For three years now, graphic designers Michael Satter and Sandra Doeller have been working with London venue Oval Space on all its artwork: everything from branding to billboard ads, postcards and T-shirts. One of its sub-projects has been with the Pickle Factory, a smaller venue opposite the main one, for which Michael and Sandra have been working on two long-term illustrator collaborations to create a series of minimal and charismatic posters.
Using a typographic frame drawn from Oval Space’s branding, the posters are given a strong, recognisable but flexible visual identity that opens the doors for a more playful and interchangeable central image. “This allows us to experiment with diverse visual material within the frame,” Sandra explains. “The Pickle Factory was, in the very beginning, kind of an experimental offshoot for live acts under the umbrella of Oval Space. So we took the typographic frame used for the main space and decided to combine it with illustrations to create a unique ‘Pickle Factory Universe’. The personal touch seems a good fit for the space.”
The first series saw Michael enlist his friend Stefan Marx. “At that point two things came together,” says Michael. “We found out the Pickle Factory once was a real factory producing pickles, and Stefan is well-known for his funny cartoonish characters, so asking him to develop some pickle characters was the next logical step. The outcome was striking, so we went on to make several pictorial series including illustrations of aliens, airlines and gardens.”
“My work is mostly drawing-based,” Stefan says, “black lines on a white background. The fun aspect was that Michael did colour versions of the work, plus the simple, focused typography worked well together with the illustrations. For the subject, we looked for a series of characters; the alien-inspired drawings were fun to evolve.”
After two years, a change-up saw the duo begin working with Kevin Lucbert. “His surreal sceneries, drawn in precise lines using a biro, immediately impressed us,” says Michael. Each of Kevin’s posters are linked to the month and a theme: May was “space”, June was “dancing", August was “jungle” and September was “rituals”, and beyond that, Kevin has free rein. “There’s no formal brief other than trying strange experimental ideas, the weirder the better,” the illustrator says.
“I like working in series because often one idea inspires the next,” Kevin continues. “All the ideas are connected by a strange narrative link. Part of the pools image was inspired by David Hockney. For the dancing image I was inspired by the Danse Macabre tradition. I love this ancient allegory, people wearing masks and skeletons and dancing like crazy.”
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