“We are aware that our name raises a few eyebrows,” says one half of IAMGOD, Robin Coenen. He started the studio, earlier this year, alongside long-term friend, André van Rueth, to “challenge the common idea that typography is a microcosmos of graphic design.” It’s for this reason that they named the studio IAMGOD to pay “homage to the letter itself, or to the concept of the letter and its pure creational nature.”
The pair have been friends for 15 years now (“almost half of our life by the way”), having grown up together in a rural region of Germany. It was here that the duo developed their obsessions with typography. In high school, they used to complete what they called Odos (one day, one sketch) in which they would challenge each other to illustrate and communicate a word – the best entry of the day would win. They kept this up for several years, eventually going on to study visual communication.
They describe themselves as a “virtual studio, because of the physical absence.” Currently, they live in different countries – Robin in Paris and André in Mainz – meaning they mainly keep in contact via the internet. Instead of describing IAMGOD as a studio, they instead to refer to it as “a platform on which we can manifest our discussions, thoughts, interests or investigations – a kind of framework for that, which holds everything together.” IAMGOD’s mission is to prove that typography is not a craft but a tool with which you can take authorship. “As we define it, it is a powerful parameter which scales the world we live in,” André explains.
In 2018, IAMGOD will publish a publication called Typographical Turn, in which it renews the outdated definition of typography and type design. As part of the research for said publication, IAMGOD has released a number of typographical endeavours.
Written Territories is one of those projects. While reading an article about one of the first photographs of Earth, Robin became fascinated with the idea of what, on Earth, can be read from space. He began using Google and Apple Maps to “fly over cities” in the search of words that can be read from a satellite.
The project became an investigation into a potential future of advertising: “What is the reason companies are putting their name in huge letters on their roof? Is this advertising? For whom? Are they 20 years ahead, thinking of advertising which people can see through satellites? Or is it the same principle the twelve-year-old boy follows when he writes, “I WAS HERE” in the toilet? Where does this desire come from, to write one’s name? I am very fascinated by this question,” he says.
Cryptolog Typography is an equally as fascinating project, again, one that stemmed from IAMGOD’s research. While digging through archives, searching for the question of how the power of state is visually represented, Robin and André stumbled across Cryptolog, an internal magazine from the NSA – the biggest intelligence service in the US.
The magazine was published quarterly from 1974 to 1997 and has been declassified since 2010. It contained articles about operational procedures, new technology and achievements, among other things. Robin and André therefore republished the sensitive information in their own booklet, documenting the visual language that shapes this secret and abstract information. With a human and almost amateur style, the illustrations provide a jarring juxtaposition between the “complex operational actions and how they are summed up in one visual representation.”
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