Massimiliano Audretsch’s design portfolio is replete with symbology, code and “secret language”
The Italian-German graphic and type designer talks us through his recent body of work, including the development of his updated graduate thesis, Ciao.
- Ayla Angelos
- 9 March 2021
Since we last heard from Massimiliano Audretsch, one of the most significant events is that he graduated from University of Arts and Design in Karlsruhe, Germany. And with it came a change of design approach, following the finalisation of an extensive and research-heavy final project named Ciao – a formulaic display of a publication, typeface and a selection of installations. After which, the Italian-German designer moved to Switzerland to “complete a card blanche”, working part-time for Studio Johnson/Kingston and taking on a variety of clients on the side, gradually building up his portfolio and all manner of personal projects too. A month into the move, he was asked to become a lecturer at his former place of education. “All this happened very quickly, and so I found myself working on three ends at once,” he tells It’s Nice That, which includes working for established designers, building his own business and teaching a new generation at university. “This had a big influence on me personally and consecutively on my work.”
Alongside his flourishing design practice and various university teachings, Massimiliano also set up the type foundry Gruppo Due in collaboration with the designers Bruno Jacoby and Moritz Appich, as well as the London based media artist Jonas Grünwald. During which, the team publish both retail and bespoke fonts, drawing custom typefaces for the likes of University of Arts and Design, Karlsruhe, Cafe Bar Mokka, Thun, Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts, Mustafa Emin Büyükcoşkun among others. Typography, for Massimiliano, has aways remained at the heart of his practice, whereby many clients have commissioned type designs over the years and the designer has drawn or manipulated many individual typefaces for different job requirements. Some are even expanded and released to the wider public through Gruppo Due foundry.
Of how Massimiliano describes his practice to date, he refers to it as being a “type-centred, visually wide-ranging, accurately executed mess with a tendency to use bright colours.” We more than agree, and most imperative is that with every new project he takes on, he’ll work hard towards a fresh and individual approach. “I believe that as an outside observer, some consistencies might catch the eye,” he says, stating how he’s noticed a tendency to create symbols. For example, while working on briefs for clients Lomann or Case à Chocs (more details on the latter below), he extended the range of glyphs in the typefaces, going beyond the letters and numbers, all the while developing a set of symbolic elements to “interweave with the rest of [his] design”. Whatever his outlook, Massimiliano centres his work on a process that involves an ever-expanding digital toolset. This includes Glyphs for type design; Photoshop and Indesign, Illustrator and Cinema 4D for graphic design; plus Aftereffects and Premiere for animations and clips.
GalleryMassimiliano Audretsch: Lomann Bespoke Type (Copyright © Massimiliano Audretsch, 2021)
Massimiliano’s recent portfolio includes a wide mix of projects, the first being an updated version of his graduate thesis Ciao. The original is a typographic exploration between the spoken and written word, named as an acronym for Comprendere Istruzioni di Accentuazione vocale a Occhio nudo, which translates roughly to “perceiving intonation with your eyes”. G2 Ciao, the new rendition, still explores the topic of intonation yet perceives itself as more of an applicable version of the deeply conceptual predecessor, Ciao. “It was originally designed for the 2018 Annual Report of Kunstverein Kunsthalle Basel, when Anton Stuckardt and Barbara Acevedo Strange approached me asking if they could use a slightly bolder version of the original Ciao for the publication.” He highly enjoyed the outcome and thus embarked on the typeface’s development, expanding the glyph set to professional level and mastering it for the 2020 release on the then-newly launched foundry, Gruppo Due – “hence the G2 prefix”.
Case à Chocs, on the other hand, is a collaborative project conceive with Jahn Koutrios, Zurich. The brief was to design a visual concept and poster for the rooms of Case à Chocs in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, a place for contemporary music and alternative culture. Navigating around the idea of creating a poster that would “hang in the streets” and replace the monthly concert programme (that which became obsolete due to Covid-19 restrictions), the result is an evocative display full of “contrary meanings, enigmatic symbols and questionable perditions about the future”, he says. High contrast with a recognisable typeface, the work features a wide array of symbology that appears like a hidden code. “I was fascinated by the idea of creating a secret language that is interwoven with the design.”
Additionally, HfMDK is a bespoke typeface composed in collaboration with Studio State, Berlin, as part of the new visual identity for the Frankfurt university of Music and Performing Arts (HfMDK). Massimiliano was asked to design a bespoke typeface, landing on a sans serif family with four styles – bold, regular, light and italic – all of which can be incorporated into everyday use. “This comes along with a more extroverted, more distinct headline family, which consists of three variations for each letter, with increasing playfulness,” adds the designer. The wordmark, too, has five characters and “243 possibilities”, meaning that there are many variants available as soon as the user types the text.
The future for Massimiliano is looking busy, and unsurprisingly there is another typeface currently in the mix, set to release via the Gruppo Due foundry later this year. It will be named G2 Airdancer and is based on a typeface designed by Bruno and Moritz, that Massimiliano once drew for a real-life air dancer in 2018. As well as this, he’s also picked up a new research project, “but it is a bit too early to go into the details”. Although keeping hush, we can reassure you that it’s going to be an exceptional continuation of what’s already an immensely impressive portfolio.
Massimiliano Audretsch: HfMDK (Copyright © Massimiliano Audretsch, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.