Mark Bohle and Raffael Kormann designed 80 posters over a year for Kulturzentrum Merlin

Now available in a new book published by Prima Publikationen, Tonight at Merlin details the intense yet freeing poster design project for one of Stuttgart's loved cultural venues.

Date
22 January 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read

You may know Mark Bohle and Raffael Kormann respectively as two established members of the design community. Known for their distinct take on typography cemented in beautiful layouts, the two graphic designers have a myriad of projects under their belt, mostly for cultural institutions in their native Stuttgart. Recently however, the pair launched a mammoth collaboration for the music and arts venue Kulturzentrum Merlin, also in Stuttgart. For over a year Mark and Raffael took on the design for all the venue’s events; resulting in a collection of contemporary graphic design that is as unique and varied as the musical scores it accompanies.

Recently collated together in a new title published by Prima Publikationen, Tonight at Merlin features 80 posters in a revealing glimpse into the poster design process. Currently only available in German, the book also features three essays contextualising the collection of posters. Arne Hübner, Niklaus Troxler and Das bisschen Totschlag pay tribute to the work by painting a picture of visual communication for music and popular culture.

The first poster for Kulturzentrum Merlin dates back to November 2017 when Mark and Raffael were enlisted to create a one off poster for Erobique. They had such a good experience working on the first design, they began developing posters for all the future concerts taking place at the cultural venue. “Our desire for designing stuff was (and still remains) huge,” Raffael tells us. “We were chasing for jobs of all kind.” In turn, they pitched the idea to design the next 80 posters to the venue’s booking guru Arne Hübner who happily took to the idea. “He really supported us throughout the entire process,” adds Mark. “There was no single restriction in terms of design and aesthetics,” he recalls of the freeing process, “Arne trusted us and that was quite remarkable.”

GalleryMark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

Each poster is a testament to this creative freedom. Brimming with experimentation, vivid imagery and importantly a sense of fun, the 80-strong collection of posters reflects the enjoyment of Mark and Raffael’s design process. Over the course of the year, the posters flexed and undulated with the passing thoughts that peppered the two designers’ minds. Raffael describes the project as “a constant workout” where the two “lost weight, grew our muscles and got heavily tanned” – both physically and creatively.

August of 2019 was a particularly challenging month as Kulturzentrum Merlin hosted 20 concerts in the 31-day-period. Though this time presented the biggest challenge at hand, due to the sheer volume of outcomes, it also resulted in the most interesting collection creatively. Of course Raffael and mark have their favourite designs in the grand scheme of things – one being a poster for Maike Rosa Vogel depicting an abstracted parrot – but that being said, the project is not really about drawing a distinction between the best or worst posters. The collection is more like a creative train of thought mapped by a series of musical events.

“We lost our fear of failing,” adds Mark, “and extended our own boundaries and learned about exploring visual languages while combining digital and analogue tools.” Along the way, they had the pleasure of getting to know an assortment of interesting sounds and bands, that only added to the visual vibrancy of the posters. And to top it all off, Raffael reveals, “we learned a lot about making decisions and trying out stuff we usually wouldn’t do.”

GalleryMark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

The design of each poster was led by the band and sound in question. Though it wasn’t intended, the posters are united by a collective aesthetic that marks the unique collaboration between Mark and Raffael. Allowing the visuals to intuitively flow out of them, the designers tried to avoid visual repetition, curious to find news of visually expressing the music. Where some posters feature a simple black on white, capitalised header with stark geometric shapes taking up the majority of the layout, others are an amalgamation of tactile doughy textures or hypnotising psychedelic patterns.

The process for each poster always started the same. Raffael and Mark would listen to the music followed by trialing out some things in the sketchbook before taking the design into the digital. Once they were working digitally, the play expanded into an experimentation of programmes, tools, softwares and devices. The possibilities were seemingly endless but having one another to bounce ideas off, the design process became streamlined. And before they knew it, a poster would be complete. The entire making and evaluation occurring through digital messenger software. A fruitful method of collaboration for Mark and Raffael, the two designers are set to make their partnership a more regular thing. Currently, they’re working on a graphic online shopping mall and a research project while maintaining their respective practices simultaneously. “We are planning to collaborate on more projects so stay tuned and watch out!” the two end our interview with. And you can see a sneak peak of their next project Dietz, here.

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Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

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Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

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Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

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Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

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Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

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Left

Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

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Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

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Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

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Left

Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

Right

Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

Above

Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

Above

Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

Above

Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

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Mark Bohle, Raffael Kormann, Kulturzentrum Merlin Stuttgart, Prima.Publikationen: Tonight at Merlin (Copyright © Mark Bohle & Raffael Kormann, 2020)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

jo@itsnicethat.com

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