Last time we wrote about Koln Studio, the Madrid-based graphic designers had been working with its city council to celebrate Pride 2017, expressing the diversity, freedom and equality that the central Spanish city hopes to foster. Since then, Madrid City Council has been working to become “the most transparent institution in Spain”, allowing citizens the right to request information, including via anonymous requests. “This is a reason to celebrate,” explains Koln – something the studio has tried to do through graphic design in its most recent project.
Produced for the council, the campaign channels a clear and direct message, promoting the right to access information through the simple use of printing and crop marks. In essence, Koln’s concept sees the studio showing “everything” – “todo” in Spanish; a word which becomes the central graphic for the campaign.
“We had been looking for a simple and strong message, putting aside the ornaments,” the studio recalls of the beginning of this project, “we found the message ‘transparency is that you can know everything’ and followed the Swiss style.” Besides the inclusion of printing marks, Koln stuck to a monochromatic colour palette reinforcing the idea that Madrid City Council’s approach is straightforward and transparent. Or in other words, black and white. The result is a bold campaign which stands out on the cities’ streets, distinctive for the all the flourishes it doesn’t include, not the other way around.
Another project of Koln’s which proved to be one of its favourites from 2018 was And you, why are you black? The studio worked hand in hand with the book’s author, Ruben H. Bermúdez for its first edition which was available in Spanish, after which the studio developed a bilingual edition (English and Spanish) which ran at a cheaper price. The project is an autobiographical work, that not only tells Burmúdez’ story, but a collective one.
Beginning with an investigation into the origins of slavery in Spain, And you, why are you black? goes on to construct a political essay which “narrates the every day and the extraordinary of a society seen from a black perspective”. To mirror this serious subject matter, Koln’s design is earnest in its handling of text and image. The book’s jacket features a bold, block capital sans serif which confronts readers with the publication’s title, directly questioning them. Inside, imagery is handled subtly, presented full bleed or in a traditional photobook manner, ensuring the content is given the gravitas it deserves.
When asked if the team has noticed any visual trends in their recent work, Pablo Mariné tells us: “As a matter of fact, just last week we joked about how our recent projects had a lack of colour. We have only used black and white, but we think it’s just a coincidence due to the type of projects and concepts. So it’s not like we’re trying to create a new trend in our recent work, it has been an organic process.” It’s evident from our end, however, that what ties the studio’s recent projects together is a considered handling of graphic elements. They’re stripped back from the nonessential, cleverly handling typography to create bold hierarchies of information.
In the coming year, Koln is set to take part in an installation as part of the Absolut Manifesto party in Madrid, as well as continuing its collaboration with the city council. “We also expect all kinds of surprises as we are looking forward to new projects to test ourselves,” it concludes. “We are open to all kind of proposals.”
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