The Royal Studio: That Could Be

Media Partnership / Graphic Design

The Royal Studio renames as Degrau to reflect its growing graphic design personality

Next week (1–8 July) It’s Nice That will be visiting 180 Creative Camp in Abrantes, Portugal. A week-long event creatively exploring different disciplines, below we speak to The Royal Studio who have been invited to take part in the camp’s workshops. You can find out more information about 180 Creative Camp here.

Opening shop eight years ago in 2010, Porto-based The Royal Studio has garnered a following for speaking a graphic design language based on conversation. From the start João Castro, the studio’s founder, has not followed “graphic trends or styles” but instead “focused on what we felt was a good practice,” he explains.

This practice is an open one that lays its cards on the table to both its following and the client. “As every graphic designer says, we focus on the client’s needs and problems but try to solve them in the real world,” João tells us over Skype from the studio’s Porto base. “This isn’t for the client, but for the public, for the people. The focus is always very humanistic in that sense.” In creating such an open platform to discuss graphic design for everyone who interacts with it, it’s no surprise that the studio has been invited to 180 Creative Camp in Abrantes, Portugal, to create a workshop “bringing more colour and crazy design ideas for the locals.”

In its unique approach, The Royal Studio has developed a certain personality that it’s become known for, pulling in clients as broad as Facebook and Adobe to dance record label Ninja Tune. In turn, it’s evolved in numbers, growing from João and Ana Areias to include designers Tiago Campeã and Raquel Rei. “In that process, The Royal is now in a moment where it’s starting to disappear into something new,” says João. This something new is a new name and identity for the studio, Degrau, taken from the Portuguese word for a step on a staircase.“ The ideals remain the same between the four of us," the founder explains, "but it’s a way to stay away from the authorship that is implied in the way you design things, or how you compose work, it’s more focusing on the public again.”


The Royal Studio: Bicep campaign


The Royal Studio: Bicep campaign

Looking through The Royal Studio and Degrau’s work is like a timeline of seeing a designer grow up. However, with João at the helm, typography remains the key factor of the studio. From commercial work to an album campaign for Bicep, typography is a valued component, “we treat it as a brush basically,” the designer explains.

As the head of a studio but also a teacher, João admits that it would be impossible to “overlook one of the most ancient ways of communicating in a super visual sense.” Although the studio’s work, particularly the projects produced in its time as The Royal Studio could be considered playful experiments with typography, when it comes down to the nitty gritty João doesn’t mess about. “When it is to be read it is to be read and well executed, composed and placed in a perfectly bound book. We’re not valuing typography over readability.” On the other hand, “if it’s a poster…” João smirks, “you can use typography is the visual element itself, it’s an element that will tell a lot more than most. We value it a lot.”


The Royal Studio: Adobe

In João’s academic appreciation for graphic design but also his playfulness with the medium, those visiting 180 Creative Camp are in for a treat, typographic or not. For the designer himself, however, he’s keen to visit Abrantes next week “mostly because of some friends who are also going to be doing the workshop,” he tells It’s Nice That. As one of the more established creatives in Portugal’s design scene, it’s also the younger designers bubbling up that he looks forward to meeting and catching up with. “When you work in a city for such a long time all of a sudden the streets breathe differently,” he explains, “it’s been down to these kids over the past years, and then you see them become designers, I am very eager to see what they’ll be putting out.”

While in Abrantes the work made by the creatives invited — a long list which includes Elise by Olsen, Devin Blaskovich, Negative Feedback and It’s Nice That too — João is “super curious to see how the creative camp will handle all of the architectural constraints of the different exhibitions,” as the creatives take over numerous buildings throughout the town. Often inviting a team which also includes interior architects, “they usually come up with interesting conclusions with how to work with space, also something I want to explore in the workshop,” he explains. “They’re always very open with what you want to do and super cool, so I’m excited.

180 Creative Camp takes place next week from 1 — 8 July in Abrantes, Portugal. For more information and the full line up, from creatives creating work and offering advice during the day to bands in the evening, visit its site here.


Degrau: Bloom


Degrau: Bloom


Degrau: Bolsa de Idelas


Degrau: Bolsa de Idelas


Degrau: Chronicles of Azores