In the lead up to It’s Nice That’s annual symposium, Here 2017, we have asked each of the speakers to shed light on their career to date by sharing a piece of work created at the outset of their career and a more recent piece, then reflect on the progression between the two. Today, graphic designer Astrid Stavro tells us how she got from There to Here.
Trieste-born Astrid is creative director at Atlas and, prior to this, founded the award-winning Astrid Stavro Studio in Barcelona. Her work is typified by idea-driven graphic design that manifests itself with an exquisite typographic sensibility.
Astrid’s portfolio includes books, magazines, brand identities, printed matter, exhibition design, signage, way-finding systems and packaging for an enviable list of clients such as Wallpaper, Eye, Phaidon and Thames&Hudson. She is design director and editor-at-large of Elephant magazine. Earlier this year, Astrid collaborated with It’s Nice That on our Local Characters project, which saw her create a bespoke typeface inspired by the juxtapositions she saw in her hometown.
The Art of the Grid Notepads, 2004
What is the work? Why was it created?
This is my graduating project at The Royal College of Art, developed with my ex classmate Birgit Pfisterer. Grids are about structure and systems. We were familiar with the word and used them before, but the truth is that we didn’t know much. After weeks of research, the idea of reproducing grids in the form of tear-off notepads seemed like a poignant metaphor. Moving them from the background to the foreground was a way of making the invisible visible – a way of understanding the process and complexity behind the apparent simplicity of finished projects. We settled on eight famous publications, each one reproduced at a scale of 100%. These publications played a historic role in the development of design systems and cover a wide spectrum of classic and contemporary editorial design. The series includes the grids of Die Neue Typographie (Jan Tschichold), Twen magazine (Willy Fleckhaus), The Bible (Johannes Gutenberg), A Designer’s Art (Paul Rand), Raster Systeme (Josef Müller-Brockmann) and Ways of Seeing (Richard Hollis) amongst others.
What did you learn while doing it?
A lot about the history of editorial design and embracing curiosity and insecurity. The project went on to be very successful (much to our surprise) and was eventually bought by a Spanish stationary manufacturer who distributed them worldwide. During the initial research phase, we visited several designers to explain the idea, at times to clear reproduction rights and others to simply ask for insight. The feedback was consistently great. Except one. Robin Kinross vehemently criticised it saying that grids without content were utterly pointless. He was right! It is easy to see design as veneer. Besides being useful objects, those who appreciate the notepads are the ones who know the publications.
What do you think of it now?
It’s a simple, timeless idea which is probably why it works as well now as it did back then.
How does it relate to your current work?
Like them or not, restrictions are necessary in graphic design.
What is the work? Why was it created?
Three years ago, Marc Valli invited me to redesign Elephant, the British art and culture magazine. Speaking about grids and structure, I don’t think that I ever had so much fun (at least in an editorial design project).
What would you tell your younger self about this work?
Enjoy every minute as if it were your last.
Alongside Astrid, this year’s speakers include fashion designer Christopher Raeburn, graphic designer and illustrator George Hardie, photographer Juno Calypso, artist Ryan Gander, graphic design agency Triboro, graphic artist James Jarvis, art director and photographer Carlota Guerrero and artist (and one of It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch 2017) Marguerite Humeau.
Keep your eyes peeled for further announcements about the event over the coming weeks.