Jahn Koutrios is a graphic designer based in Zurich, whose work caught our attention for its bold use of expressive typography. Having completed his bachelor’s degree in 2017, he’s currently working at Afrika, a studio with a focus on visual identities and type design.
Like many graphic designers, Jahn first got interested in the medium through his love of graffiti: “I was fascinated by the idea of communicating your little message with bold self-drawn letters in public,” he recalls. “Trying to spot new graffiti pieces in the city, I got slowly more attracted to certain posters and how they – similar to graffiti – communicate something with big letters.”
Around the same time, the Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich held its 100 Jahre Schweizer Grafik exhibition where Jahn discovered the work of designers like Amin Hofmann which “opened up a whole new world for him”. “At that time I thought Swiss graphic design from the 60s still looked so contemporary and fresh and that became a reference for my first experiments in graphic design,” he explains. These references are still clear throughout Jahn’s portfolio which utilises simple shapes and sans serif typefaces to communicate in an efficient manner.
No matter what the project, typography is at the heart of everything Jahn creates. But his process and approach changes, as explains how “ideally, I like to work on two different kinds of projects at the same time”. On the one hand, he produces quick lo-fi work, “like posters for a party” while simultaneously working on more complex projects that require more time and conceptual approach, “like books or corporate identities”.
These two facets of Jahn’s practice can be seen, firstly in a series he produced for Anarchist Space Opera last year. A number of parties showcasing electronic experimental bass music, Jahn was tasked with promoting the event. I combined my typographic approach with the work of the musician/artist Lea Meier aka Shayu who co-initiated the project and performed at the events, resulting in black and white posters, “made very quickly, and cheaply Riso-printed”.
The inverse of this approach occurred during his first project at Afrika while working on the identity for Scanvision. “They make fascinating 3D documentation and visualisation of architecture using laser scanning and photogrammetry,” Jahn tells us. As a result, the company’s showreel is its most important asset. “The problem was that loading an HD video on a website can make the loading time long and irritating,” he continues. Jahn’s solution was to create a “simple responsive CSS animation” that plays before the video loads. “The animation abstractly shows the process of 3D laser scanning and acts as the logo of the company.”
It’s decisions like this where, even when dealing with more complex ideas, Jahn finds simple solutions that typify his portfolio. Although visually appealing and wide-ranging in his output, communication in its purest form is what ties his work together.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.