An identity focused on the idea of unlearning by Martin Wecke and Fabian Maier-Bode

The duo explain how they built a versatile system that both stands out in the busy capital and encourages discussion.

10 December 2021


The 12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art will open next September at various venues around the German capital and will be curated by French visual artist Kader Attia. The theme for the upcoming show is decolonisation and, according to organisers, it will revolve around questions such as: “How can the decolonisation of art be conceived – from the restitution of plundered goods to an anti-colonial culture of memory? What role can non-Western feminist movements play in the re-appropriation of history and identity? How are the climate crisis and colonialism related, and how can resource extraction be resisted and native knowledge acknowledged to preserve ecosystems?”

Tasked with creating the identity for this iteration of the biennale, graphic designers Martin Wecke and Fabian Maier-Bode realised the importance of the topic and the urgent need for promoting discussion. Bearing this in mind, they set about honing a design that would both capture attention and make space for conversation. “From the beginning we felt that the visual concept needed to be abstract and open enough to create a space for discourse, while at the same time being bold and highly visible in the noisy cityscape,” Fabian says. “The brief to create the visual identity also presented a number of challenges: It had to tie together a programme spread across four months and a variety of venues.”

Their answer was a flexible system of graphical “fragments”, designed so that they are intentionally ambiguous and open to interpretation. These abstract shapes form the backbone of the identity and sit alongside a broad and versatile colour palette and minimal typography that complements the overall aesthetic without distracting from it. Speaking on how these aspects reflect the theme for the biennale, Martin explains that “though they can be read as sculptures, maps or glyphs, [the graphical shapes] remain hard to decipher and blur the lines between the inside and outside, the known and unknown.” He goes on: “This ‘visual discomfort’ was important to us to connect with the idea of ‘unlearning’ presented in the curatorial concept. The shapes are supposed to feel like they were not created by a single actor but instead by a process of cutting, adding, stretching and layering.”

Martin Wecke and Fabian Maier-Bode’s identity for the 12th Berlin Biennale

The versatility of the system also allows it to adapt to an interactive context. On the recently launched holding page for the biennale, the fragments take on a life of their own as they react to the movement of the user’s mouse and the orientation of their device, warping and shapeshifting in a way that “gives up some control” and “lets users create unexpected visual moments” that Martin and Fabian say they would have been unable to come up with themselves. “These interactive animations also inspired us to translate the movements (with the help of Studio Feix) into the third dimension, which we will explore further while the programme unfolds during the next months,” says Fabian.

Looking forward, and with the biennale work ongoing, the duo say they are already excited about joining forces in the future. “I would love to team up with Fabian again in a similar capacity where we can be partners on the concept, design and production, for a client as open-minded and progressive-thinking as the Biennale team,” says Martin. “I’m excited for another collaboration with Martin and for more opportunities to express my passion for typography within projects that are based on mutual trust and a healthy balance between budget and creative freedom,” says Fabian.

Martin Wecke and Fabian Maier-Bode’s identity for the 12th Berlin Biennale

GalleryMartin Wecke and Fabian Maier-Bode: Identity for the 12th Berlin Biennale (Copyright © Martin Wecke and Fabian Maier-Bode, 2021)

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Martin Wecke and Fabian Maier-Bode: Identity for the 12th Berlin Biennale (Copyright © Martin Wecke and Fabian Maier-Bode, 2021)

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About the Author

Daniel Milroy Maher

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.

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