Vaulte magazine is probably the trendiest publication we’ve ever seen. Its pages are packed with the design tropes that fill your Instagram feeds; everything from stretched type to ovals, over-the-top cursive lettering and neon yellow. It even comes sealed in a vacuum-packed plastic bag. While the combination of all these elements is enough to make anyone roll their eyes, the seen-it-all-before aesthetic is an actual fact one big joke. The handy work of Christian Dutilh and Jacob Weinzettel, Vaulte is a reflection on the role of design in capitalism, poking fun at the medium and encouraging critical discourse. “The jokes on us,” the duo tells It’s Nice That, “but it’s also on the audience.”
Together, Christian and Jacob make up Composite Co., a creative studio based in New York, having moved from Washington DC in April of this year. After running the studio for four years now, the duo built a niche for themselves in Washington (a city not best known for its design scene) “doing non-conventional visual identity work with a strong focus on typography.”
Vaulte is actually an offshoot of a wider project titled Vaulte X-XII (pronounced vault ten twelve) which developed as a personal project alongside this work. They explain: “We wanted to reflect on our role as designers and realise how complicit we are in helping companies sell people things they probably don’t need. It’s a reflection on late capitalism, consumerism, hype culture, social media, and on the construction of value.” The project takes the form of a fictitious hype fashion brand called Vaulte X-XII and, to make themselves known, Christian and Jacob “wheat-pasted posters around DC with mysterious tag lines and photos taken by Ryan Duffin while also running a similar campaign on Instagram.
Working in collaboration with Washington Project for the Arts, they found a vacant storefront in a gentrifying area of DC – close to a Le Labo and an Aesop, of course – and “built out a full retail experience with everything drenched in fluorescent yellow, Barbara Kruger-inspired text covering the floors and a single vitrine in the middle of the room that displayed a single generic white T-shirt.” They sold the T-shirts in vacuum-sealed packaging and clear PVC tote bags with a preorder of the magazine, which was released in March of this year.
The first issue of the magazine is called “hype brand” and compiles thoughts and theories on design to date, its future, and relationship to capitalism. Through several contributions, including from photographer Ryan Duffin and director of design at MoMA, Rob Giampietro, it acts as a cautionary tale about how “branding distorts value by appealing to people’s emotions and vulnerabilities.” As designers themselves, it’s also a space for the duo to hold up a mirror to their own behaviours and complicity in that narrative. “It is only by challenging our consumption-obsessed society that we can begin the process of dismantling it,” they state.
It’s here that the crux of what makes Vaulte so smart becomes clear – it’s entirely disarming. On the surface a run-of-the-mill design project, it ironically harbours fascinating content on an important topic, making readers question why they were so interested in the appealing aesthetic of the work in the first place.
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