“We met while working together for Mirko Borsche here in Munich,” explains Johannes von Gross and Markus Lingemann. After several years of working for the graphic design titan, the pair wanted to see what else was out there and ventured off to form Off Office in July 2015. Specialising in design, culture and contemporary lifestyle clients, the small but flexible team approaches each project in a way that remains uniquely personal to them. Having built long term relationships with their cultural clients over the past four years, the studio has crafted distinctly sophisticated designs for the likes of industrial designer Stefan Diez, Milan-based fashion brand OAMC and Paris Fashion Week Invitations to name a few.
Today, Off Office works across all kinds of projects, from established brands and cultural institutions, to independent artists and designers they admire. On their shared design ethos, Johannes and Markus tell It’s Nice That: “As children of 90s hip-hop culture and graffiti, our eyes were opened to a visual language largely influenced by music videos and iconic brands as well as the advertisements of that time.” Ever since, the power of design has remained a constant fascination to the studio’s founders.
“If the shape of a thing can provoke a feeling, it is more than just a shape, it becomes worthy of its own value,” remarks Johannes and Markus. “In the end, it’s all about feelings. And it’s the same thing that interests us in art, literature or architecture.” The design duo is dedicated to finding a suitable language for a message, or a shape for a product, that talks to its audience on an emotional level. Whether the design taps into a certain feeling or even an element of surprise, Off Office consistently provides a contemporary relevance to its designs, grounding visual motifs to a bespoke demographic.
Citing “curiosity, persistence and a love of detail” as the studio’s strengths, Off Office maintains these three pillars throughout each project, though the actual design process differs from one brief to the next. “We see our job, not as covering something with a shiny surface, but revealing the beauty that is already there.” Instead of making up stories for a piece of design, Johannes and Markus endeavour to find powerful ones that already exist. Then, they find a modern and unexpected way to explore the narratives at hand.
In a recent design for artist Leonhard Hurzlmeier, Off Office celebrates the artistry behind his oil paintings. Published by Hatje Cantz, on first glance, the book appears as if it could be found in an antiquarian bookshop with its high-class bookbinding, strict layout and Renaissance typography. Wrapped in a transparent screen-printed plastic hardcover, the designers mimic a painting behind glass. The design nods to “this ambivalence of old and new”, hinting to both the haptic and the artificial which in turn, reflects Leonhard’s paintings which seem perfect on the surface, but on a closer look, defined brushstrokes and the materiality of the oil paint on canvas can be ascertained.
In another project, Off Office tackles the corporate identity for the architects 1zu33 showrooms and additionally worked on the communication concepts, digital projects, and booklet design for furniture manufacturers Nils Holger Moormann. Consistently seeing out strong ideas for both designs, these projects exemplify the studio’s idea of good design: “managing the balance between consequence and flexibility.” And though these projects demonstrate the studio’s proficiency for print design, a distinct passion for Johannes and Markus, at the moment, the studio is more inclined to pursue the digital. “We will always love printed matter, objects, the haptic of paper,” continue the founding designers. “But right now, we are focusing strongly on how to transfer these haptic moments into digital. We see websites and digital products as multidimensional objects which should also have a differentiating feel. They are powerful storytelling tools with endless possibilities to connect to the audience.”
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