For Studio Ard, graphic design is a process of finding balance
Using interesting materials, methods and concepts, the London-based studio takes extra care to aesthetically emulate the contents of the publications they design for.
- Olivia Hingley
- 17 May 2022
“We believe graphic design should support and empower content rather than overwrite it with a strong graphic style”, begins Guillaume Chuard, creative director of Ard Works. “When your attention shifts from the content, it means you might have over-designed things! It’s a fine balance,” he adds pointedly. It is this approach, one of refined, understated yet instantly impactful aesthetics that has defined the work of Studio Ard since it opened its doors back in 2017.
We last caught up with Studio Ard back in 2018, not long after they had started the practice. Then, the studio was primarily running off the Tate Etc magazine, where it was trying to use art direction to push the publication to a wider audience. Introducing the studio to numerous typographers, photographers and illustrators, the project provided a brilliant starting point. “We somehow turned the magazine into a platform to disseminate new and often unreleased display typefaces; a form of design mediation,” Guillaume says. And, as a big “cherry on top”, for the overall project, the studio won a Swiss Design Award in 2019. Since then, there have been some pretty significant changes – namely, a much expanded project repertoire. Alongside creating identities and catalogues for the Swiss Grand Awards, exhibition publications for the Venice Biennale and building a close relationship with publisher Charles Asprey, Guillaume has also been doing a lot more teaching; giving editorial workshops at ECAL, and helping students to edit and design Offline, the school’s bi-annual magazine. But, evidently, if there’s one thing that remains steadfast, it’s the studio’s love of working with books and printed material.
“I studied in a time where print and magazines were (re)booming and the internet was 1.0,” shares Guillaume, “so when I got out of college, I wanted to design books.” Musing on design of today, Guillaume sees things as being very “different”, but not necessarily in a bad way. “My students are less interested in printed matter. Their motto is somewhere else; often online. Also, it feels like creative practices are more flexible today.” Giving reasons behind his love of working with books, Guillaume attests to it pushing you to see them as objects, existing in multiple creative poles; “working on printed matter also forces you to understand mass production industry and craftsmanship, to collaborate with technicians to produce the best object.” Always creating a dummy copy prior to publication, the studio is intent on being at one with the physicality of the book, and how it will exist in the hands of the reader.
Since their beginnings in 2019, Ard Works have been working alongside Lolli Editions, an independent publisher based out of the Barbican Centre who publish English translations from Scandinavia and beyond. Creating its logo and identity, the studio has also designed some of its paperback book covers. Taking the concept of the cover outside of its usual framework, the studio aims to have the book become a physical prop to the story. For example, New Passengers, a book about a love affair starting on a train emulates an oversized train ticket, whilst the cover of The Employees, a futurist look at the workplace has a staff card emblazoned on the front. “It’s fun to be able to build a visual landscape for the collection; making sure the book covers complement each other on the shelf,” Guillaume adds.
When collaborating with artists the studio uses the physical materiality of the books they create to correspond and identify the artists’ central themes. For Tenant of Culture, a monograph of Hendrickje Schimmel’s work, the studio wanted to follow the artist’s logic of “deconstruction and reconstruction”. A visually unique book, it comprises two covers and varying paper stocks glued and held together by an exposed binding, an element usually hidden beneath the book’s spine. For Anj Smith’s publication focussing on rave culture, a theme “omnipresent” in her work, the studio used a thread-sewn booklet with a square spine and rigid jacket. “The whole object feels quite elaborate yet light and spontaneous; encapsulating a certain glossy yet melancholic ‘after party’,” Guillame identifies. In just over five years Studio Ard has made a formidable name for itself within the world of publication design. For a considered, artful and multifaceted book, look no further.
Ard.works: Lolli Editions cover selection (Copyright © Ard.works, 2021)
About the Author
Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in illustration, photography, ceramic design and platforming creativity from the north of England.