Swiss art direction and graphic design studio Neo Neo, made up of Thuy-An Hoang and Xavier Erni, has recently updated its website and with it, the pair reveals several new projects displaying their systematically precise approach to graphic design.
Xavier and Thuy-An split their time between working on graphic design, curatorial and publishing projects, but a recent project for NOF saw the duo combine all three. NOF, the abbreviation for New Opera Freiburg, is a contemporary opera which launched in Switzerland last year. Centring its programme around three shows a year, the opera proposes “contemporary interpretations of classical pieces” and, when tasked with designing its identity last year, Neo Neo adopted this approach too.
When approaching the project Neo Neo’s Xavier Erni tells It’s Nice That that the studio opted for a simple graphic system, one made up “of three main ingredients: one typeface, a three colour palette and a raster system.” However, in only having three graphic design orientated choices to make, Neo Neo carefully curated each one. It opted for Commercial Type’s Neue Haas Grotesk – “a nice version of Helvetica” – which is clear, clean and largely utilised throughout NOF’s digital and physical promotional output. The studio then counteracts this neat typographic choice by using a rough raster, allowing “us to use bad quality image from the internet.”
This choice demonstrates Neo Neo’s regular approach to projects, in which it builds easily digestible graphic systems but then injects a playful personality within it. “The fun comes with the choice of inappropriate images in the context of each piece,” explains Xavier. “As an example, for the Zauberflötte we decided to use a pigeon to illustrate Papageno” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Neo Neo’s use of colour is a further example of this in its work for NOF, as despite only using three colours in each poster, whatever the season, one of those colours will remain the same. It allows each piece of messaging the opera puts out to be cohesive too, even translating digitally, particularly in the example of the first season where a reoccurring gold colour is lavishly used throughout.
Discussing the overall project with Xavier, the designer admits that “the layout and aesthetic of the visual identity probably feels a little Swiss – a grotesque typeface, only one weight, columns and grids.” But in its obviously Swiss approach, he hopes viewers see it as a little “wink to the iconic Swiss style from the 60s, but in a contemporary context. The idea was to bring a little fun to this Swiss style, which was actually very serious.”
Overall, this approach was one decided on for its similarity to NOF’s interpretation of opera: “a contemporary interpretation of classical pieces.”
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