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Work / Graphic Design

Genuine collaborations inform Swiss design studio Omnigroup’s broad practice

Websites, publications, identities, typefaces – Switzerland-based design studio Omnigroup can do it all. What started out as a loose collaboration between Luke Archer, Leonardo Azzolini, Frederik Mahler-Andersen and Simon Mager, is now a fully-functioning studio working on a variety of projects in the fields of art, design and music.

Luke, Leonardo, Frederik and Simon studied in the UK, Italy, Denmark and Germany respectively before meeting at ECAL where they all worked as assistant teachers after their graduation – and continue to do so. Nowadays, Omnigroup is headed-up by Leonardo and Simon, with Frederik and Luke collaborating on specific projects.

As a studio, Omnigroup enjoys approaching projects holistically. It designs everything from the typefaces to image treatments, while Frederik and Luke with their programming and developing skills, offer the studio the chance to expand projects into digital realms. In a recent project for ECAL Digital Market, Omnigroup put this approach into practice.

The project was developed for Milan Design Week 2018 and presents 3D printing “as an on-demand production tool for product design, allowing visitors on and offline to purchase small objects developed by ECAL students and alumni.” Omnigroup designed and built an online platform which features live renderings of all the items which also functions as a catalogue where digital files can be licensed and downloaded. Not content with just producing these visuals, Omnigroup also incorporated an image treatment process into the accompanying newspaper using a free 3D software. These were printed in collaboration with lithographer James Pascale using three spot colours. Finally, across all elements of the identity, Omnigroup added “two playful display cuts to our font Polar”.

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Omnigroup: ECAL Digital Market

Although not consciously developing a signature visual language, the studio admits, “we cannot deny that typography plays a crucial role in our work”. So far, the outcomes of Omnigroup’s projects have been significantly dictated by the use of one of its own fonts, or custom letterings. “But we also like to see the typefaces in use by other studios,” it explains. “We often give out beta licenses of our typefaces for specific projects and appreciate the feedback that we get. It’s a bit like playing an unreleased record and allows us to adjust certain things if necessary in order to eventually make them accessible to a wider public.”

One example of the studio’s type-led process can be seen in its redesign of a photography biennial called Images Vevey. Arguably one the most important creative events for Switzerland, the biennial sees the city of Vevey transformed into a mammoth outdoor and indoor exhibition. To visualise the festival, Omnigroup drew a custom display font to be used alongside its typeface Alpha, a combination then implemented across posters, invitations, signage and merchandise.

Whatever the project, however, its genuine collaboration which is at the heart of Omnigroup’s practice: “We appreciate clients and projects that want to engage in a real collaborative exchange with us, rather than looking for someone who can make their ideas look nice.” Although a cliché that clients in the cultural field can best offer this, so far its proved to be true for the studio. Despite this, Omnigroup concludes by telling It’s Nice That, “we think that interesting collaborations can come from any type of client and is not related to a specific field. Developing an identity in, for example, the fields of construction metalwork or agriculture, that tries to challenge current visual paradigms would be a very nice project to work on.”

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Omnigroup: ECAL Digital Market

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Omnigroup: ECAL Digital Market

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Omnigroup: ECAL Digital Market

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Omnigroup: Images Vevey. Photograph by Mathilda Olmi

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Omnigroup: Images Vevey

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Omnigroup: Images Vevey

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Omnigroup: Images Vevey. Photograph by Mathilda Olmi

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Omnigroup: Images Vevey. Photograph by Mathilda Olmi