Established in Chicago in 2016, Platform is a graphic design studio, publisher and risograph printer specialising in typographical identities, websites, books and other printed matter. Founded by Jacob Lindgren and Paul Zdon while they were still at university, Platform began as a reaction to Chicago’s design scene at the time, which did not cater to the type of work the duo was interested in making. Even these days, the local industry offers little in the way of exciting opportunities for young people. “There is a design scene here, but in our experience it’s very commercial-facing and adheres to a particular look or style we’re not interested in,” explains Jacob. “With that said, outside of some kind of union or solidarity-building platform, we’re unsure there even needs to be a design scene.”
Existing in that case as a kind of bastion of anti-commercial design in Chicago, Platform thrives as a multi-faceted studio that values personal exploration just as much as it does work for clientele. “There are often areas of overlap between the studio and our publishing effort and it becomes difficult for us to know what the boundaries are, but we try to think of that as a good thing,” Jacob tells It’s Nice That. “Our own publications usually come about by a desire to explore a particular topic or medium and then conceptualising a way to form a project around that.”
One such project is their journal, Domains, which is released sporadically and investigates content found within the public domain, such as material with a Creative Commons license and work that has a contentious copyright status, including ones which are out of print or otherwise unobtainable in their original form. “Currently in its seventh issue, Domains is one of our earliest projects that we started together and provides us with an opportunity to explore different formats and publishing strategies,” says Jacob.
The studio’s unconventional work doesn’t stop there, however; they recently designed a website for a project titled Photo Requests from Solitary, which “asks people held in long-term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons if they’d like to request a photograph of anything at all, real or imagined, and then finds a volunteer to make the image”. Tasked with building a functional catalogue of all the requests and photo submissions, Platform devised a simple yet effective monochrome identity, including a shape system which symbolises unfulfilled requests with a circle, and fulfilled requests with a square. Visitors to the website can utilise this to sort through the backlog of requests and to view submitted photos. Speaking on the work, Jacob says: “This project stands out for us because of the awareness it brings to an issue that deeply concerns us, and the task of making Solitary Watch’s work more visible and accessible was a rewarding one.”
Outside of their practice, Jacob and Paul are equally enterprising. Both are members of a self-organised collective called Open-End-Ed, which aims to facilitate self-learning, critical thought, research and exchange, the duo participate in readings, practical workshops, lectures and field-trips surrounding topics decided upon by the group such as mycology, insect rituals, pickpocketing, pure mathematics and more. As if that wasn’t already ambitious enough, Jacob says they’re also interested in learning more about “creative approaches and responses to evolving web technologies like peer-to-peer publishing, the decentralised internet, and ad hoc mesh networks – something we touched upon lightly in Domains 5.”
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.