Studio Nari designs an identity for furniture brand Modular by Mensah that is both sharp and curvy
Caterina Bianchini talks us through the studio’s latest endeavour, an interchangeable rebrand for Ghanaian designer Kusheda Mensah.
- Ayla Angelos
- 23 June 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Since relaunching her studio from Caterina Bianchini Studio to Nari in February 2020, developing an output with a more “humanistic, artistic approach” to what came before, Caterina Bianchini has been busy. There was an identity for Ronan Mckenzie’s creative space Home, for example, along with numerous commissions for the likes of Somerset House, the Barbican, Apple, Charlie XCX, D&AD New Blood 2021 and Vogue Singapore to name a few. Not to mention a Creative Guide and Virtual Studio session as part of New World, our collaboration with Today at Apple. “We have been working very hard,” explains Caterina of the past few years. “We have so many projects waiting to launch, and so many exciting ones we are about to begin or currently working on. We continue to build our team, working with freelancers across the world, which have brought new and exciting collaborations.”
One of these collaborations is with British-born Ghanaian designer Kusheda Mensah, the founder of Modular by Mensah – a place that houses her love of furniture design and lifestyle pieces, amassed into a portfolio abound with smooth and curvy modular furniture. Having worked with Kusheda for over a year now, Nari was tasked with a full rebrand, counting the creation of a bespoke typeface, a logo and language that could be translated across the pieces themselves, plus the exhibition, print and digital spheres. “It started more as a conversation with Kusheda talking through her calendar of events for Modular by Mensah, including various invitations she had received to some incredibly impressive showcases around the world,” adds Caterina. “She felt the brand needed to be elevated, and to become something that was aligned with the brand for its next stage of growth, as well as feel unique and inherently connected to her as the designer and the main vision for the future.” And what better way to laud this new direction than with an immensely playful identity, conceived with the help of designer Margot Leveque?
We honestly couldn’t have thought of a better collaboration ourselves. Margot, who’s also an It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch 2021 alumni, became a “very important part of [the] external team,” says Caterina, noting how her experience as a trained typographer was valuable in bringing a great breadth of knowledge and skill to the table. “She visualises and understands type in a similar way to how we do it in the studio, on a more expressive and human level.” Not only has the studio worked with Margot before on previous projects – meaning they already knew her working process and style to great lengths – but she also understands the Nari vision through and through. “Usually, we begin by talking through the creative direction for the piece and sometimes that begins with us doing some rough preliminary sketches,” adds Caterina. “Margot will then develop the sketches further and redraw the characters. The whole process is very collaborative and can go through many stages.”
The identity, in this case, evolved around the notion of modularity – an apt and suitable direction considering the name and ethos of the furniture brand. This can be seen in the logo, specifically developed as a monogram that’s “holding the characters ‘MBM’,” (which stands for Modular by Mensah). Caterina adds: “The style in which it was created has been developed to feel like each piece has slotted together to create the full form.” This flexible and multidimensional approach has been applied across the entire suite of assets, done so to create a typographic system that acts as “furniture across the layouts, anchoring to the top or the bottom of compositions, or becoming framing devices. We wanted the type to feel like it was dressing the page, the same way furniture dresses a room.” Combined with a colour palette system that changes depending on the collection exhibited – “allowing it to feel constantly relevant and connected to Kusheda’s most recent works as well as it feeling alive” – the identity is given an almost metamorphic purpose as it interchanges through different aesthetics.
This theme of modularity is only heightened by the addition of a custom typeface, aptly named Modular. Designed with curves and sharp edges that live in harmony with one another, Caterina explains how the typeface consists of humanistic shapes that represent our bodies and “how they mould into furniture”. Meanwhile, the sharper edges reflect the modular forms, “with each character feeling as though they can connect to each other.” Packaged into a series of extra-large glyphs, the characters appear like pieces of furniture positioned on the page, both “eye-catching and playful”.
If this doesn’t sum up the type of work that Nari likes to dive into then we’re not sure what will. It’s at once as fun as it is serious; a juxtaposition of sorts where ideas and playfulness float amongst a minutely crafted piece of design. “We always create work that hides small subliminal details, so we hope as time goes on, people will begin to see more in the designs than what they originally did,” says Caterina. “We also hope people get an understanding of Modular by Mensah’s impressive vision and thought process. And finally, we hope people will feel connected to and enjoy the work, like they want to get to know Modular by Mensah a little more or interact with the brand further.”
GalleryNari: Modular by Mensah (Copyright © Nari, 2021)
Nari: Modular by Mensah (Copyright © Nari, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.