“Concept, art direction, attention to detail and typography”: Meet Studio Marcus Kraft

Based in Zurich, Marcus has been running his studio for ten years now. Here, he chats to us about a recent project: the identity for Zürcher Theater Spektakel.

Date
16 September 2021
Reading Time
3 minute read

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Marcus Kraft, who has run his eponymous studio since 2011, was asked to design the identity for Zürcher Theater Spektakel – one of Europe’s largest festivals for the contemporary performing arts – four years ago. And he must have done a good job, for every year since he’s been asked to work on annual campaigns alongside typographer Marlon Ilg for the festival that has been running since 1980.

Usually, the event attracts over 100,000 people but this year, as with many IRL events, things were slimmed down somewhat. Marcus’ visuals for this year’s promotional material didn’t follow suit, however, and he built upon a concept established the first year he worked with the festival: to highlight the protagonists of each show. In 2018, he created an artistic interpretation of these figures, inspired by heliography, a precursor of photography. In 2019, Marcus and Marlon worked with the artist Monique Baumann and this year, they commissioned photographer and artist Jean-Vincent Simonet. (2020 saw them deviate from this concept and, instead, create a campaign “inspired by barrier tape because of the Corona crisis.”)

This year’s campaign feels incredibly contemporary and exciting, thanks in large part to how Marcus and Marlon combined Jean-Vincent’s visuals with such bold typography. Jean-Vincent is a singular artist, combining manual photographic techniques with new digital retouching methods to create distinctive and unique work. “The radiant and fluid works, which look like a mix of photography and oil painting, have an exuberance that reflects the dense programme,” Marcus writes. Alongside their choice of block serif typography, with a secondary sans serif, the results are bold, creating an identity that is as expressive as the content it’s promoting.

A real strength of the campaign is its art direction, and this alongside strong concepts, attention to detail and typography is what Marcus believes is his signature. Crucially, the studio is run on the premise that design should be more than just beautiful or aesthetically pleasing, but should: start a conversation, further businesses, be simple, unique and honest, think of the audience first, stand the test of time, be accessible to all, and be fun. These principles were laid out in a manifesto that Marcus published this year in line with the studio’s tenth anniversary.

With these ideas in mind, it’s no surprise that Marcus says he enjoys the artisanal side of design as much as he does the more commercial side. “As a designer, you kind of have a good excuse to explore other industries and learn from the experts there,” he explains. “The good thing is that I am naturally interested in exploring new things.” That means, when a client approaches him with a problem, Marcus revels in the task of finding the right solution. Usually, this will happen in dialogue with the client, but he often also assembles teams of freelancers to tackle bigger jobs. His biggest job to date, he adds, “was the rebranding and new corporate identity for Zurich Tourism in 2017.”

Alongside running his studio, Marcus runs Pop Music Wisdom, “which is all about advice from pop songs,” and an “off-space for contemporary art called Tableau Zurich.” He is also a member of the collective of the sustainable brand, Soeder. So while he’s clearly got his hands full, he says he’s looking forward to further collaborations with clients on “interesting and beautiful projects” in the future. “I am currently working on the corporate identity for an exciting new client that will be unveiled in a few months,” he teases. “Next, I’d like to continue to realise independent, self-initiated work, of course.” Concluding that he’s “pretty happy” with how things are at the moment, the only thing that’s missing is a few more trips to the mountains in Switzerland.

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft / Jean-Vincent Simonet, 2021)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft / Jean-Vincent Simonet, 2021)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft, 2018)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft / Monique Baumann, 2019)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft / Monique Baumann, 2019)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft, 2020)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zurich Tourism (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft, 2017)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zurich Tourism (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft, 2017)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zurich Tourism (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft, 2017)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zurich Tourism (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft, 2017)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zurich Tourism (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft, 2017)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: SBB CFF FFS, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft, 2019)

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Studio Marcus Kraft: Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Copyright © Studio Marcus Kraft / Jean-Vincent Simonet, 2021)

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.

rbd@itsnicethat.com

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