busy making beautiful letter-pressed posters and examples of swooping, colourful letterforms.

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    There’s not many people we write about on here who I can intro by announcing that I’ve seen their genitals, but wonderfully-named Australian Wade Jeffree is one such creative. The Australian designer is now based in New York city where he works at Sagmeister & Walsh (for whom he stripped down as part one of the studio’s legendary naked promo images). But let’s leave little Wade out of this and focus instead on his other talents.

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    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.

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    You can’t blame me for being drawn in by the overwhelming presence of fruit in designer and art director Leta Sobierajski’s portfolio. There’s a lot of it. There’s also of meat, cheese and geometric shapes, but that’s neither here nor there – it’s the fruit we’re fixated on.

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    Hey Studio always impress us with their consistently superb work. Their evolution over the past few years from die-hard champions of Swiss Modernism to creators of truly versatile work has delighted us, and it’s wonderful to see them grow into their creative potential. That said, we still really love their modernist posters, which is good for us as they’re about to go on display at Mad Shop in Barcelona from 11 April until 5 June 2014. There you’ll be able to see a huge variety of Hey’s poster projects, from their dynamic work for Film Commission Chile to recent pieces for ESPN Barcelona. Nice!

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    Brighten The Corners have excellent pedigree when it comes to working with Anish Kapoor. Who can forget the dazzlingly good and deservedly-much-lauded annual report they collaborated on for a lighting company back in 2012? So when Anish needed a catalogue for his first major show in Germany, it’s no great surprise he turned to Frank Philippin and Billy Kiosoglou and the duo worked their magic once again.

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    Here’s an excellent example of identity design which works brilliantly both when pared back to its simplest elements, and as part of something larger. Warsaw-based design studio Noeeko have created an impressively comprehensive identity for Branch Creative, an executive production and advertising studio, which is playful and recognisable in a crowd. Partly because it’s yellow – a vibrant, proud ochre – and partly because it’s based around a playful word-search format.

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    If you’re the world’s oldest and most respected auction house, who do you go to when you’re looking for a comprehensive rebrand? Probably to one of the world’s most respected design consultancies. In the case of Sotheby’s that’s exactly what they did, enlisting Pentagram to revamp everything about their visual presence, from their logo mark to the design of their in-house magazine.

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    Ken Garland has long been one of our creative heroes here at It’s Nice That – he’a man who combines talent and charm with effervescent energy. So imagine our excitement when we found out that Pudkin Books – the publishers he started with wife Wanda in 2008 – were finally available online. The overarching theme of the series is “A Close Look At…” and most of them showcase Ken’s own photography, with subjects ranging from pebbles to street graphics, Mexican windows to Berlin’s Buddy Bears. But others feature John Laing’s watercolours, Lana Durovic’s photographs and most intriguing of all, utterly charming illustrations produced by Ken’s daughter Ruth when she was just a teenager (A Close Look At Playing Out).

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    Documentary photographer Ewen Spencer knows a thing or two about garage. After graduating from Brighton university in 1997 he launched himself into the UK’s burgeoning garage scene, camera firmly in hand, documenting the dizzying highs of the country’s nightlife. The photographs he took of the time have recently been compiled in the newly-released and beautifully designed, UKG.

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    Carole Gautier and Eugénie Favre are My Name is Wendy, a French graphic design studio based in Paris whose work is characterised by an incredibly strong visual language. In D/I/M/E/N/S/I/O/N they created a series of posters in which they reinterpreted the familiar forms of letters, as objects.

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    There are different levels of commitment to design geekery, and the new book from Unit Editions is a reward for those who really put in the hard yards. Manuals 1 is billed as “the first comprehensive study of corporate identity design manuals” and features 20 examples of the guidelines given to designers in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. From NASA to Lufthansa and the NYC Transit Authority to British Steel, the book provides a masterclass in how institutions built their visual languages – and by extension defined themselves – in what has been called “the golden era of identity design.”

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    We like to think we don’t watch all that much TV here at It’s Nice That. We’re too cultured to be slumping down in front of the box and watching whatever’s on. But the reality is we’re terrible consumers of TV shows, we just do it with box-sets in three-day sessions over a bank holiday; in bed, blinds down, takeaway pizzas on speed-dial. Which means we’re not even slightly immune to this fantastic project from Kevin Wu, that cropped up on Wired yesterday.

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    Lookbooks can get a bit samey sometimes. Nice though their purpose is, it can occasionally transform into an opportunity for brands to pop flawlessly beautiful models in their clothes and then photograph them against flashy backgrounds. Unless, of course, the brand is Bodega. The super trendy Boston-based menswear retailer have shaken things up a bit this season, forgoing the traditional lookbook in favour of a set of tradable baseball and basketball cards packaged in that nostalgic foil corner-shop packaging of yore. The images are brilliantly lo-fi, the models wield basketballs and baseball bats to enhance their ready-to-play-at-a-moment’s-notice appearance, and as a result the clothes look wearable and desirable. A commendable effort, Bodega! Now, can we swap you the pullover baseball jersey for the nylon rugby kit?

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    We post a fair few creatives on the site who specialise in poster design and are adept at using their graphic skills to grab your attention from the other side of a room. But often those skills don’t translate across different media – what makes for a great poster won’t necessarily work in a smaller format or across digital platforms. This seems like an obvious statement, but is often a stumbling block for young designers.

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    We’ve sung the praises of Danish studio Designbolaget before, and I’m sure that our enthusiastic reception of their stunning body of work back in 2012 more than warrants an update on what they’ve been working on since then. Which brings us to the visual identity they’ve designed for the National Gallery of Denmark’s new exhibition of Haim Steinbach’s work, and a fantastic demonstration of what this spectacularly able studio does best.

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    Japanese studio Akaoni Design have got so much fantastic work under their belts it’s almost impossible to pick out a favourite piece. So we didn’t, instead offering you an overview of their lovely work. The Yamagata-based consultancy have an incredible skill for combining hand-drawn and digital elements to create a graphic language that’s entirely their own. Similarly they combine Roman type and Kanji characters with effortless flair, making bilingual design look a breeze.

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    Always With Honor are one of those frustratingly talented studios capable of effortlessly turning out thoughtful, considered design and illustration for clients as international and massive as Nike and as small as Boke Bowl, their local noodle bar. This scalable approach to clients comes to bear on their aesthetic choices too. Their vector graphics can be transformed from hard-hitting monochrome icons to a playful herd of animals (like the ones below) with the simple addition of a few colours, and yet still maintain that signature Always With Honor vernacular.

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    We’re great believers in the going the whole hog here at It’s Nice That. Incremental change is all well and good, but sometimes it’s great to embrace a brave new world which is what our friends over at YCN have done. Originally launched in 2001 as the Young Creative Network, YCN has evolved into something quite different in the subsequent 13 years, although based on the same principles around supporting creative endeavour. To mark a change to YCN standing for “You Can Now,” they have worked with the peerless Matt Willey on a new logotype and graphic language based around the Founders Grotesk typeface.

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    No matter how geographical the context, the smallest mention of the city of Charleston in South Carolina immediately calls to my mind a dapper group of 1930s ladies and gents in their best threads, lindy-hoppin’ across a quaint ballroom. A silly notion it may seem, but it’s not so far-removed from the southern city’s self-image, as this identity shows.

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    Sometimes the best design projects never even see the light of day. Once the client rejects them (the fools!) they’re erased from the public domain and confined to a plan chest of unrealised ambition. But that doesn’t mean they’re not great pieces of work…

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    We’ve always suspected that Robert Hunter was a talented chap – we were certainly aware that his illustration skills were pretty top notch. But what we hadn’t appreciated was what a diverse range of skills he’s got tucked up his sleeve.

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    Children’s books are often a singular entity as far as fiction is concerned; everybody remembers their favourite, but you’d be hard-pressed to explain why, for example, a caterpillar with an insatiable appetite appealed to millions of children. So you can only give an appreciative nod to the illustrators and designers looking to capture the ineffable in creating those much-loved tomes.

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    Thus far we’ve only featured Fons Hickmann in the context of their work for cultural institutions. They’ve continually produced stunning work for Dresden’s Semperoper and Wuppertal’s Impulse Theater, drawing on the heritage of their locales to create imagery that has an inherent nostalgia but remains distinctly modern.

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    I read a good Tweet from MagCulture recently bemoaning how often you hear/read the “They say print is dead but…” way of introducing interesting and exciting print projects. The same could be said of the commonplace discussion of record sleeve artwork in the context of the post-iPod vinyl revival. So let’s skirt round that well-trodden cultural turf and content ourselves with celebrating a German studio which seems to have utterly mastered the art.

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    Hamburg-based graphic designer Marcel Häusler has something of a way with words; his unashamedly colourful type-orientated eye for design has graced design from books and catalogues, all the way to exhibitions and posters. This particular graphic concept, for the event, party and performance happening around Timeless Fitness for Karl Anders, is a prime example of what he’s so excellent at. With a strong, colourful aesthetic focused around the malleable application of type and shapes, he creates an identity which functions as well on an invitation as it does blown up huge on the walls of a venue.

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    Since 2012 we’ve posted about Colophon Foundry, directly or indirectly, eight times. We use their Aperçu font on the It’s Nice That website, and on most of our other platforms. When they do new stuff, we pay attention. In short, we love these guys, for their unflinching devotion to their output and the sheer quality of their work – they’re a clever bunch of chaps. And yet Colophon is a mere five years old, making them positively youthful in business terms. To celebrate reaching this modest age they’re holding a show at KK Outlet next month, creating an exhibition of 26 fictional possibilities for 26 existing typefaces, imagining the potential of each without the constraints of commercial realities. We’re excited to see how it all turns out!

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    Haymarket creative director Paul Harpin has recently launched a new initiative that sees typefaces being sold to raise money for Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support. Paul came up with the idea following the death of his 26-year-old niece, Laura. Since then he’s been designing a hand-drawn typeface in her memory which is now available to purchase form the BuyFontsSaveLives site. Alongside Laura are faces created by Matt Willey and Henrik Kubel and one donated by Michael Heseltine among others. You can also donate fonts to be sold if you happen to be a type designer. So get buying and donating your fonts and help these guys raise as much money as possible.

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    It’s a challenge creative agents are very familiar with; how do you best showcase an eclectic roster of talent in way that celebrates the particular abilities of each while maintaining some measure of coherence across the agency as a whole? Well London-based Visual Artists has given a masterclass in doing just that by way of their brilliant new site designed by Yes Studio. The use of imagery – both still and moving – creates a vibrant, dynamic and enjoyable user experience, the perfect platform to shout about the skills of VA’s portfolio of creative excellence. I really like the pithy communication as well; short sharp bursts of information rather than self-indulgent artists’s statements are the order of the day and keep the overall look and feel very visually-led. Top work all round.

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    One of the things people always take for granted in university are the facilities. It’s only later when you’re staring, dead-eyed at a screen that you realise you should have put in a few extra hours in the dark room, or pulling prints in the screen-printing studio. Plymouth College of Art believes this kind of hands-on learning is vital to creative students realising their potential, despite a worrying trend “towards more convenient desk-based creative learning in the UK,” according to principle Professor Andrew Brewerton.

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    What luck to stumble across French studio Twice this week, lurking as they were in the cyberwebs like a shining gem in a mass of swirling murky water. The Paris-based art direction and graphic design studio is made up of Fanny Le Bras and Clémentine Berry, and their work is characterised by infallible attention to detail, and cobalt blue. Lots of blue.

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    Doesn’t it just boggle your MIND how good every single record sleeve is? Whether you’re rummaging through a mouldy box at a car boot sale or flicking through a friend’s collection, it’s always astonishing to see the level of craftsmanship by potentially entirely unknown artists that decorates this packaging. For me the illustrated ones are always my favourite – pastel colours, psychedelic typography and cute happy cartoons – which is why when we came across this archive, it kind if made my Friday.

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    Last weekend was International Women’s Day, a worldwide celebration of extraordinary female talent and a call-to-action for equality. But it’s easy to be assuaged by such high profile initiatives and lose sight of how much more work there is to do, and stats like this stop you in your tracks; when Tori Hann went to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in 2013 she found that although 71% of the graphic design department were women, female designers accounted for just six percent of those designers studied as part of the curriculum.

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    Now this is my kind of identity. Not only do Barcelona-based studio Cocolia have a portfolio chockablock full of the excellent work they’ve done from identities, art direction and illustration, but it also serves to prove that know how to do great things with the humble squiggle. The identity they created for their own studio is comprehensive, consistent and pleasingly homemade. Stationery, from notebooks and letterheads, to business cards and a, er, small plastic sheep, are all customised with their trademark swirls of green, orange and red, to create a simple and friendly aesthetic that basically just makes us want to be friends with them. Great design can do that y’know.

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    “When I was a junior junior at Pentagram in 1977, Alan Fletcher used to walk around his team, and without saying anything help himself to one of his assistant’s cigarettes, in front of them. No one said anything. After a while of this he came to my desk again. As his hand reached down to my cigarettes, I chirped up: ‘Either pay me money so I can buy more fags or f*** off and buy you own.’ A small smile crossed his mouth and ever since then we’ve got on very well together.”

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    It’s interesting to see the resurgence of vintage and retro design traits that often accompany the most ultra-modern of new business ventures. London-based studio Socio Design’s identity for new digital development agency Soap is a prime example of such nostalgia; their identity for the uses insignia, finishes and stationery-heavy old school elements which have been charmingly reconfigured for a contemporary audience.

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    When South African studio King James and the Punk creative agency came together to work on the latter’s new corporate identity, they decided to go right back to basics. The King James team realised that recognition is really determined by features which are the result of genetics, so they set about creating an identity that worked on the same principles. Punk then wrote a programme that took existing typefaces and “bred them” creating a set of new fonts that combined characteristics of their parents.