Pseudonym Publishing, an Oslo-based art and design imprint run by William Stormdal and Halvor Nordrum, is an experiment in putting graphic designers at the centre of the publishing process. “I wanted to explore the effects of turning the traditional loop of publishing upside down,” William recalls of its origins, as he remembers asking himself: “What happens when ideation, editing, and composing contributors are done by the designer?”
Initially founded as a one man operation, it wasn’t long until Halvor joined William on this indie print venture. Working as a graphic designer for Bleed at the time, William met his collaborator-to-be when he joined the studio as an intern, around the launch of Pseudonym’s first title. “He was the first person I ever managed to collaborate with creatively,” William recalls, “so introducing him to Pseudonym was a natural next step.”
Now both full-timers at Bleed, the duo run Pseudonym as their “Batman-side-gig.” Exploring the common grounds of design, photography, text and artistic projects, in the years since it began, the imprint has worked with over 45 creatives from a diverse range of disciplines, countries and outputs. From artistic investigations into geological systems to vegetable metaphors that describe design jargon, these eclectic titles are united in their creative curiosity, razor-sharp visuals and explorative approach.
“Our practice is one of iteration,” Halvor tells It’s Nice That. “We often have this clear core message or goal, and then we just toss stuff at it until it fits.” It’s a free-form process and one more often than not accompanied by “a few splashes of heated arguments, beer and annoyingly loud music.” The variety of Pseudonym’s output is a testament to the relentlessness of this experimentation, yielding a diverse set of printed matter that, as William describes, “resonate on a number of different levels – be that aesthetic, humour, formal or political.”
One of Pseudonym’s earliest projects, Pseudo is a collection of interviews with Scandinavian designers about concepts and rhetoric in the discipline. “I was so pissed with the eternal circle-jerk and confusion around the words we use to describe and sell design,” William divulges, reflecting on the project’s catalyst. Frustrated with these obfuscations, and longing for some clarity on the topic, he visited over 20 studios, hoping to receive some guidance or discover an agreed-upon truth. “Instead,” he recounts, “I was left with 20 completely different points of view, and a funny book.”
From Petter Kuckaka’s secret shame when buying toilet paper to Thomas Kurppa’s constant reference to vegetable metaphors when explaining design and client relations, Pseudo’s meandering discussions are the perfect balance of insightful, endearing and hilarious. Candid photographs celebrate the colloquial tone of these conversations while the book’s sharp design brings a pace, formality and structure to an otherwise unruly document. Charming, accessible and unexpected, Pseudo embodies the ethos at the heart of William and Halvor’s practice.
The next couple of weeks will see the duo head to Seoul and Tokyo to gather material for their next big project. Focussing on the cultural power of typography, Asian Latin Latin Asian explores how visual culture is translated through letterforms. Set to include submissions and interviews from the likes of Eric Hu, ABCDinamo, Hezin O, Moonsick Gang and Kentaro Okawara, we’ll be keeping lookout for this undoubtedly brilliant book in the coming year.