Tobias Bolliger merges rhythm and distorted typography in his experimental music posters

Working under the name Bollo, the Bern-based designer tells us how working with musicians helps him to break conventional design rules and restrictions.

24 June 2022

“I use typographic patterns with the intention to create rhythm”, begins graphic designer Tobias Bolliger, “repetitive shapes followed by empty spaces generate variations of visual intensities.” It’s this experimental use of typography – plus the way the designer uses lettering to create shapes and forms – that defines his music-centred practice. But, with this conceptual approach, there is another key element to Tobias’ work, and that’s to “deform” typography, essentially making its primary purpose of legibility redundant. “By deforming typography as a carrier of information, new shapes are generated and the form is thereby pushed to the edge of its function.”

This love of “rhythm” extends from Tobias’ practice and bleeds into the industry with which he most likes to work: the music industry. Enjoying working with music, for how it allows him to “combine acoustic and visuals spheres”, Tobias tries his best to transform elements of the sounds he is working with into something perceptible. It’s also the sphere of music that Tobias believes to be conducive to breaking design rules and allowing creativity to flourish in an “unrestricted” way.

These ideas clearly translate into Tobias’ posters, and he identifies his piece for Brutalismus 3000, a Gabber duo from Berlin as being particularly resonant of this thinking. “Like the duo's identity, the concept of the poster centres around a very rough and dark look,” Tobias explains. "The design is based on a barcode font, which consists only of horizontal lines.” Overlaying a light cut version of the font, bolder cuts are then generated to the point of distortion, resulting in “diffused shapes and black areas”. The final outcome – a black and white poster with levels of visual complexity as created by repetition – the overlaid, glitch-like visuals perfectly replicate the layers of conflicting sounds present throughout the music duo’s music.


Studio Bollo: Brutalismus 3000 – ISC Club Bern (Copyright © Studio Bollo, 2021)

Raised in the “beautiful” capital of Switzerland, Bern, Tobias’ fascination with drawing and graphics began as a child. When in school, he attended an outside class for talent development in design, and it was here that he properly discovered the field of graphic design. Later working as an intern in a graphic design studio in Biel, Tobias then went on to do a BA in Graphic Design at Lucerne University of Applied Science and Art. It was through his studies that Tobias honed his creative process and discovered his love of “combining elements in a new light and staging them in free form”. He adds: “A central focus of my work now is to create new visualities by generating combinations from collected materials, and to use the medium of graphic design itself as an art form”.

Going forward, Tobias has a few concrete projects on the horizon such as the branding of IRMA Republic, a new platform for artists to share their ideas. But, first and foremost, Tobias wants to start travelling to new places and countries as a means of finding inspiration for his continued exploration of the typographic field.


Studio Bollo: Bubble – Kapitel Bollwerk (Copyright © Studio Bollo, 2022)


Studio Bollo: Taahliah – ISC Club Bern (Copyright © Studio Bollo, 2022)


Studio Bollo: [SIC!] Festival #1 – ISC Club Bern (Copyright © Studio Bollo, 2018)


Studio Bollo: Bollwerk Weekender – Kapitel Bollwerk (Copyright © Studio Bollo, 2022)


Studio Bollo: Bonaventure – ISC Club Bern (Copyright © Studio Bollo, 2021)


Studio Bollo: STATIC – Arthur Hnatek Trio (Copyright © Studio Bollo, 2020)


Studio Bollo: Hypersaw Vakzin 2 – DJ Real Madrid (Copyright © Studio Bollo, 2020)


Studio Bollo: 0X01V001 – Various Artists 1 (Copyright © Studio Bollo, 2019)


Studio Bollo: Julian Zehnder (Copyright © Studio Bollo, 2020)

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Studio Bollo: Jockstrap – Bad Bonn Düdingen (Copyright © Studio Bollo, 2021)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) 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 photography, publications and type design.

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