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In his introductory statement to the fourth Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, the biennial’s curator, Jan Boelen, spoke of his intention to “not present clear solutions, but doubt and curiosity”. Rather than suggesting the form design education of the future may take, or “optimising the system”, he was interested in “questioning the mechanisms”. It’s no wonder then, that when seeking out a visual identity for the fair, it was Offshore Studio who proved the right fit.
The Zurich-based design studio, founded by Isabel Seiffert and Christoph Miller, is renowned for its ability to tackle complex, critical issues relating to design; as well as having the principle of “offshoring” integral to their very identity. Offshore cites the idea of “eluding closed territories and connecting elsewhere” as a core theme, stating that it’s: “driven by the aim to explore the remote, unknown and invisible…[and] in doing so, their modes of production become inevitably collaborative, transnational and decentralised, questioning the traditional boundaries of space, time and professions”.
It was in its commission to design the concept for the visual identity of the Istanbul Design Biennial that they really got to test the principle of working in a way that is “collaborative, transnational and decentralised”. Working with designers from the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, who went on to implement the identity, Christoph and Isabel held a series of masterclasses. The workshops were an act in “handing over the reigns” of authorship, and involved: “trying new ways of working, and challenging ourselves in terms of creating something that looks coherent without us controlling everything.”
Offshore Studio created a package that included a custom typeface, images and renderings to represent the six different “schools” that make up the biennial – Time School, Digestion School, Unmaking School, Currents School, Earth School and Scales School – along with a set of design guidelines that followed-up and confirmed the constraints outlined in the masterclass. “Various themes are explored in the context of learning: maps and measures, patterns and rhythm, earthquakes and disasters in the Mediterranean, and migration,” Offshore Studio tells It’s Nice That.
The studio’s initial idea for the identity had been grounded in representing the mix of themes via abstract patterns and forms, a series of what the studio refers to as “filters”, “offering a glimpse of what characterises each school”. As the work developed, and particularly after visiting Istanbul, Christoph and Isabel realised they’d need something bolder to stand out: “We focused more on the perspective rather than the filter, trying to build a modular system that could be easily applied and visible among the city’s visual noise” they explain. “It was interesting to see how the posters are hung: raw, ephemeral and temporary. With the noise of the traffic, everything is loud and dense; your perception of a poster or a banner is changed by the atmosphere of the city."
About the Author
Billie studied illustration at Camberwell College of Art before completing an MA in Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art. She joined It’s Nice That as a Freelance Editorial Assistant back in January 2015 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis.