Graphic Design Archive

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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.

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    There are few architectural styles that split the room (excuse the pun) quite as much as Brutalism. Fo some it’s a concrete nightmare of harsh and unsympathetic 1960s developments, for others though it’s a curiously beautiful, utopian throwback.

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    Baptist Espinay, and Galand Julie Valentine Thébaut are Zoo, a Parisian studio specialising in graphic design that borders on the kitsch. Their practice spans everything from exhibition signage and print publishing to web design and UI, but across each discipline they maintain a playful sense of enjoyment and experimentation, bringing in anachronistic design details that evoke bygone eras when our tastes were more outlandish. With that in mind there are sometimes elements of the purely decorative to be found in their portfolio, but always with the knowing application of one who understands completely the origins of their inspiration.

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    We love it when good people collaborate, and we especially love it when those people are a pair of our favourite creatives. Which means we’re thrilled to discover that London-based designer Shaz Madani has created a new identity for the now legendary photographer Giles Duley. Giles’ images pretty much speak for themselves – they’re so rich with pathos one can’t help but feel immediately absorbed – and so Shaz has created a simple logotype that’s simple enough to never interfere with the work. But it’s his portfolio where where her designs really come into their own, with bespoke cardboard packages filled with sheets of Giles’ images, their harrowing provenance detailed on the reverse.

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    We don’t often feature a single magazine cover on the site, but John Morgan Studio’s recent work for Art Review is so strong that we’re prepared to make an exception (also, it’s four different covers). The prolific designer, who undertook a wholesale redesign of the publication back in September 2013, has just commissioned these striking cover images, by excellent photographers Luke and Nik, that white out the faces of typically stylised head shots to introduce an issue that deals with the unknown artists of the future. The concept, photography and execution are all top notch, and it’s exciting to see a publication with such pedigree embrace an experimental cover that will undoubtedly set it apart on the newsstands. They are VERY unnerving though…

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    We usually associate Two Points with experimental graphic design; posters based upon complex systems for high-brow arts organisations, magazine covers that push print processes to their most exciting limits and books that investigate modes and trends that permeate the design industry. But their most recent work is much more commercially-minded than anything we’ve seen from them before.

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    I’ve only just come across French creative agency Murmure and looking through its work can’t quite believe it’s taken so long. They have a bold visual vernacular which they apply with ambition and flair across everything from printed matter to bags, websites to walls. Nowhere is this better expressed than in Murmure’s work for the Nördik Impakt festival held in Caen (where Murmure is part based along with Paris).

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    I always think that one of the hardest things for a studio to design must be their own identity; trying to encapsulate every element of your practice in a series of visuals that’s both clear and informative and yet still aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately for Berlin-based illustration and design studio Frida von Fuchs, they had the talented hand of Jonathan Garrett to turn to instead! And my, did he do a good job.

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    GraphicDesign& founders Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright are on a mission – to take the discipline out of its (sometimes self-imposed) cultural ghetto and prove how it relates to almost everything around us. Nearly two years ago they tackled literature, challenging 70 designers to reinvent the first page of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Now for their second book they have maths in their sights, working alongside Alex Bellos to set 55 leading creatives a mathematical design challenge; to respond to the famous golden ratio articulated by Euclid.

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    If you read this website regularly there’s a good chance that at worst, you have a passing interest in books, and at best you’re a die-hard bibliophile. Though we try and keep on top of some great books on It’s Nice That, there’s still a tonne of beautiful volumes that slip through the net. Which is why resources like Bernd Kuchenbeiser’s A Good Book are so brilliant, dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to the documentation of beautifully written, exceptionally designed works of literature, history, architecture and design. The user-generated archive allows readers to submit their own favourite books to the already huge list, meaning we can all enjoy the rare collections and one-off collectors editions that would otherwise disappear from general circulation.

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    I’m not really into the whole “love at first sight” business but when I saw that pineapple next to that dog poo, I knew this was a design studio I could seriously get into. Ilg/Trüb are two really, really good-looking Swiss designers, Marlon Ilg and Simon Trüb, whose work ushers in strange illustration, acid-neon colours and typographic knowledge. The alarm bells that are usually set off in my brain by the words “Swiss” and “design” are completely neutralised by our shared delight in the texture, pastels and humour of certain illustrators. Interestingly, even their more typographic work such as the Langnau Jazz Nights posters still seem to have a shot of weirdness coursing through them. Fantastisch!

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    If you haven’t seen Spike Jonze’s latest offering Her yet then I’m here principally to ask what in God’s name you’re doing with your time, as everybody seems to be talking about the film’s quietly unsettling subject matter. It does fall uncomfortably close to home; set in Los Angeles in 2025, the film is about a professional love letter writer, Theodore Twombly, who falls in love with his artificially intelligent operating system. The topic of society’s dependence on technology is intense and intimidating, but the overwhelmingly soft, almost retro aesthetic of the film is the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

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    London-based studio MuirMcNeil have recently released four new digital typefaces and, to celebrate, four beautifully screen-printed specimen posters. The studio was set up in 2010 by Hamish Muir and Paul McNeil as a vehicle to explore parametric design systems – an algorithmic mode of design – within typography. The four faces draw on a variety of inspirations, many with historical foundations.

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    Since September 2012 Matthias Friderich and Julian von Klier (also known as Strobo) have been responsible for the branding and identity of Kunsthalle Bielefeld, a prestigious contemporary art gallery in north west Germany, where they’ve developed an existing identity by Thomas Mayfried and Swantje Grundler. The duo graduated in 2011 from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and The University of the Arts, Berlin respectively where they’ve honed impressive skills, particularly in typography.

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    It was a little over a year ago that we first posted the work of Berlin design studio Stahl-R, an agency with some serious graphic pedigree in the form of its founders and partners Susanne Stahl and Tobias Röttger. Checking back in with them now it appears they have gone from strength to strength in the intervening 12 months, as evidenced by this work for Folkdays, an organisation that curates and sells rare products.

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    It’s not uncommon for design agencies to upload a host of new work at around the same time, giving us several occasions to remind ourselves of their creative brilliance. So it is that only weeks after drooling over Build’s identity refresh for Generation Press we’re here to celebrate their limited-edition book to accompany the Barber Osgerby In the Making exhibition at the Design Museum (for which Build also did the design).

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    Three times last year we showcased the exceptional talents of graphic design and branding agency Anagrama. Whether the client is an event planner, a tea shop or a dry cleaning firm, the Mexican studio has an unerring knack for visual treatments that combine style and personality. They’ve begun 2014 in much the same vein with this work for high-end pastry and confectionery shop Xoclad, which challenged Anagrama to “communicate the area’s strong Mayan culture in a classy way that could never be called clichéd or tacky.”

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    When I think of Hort, images of clever doodles hurriedly taped to studio walls, or well-practiced smiley faces drawn on cups spring to mind. The work that Hort creates and associates itself with is cheerful, cheeky and colourful – assets you would not always associate with large, in-depth architecture volumes. Hort being what they are decided to buck the trend and just go for it, designing Rainer Schmidt’s Landschaftsarchitekten + Stadtplaner, a whopping six-book series contained puzzle-like in a box, flashing small blocks of colour when rearranged, and covered in large, code-like typography.

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    The design world can be a splintered place sometimes but it tends to come together around the time the Design Museum announces its Designs of the Year nominations (admittedly either to praise the lucky few or bitch about the selection!). This year’s shortlists across architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, product and transport once again recognise some of the most interesting and exciting projects to have emerged over the past 12 months, and as ever competition will be fierce.

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    Danish designer Camilla Bengtsen has done a terrific job of reinventing global retail chain Intersport, providing them with an identity that’s much more fit for purpose than the current set of brand guidelines they follow. Her approach was to take some of their most popular products and reduce them to a series of graphic icons – a pair of Adidas trainers become eight blue rectangles, Nike’s Lebron basketball is minimised to four bold lines – unifying the brand with a simple graphic language and allowing each individual product its own distinct visual. For a piece of personal work this is a terrifically considered project; it’s just a shame Intersport haven’t commissioned it.

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    Last October we sang the praises of London/Zagreb-based studio Bunch, and by jove they’ve proved their graphic design talents yet again. They were commissioned to produce a brand identity for Cervoski, a Croatian print production studio which articulates its core skills as “nebulous finishing, microscopic editions, absurd materials and crazy deadlines.”

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    The latest project from Why Not Associates started life as a wedding present. Founder Andy Altmann is an avid collector of printed ephemera of all kinds, and experimented with silk-screening an image over a 1950s film poster as a gift to mark Andy Stevens’ (of Graphic Thought Facility) nuptials.