Automatico studio updates its design ethos to one that succumbs to “simplicity, reduction and calm”

The Swiss design studio talks us through its latest developments, which tread the line between clean and technical.

Date
25 January 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read

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Automatico studio’s main aim is to work with clients that share the same ethos: that is, to design something that’s not only memorable, quick and efficient, but something that also conveys the studio’s values. This includes sustainability which, Demian Conrad – the founder of the Switzerland-based studio – believes is at the centre of everything the studio creates, be it visual identities, way finding, editorial and exhibition design.

We last heard from the studio in 2017 and, since then, Demian and the team have taken on many successful updates. First thing’s first is that the studio changed its name from Demian Conrad Studio to Automatico Studio, meanwhile Demian also began teaching editorial design at the Head-Genève, Haute ècole d’art et de design in Geneva. A year later, and the studio was appointed for the design one of the Swiss referendum campaign for Basic Income – a project that was awarded at the Art Director Club and since has sold more than 2,000 copies worldwide.

While working on this project, Automatico developed a modernised approach. Demian marks this as a turning point for the studio: “not only for a clear shift in the visual language,” he tells It’s Nice That, “but it has also activated a new design process based on the values of simplicity.” Despite not actively searching for a refreshed style, the team discovered a shift in attitude when it came to the process of designing. This included a turn towards “poetic of emptiness” and the power of simplistic forms which can be transferred directly into the kind of work that the team takes on. What’s more is that, at this time, Automatico started to nurture an increasing desire to take on more holistic projects, applying its expertise in design within architecture, product design, art, science and health.

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Automatico Studio: EPFL. (Copyright © Automatico Studio, 2020)

When Demian was young, he first entered the industry through means of an apprenticeship as a typesetter. “I remember there was still a fight between using Univers versus Helvetica, and my teacher always used Univers,” he says. Switzerland was (and still is) highly influential in its design output, what with the Basel school and typography developed by Emil Ruder decades before. “The Swiss graphic design heritage of Emil Ruder, his essential approach in typography and methodology is still now my main references,” says Demian, continuing to cite architecture greats such as John Pawson and his “rigorously simple architecture” as a constantly influential citation. There’s also Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake and his technology driven clothing where flat, angular materials are transformed into a haptic 3D surface. These influences become transparent while observing the work of Automatico studio, where a harmonious balance between traditional Swiss graphic design meets the technical.

Applying this new-found approach to recent work, Automatico has been briefed on the redesign of Tracés, a Swiss architecture magazine first published over 140 years ago. Each month, the magazine is produced and distributed by SIA, the Swiss Society of Engineers and Architectures. “Each issue is devoted to a core theme inspired by a contemporary question and explored through articles, interviews and photographic reportage,” says Demian, stating how it offers a unique perspective on the conventional architecture scene in Switzerland. Automatico was tasked to reconstruct the language of Tracés, including the magazine covers for 2020-2021, plus the development of an updated editorial approach. Referring to the redesign as “radical”, the team opted for a mix of architectural blocks of text, photographs of technical drawings, plus the typeface Universe 55 Roman in 8pt – “avoiding different type sizes and creating a hierarchy of information through the use of space and strokes, recalling architectural sketches.”

For the Basic Income Campaign, Automatico opted for an “essential” gold circle, reflecting the memories of the viewer and giving a new meaning to a traditional political poster campaign. This circle is the symbol – the central focus – of the campaign and is represented by the golden five Swiss Francs coin, where a total of 20.000 CHF was dropped around the city of Basel during the campaign. Elsewhere, there’s the New Year card for EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne), that Automatico developed after taking inspiration from its central building, designed by SANAA architecture. Paying homage to the physical use of paper and its “sculptural and haptic qualities,” it’s a gentle turn away from a world saturated by the digital. “In a year where everything has been based on the use of a screen,” adds Demian, “we wanted to strengthen the link between the EPFL brand and the audience through a tactile experience.”

It’s clear that the work of Automatico studio is driven by sheer curiosity. Relying on a simpler approach to design, the team can evaluate the strength and power of the message at hand: “In a society which is visually oversaturated, we chose a path made of simplicity, reduction and calm, and sometimes this requires a change of pace to get in sync with it,” says Demian on a final comment about the studio’s new direction. “Simplicity doesn’t mean easy, it takes time and experience to reach the right conceptualisation of the idea.”

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Automatico Studio: Tracés. (Copyright © Michel Giesbrecht, 2020)

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Automatico Studio: Tracés. (Copyright © Michel Giesbrecht, 2020)

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Automatico Studio: Tracés. (Copyright © Michel Giesbrecht, 2020)

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Automatico Studio: Tracés. (Copyright © Michel Giesbrecht, 2020)

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Automatico Studio: Tracés. (Copyright © Michel Giesbrecht, 2020)

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Automatico Studio: Basic Income. (Copyright © Automatico Studio, 2020)

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Automatico Studio: Basic Income. (Copyright © Automatico Studio, 2020)

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Automatico Studio: Basic Income. (Copyright © Automatico Studio, 2020)

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Automatico Studio: EPFL. (Copyright © Automatico Studio, 2020)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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