Studio Claus Due is a Copenhagen-based graphic design studio with an unusual emphasis on self-initiated projects which set his studio output apart. Founded by the studio’s namesake Claus Due, the unusually large output of personal projects is a result of “being totally obsessed by something”, a fresh outlook on an industry which is predominately and historically client-based.
Speaking to It’s Nice That, Claus explains how he’s “always believed that being a graphic designer is about communicating someone else’s ideas, projects or whatever. I have never believed in having my own voice as such,” unlike musicians and artists who naturally voice an individual sense of expression through the work. Whereas with self-initiated projects, it can be hard to establish the look and feel of the design because the nature of the work is personal. “In order to design something, I need content that is interesting to me”, says Claus. “If I don’t, I have no idea where to go with it. I am interested in content, not style.” The graphic designer likens this creative process to composing “a film score without actually knowing whether the movie’s genre is a drama, comedy or horror.”
Claus is both challenged and creatively stimulated in his design practice that specialises in creating material for the cultural sector. He cites the importance of the young designers in his studio that bring “a huge passion” to the practice, as well as work on various personal projects on the side that then inform the designed output of Studio Claus Due. When looking through a prospective portfolio, Claus highly values the personal projects as he is “always curious to learn what books people are reading and what kind of music they have been listening to.” For instance, Claus once took on an intern purely because of a single book cover she designed, knowing that “if she liked that particular book, her character would be alright.”
An example of a thoroughly considered personal project is Reenactment — Hommage á Cadere. The project originates back to an “analogue Pinterest board” that Claus keeps to pin up images that he finds interesting. One image in particular struck the designer; a photograph of a Polish-Romanian artist named André Cadere carrying a striped, wooden bar while wearing a striped t-shirt. André would carry this wooden bar wherever he went as a kind of “lifelong performance” while attempting to establish himself in the art world during the 1970s. Claus grew an increasing fascination with André (otherwise known as the “stick man”), thinking about him for more than a year until the designer fabricated a personal project around this lifelong performance.
In collaboration with the Danish fashion designer Mads Nørgaard who is also interested in the arts as well as stripes, the two creatives team together to reenact Cadere’s performance. Claus and Mads gathered “the best people [they] could find to help” on the project including the artists FOS, Lilibeth Cuenca and performances by Elmgreen and Dragset. The project culminated in a performance staged in front of hundreds of people with an accompanying newspaper and giant posters erected throughout Copehagan.
Another personal project is 49 landscapes, 73 bears and the Skinned Head of a Young Bull which came about as an extension of an exhibition at the National Gallery of Denmark. The museum asked 15 people in different fields of design to start a visual dialogue with one of the artworks from the collection. However, Claus became so enamoured with “all kinds of weird, small elements of the paintings that normally go unnoticed” resulting in the design of a book cataloguing these features. The designer relays how the project was “so much fun… picking 112 paintings from the collection,” and setting a weeklong brief to map out these details which includes the number of cats and dogs, different kinds of hats and all the dead Queens that can be found in the artworks. The book documents Claus’ “personal admiration of the paintings” and can be seen as a “layman’s way of categorising art.”
Finally, Man and God is a small flip book the designer created for an exhibition in Boston around the questioning relationship between Man and God. “From my personal perspective,” says Claus “God is less present than the people playing the role of God. It’s these people who are becoming more present in the world we live in today.” The flip book is designed to gradually erode the word ‘God’ which is then replaced by the word ‘Man’.
For members of the editorial team here at It’s Nice That, it’s refreshing to see the thriving energy that personal projects bring to studios like Studio Claus Due. Personal projects seem to be an important aspect of maintaining creative stimulation, making work purely out of the designer’s curiosity is a great way to record the creative train of thought as well as a reason to make something for the sake of the designer.
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