With a portfolio spanning mediums and disciplines such as design, photography, animation, art direction and more, bus.group is a creative agency based in Berlin that are just as happy working in 3D as they are 2D. Helmed by Daniel Schnitterbaum and Manuel Birnbacher, the studio’s recent collaborations include high-profile clients such as Balenciaga, Nike, Art Basel, Mold magazine and Dixon.
“Besides designing magazines and books, we’ve strongly focused on integrating our skills in digital arts and photography for the last three years. This way we’ve been able to art direct and create more complex visual content: especially 3D visuals and animations,” says Daniel. But it’s in editorial design that the duo began working together. From Harper’s Bazaar to Interview Magazine, Daniel and Manuel have a very strong background in printed matter.
It’s no surprise to learn then, that bus.group was responsible for art directing the eye-catching Badland magazine – a bi-annual publication focused on art and culture from the Balkans and beyond. Approached by editor Rafaela Kaćunić for the job, the pair were immediately on board. “After working in digital for websites and 3D projects, designing and printing a magazine sometimes feels refreshingly instant and fast,” explains Manuel. Eager to approach this 2D project with equally developed concepts, bus.group “tried to develop a visual language that was as complex and sometimes rough as the Balkans and the Balkan people.”
The end result is an identity with attitude. At once clean and chaotic, each issue jumps off the shelf with its bold, hand-painted logo. Inside, this DIY-feel continues with more personalised titles that “create a distinct look for each story and editorial feature”. The first section of the magazine has no definitive aesthetic, changing with each flick of the page. Eventually, normality returns as the layout and text begins to become consistent. The latter showcasing typefaces such as New Rail Alphabet by Margaret Calvert and Henrik Kublel, and a modified version of Gascogne.
But this orderly disorder approach to design does not define bus.group’s output. Equally adept at slick aesthetics, the studio have also produced refined printed matter such as its poster and catalogue for Anatomy of Political Melancholy, a group exhibition by curator Katerina Gregos which “probes the increasing and widespread loss of faith in politics and politicians today”.
Following this notion, Daniel and Manuel created graphic elements that all link back to a deconstructed form: “Like a tangram puzzle you could put them together both as a bomb and as an ancient Greek column,” explains Manuel. “In our posters and catalogue, they only appeared as fragments, like in ruins. Reminders of what has been lost in crisis and war. But also as reminders of chances, that things can be rebuilt and reimagined.”
This playful way of engaging with briefs is further exemplified by the studio’s identity for SomeNote, a poster series announcing talks and panels on architectural practice in Japan and Germany. Tasked with “communicating the aspect of everyday Japanese life”, the duo dug through photos taken from a trip to Japan in 2016, with a selection eventually becoming the backgrounds for the posters. Driven by their fascination for Japanese visual culture, they modified a Frankfurter typeface by Nick Belshaw – which slightly resembled manga speech-bubbles – and served to highlight the informal character of the series. This was then coupled with a typeface by Galdino Otten, acting as a Latin version of the Hiragana alphabet, and expressing their ironic take on the series’ non-Japanese perspective on Japan.
Speaking on its diverse approach, Daniel says bus.group’s style is intentionally very broad: “There is no distinct bus.group look that people want to have tweaked for their ventures,” he explains. “We feel that it’s more the level of professionalism and experience combined with a good awareness of the right glitch, the right failure or the right misstep in taste that helps make our designs appealing.”
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.