Vier5 on the communicative and democratic role of graphic design
The Paris-based studio discusses how “design can change the way people see and reflect with our time” much more so than art.
- Jyni Ong
- 11 September 2020
Growing up in south Germany, the founders of Paris-based studio Vier5 developed a love for graphic design from magazines and the surrounding visual culture of the day. MTV was a big influence for Marco Fiedler and Achim Reichert, a channel, they describe, which “brought the whole world into your room.” Marco goes on to tell us of this influence that “it is completely forgotten how important MTV as a medium was for young people who wanted to become designers or graphic designers.”
For Vier5, MTV is just as relevant today as it was back then. It’s a studio which prides itself on classical design roots with a contemporary twist. Updating traditional notions of the discipline with new, up-to-date typefaces. As it says on the website: “The work of Vier5 aims to prevent any visual empty phrases and to replace them with individual, creative statements, which were developed especially for the used medium and client.” Working across exhibitions, posters, identities, publications and so on, Vier5 nods to the visual culture of the 90s (when its founders grew up) while honouring the long-established processes of graphic design.
Little by little, as Marco and Achim continued to gather inspiration from fashion, publications, videos and so on, not to mention the introduction of the internet, Vier5 was eventually birthed in 2002. There are many aspects of its practice which make the studio distinct from others. The choice in unusual typefaces, for example, or the colours applied across its projects. All in all, it’s a studio which can be boiled down to this concept: “To do things as simple as possible.” Even if it doesn’t seem simple on the surface.
For the designers, it feels like there is little time to reflect back on Vier5’s overall aesthetic. It’s more interested in following and realising its ideas, which is the studio’s main focus. Looking back on their output, sometimes they can see a signature language emerging, but above all, the designers are more interested in making a present vision a reality. With a multitude of projects under its belt, notably, Vier5 has twice worked on the Athens and Kassel-based festival Documenta 14.
“Documenta is always interesting,” says Achim. The first time the studio worked on the festival a few years back, it created the wayfinding system in Kassel. More recently, it tackled the exhibition identity in Athens, a concept birthed out of the idea of sparking social discussion. Achim adds on the idea: “To see design and graphic design as a free form of art and also the possibility to take an active social position with the work.” Utilising the festival’s large platform as an opportunity to make contact with lots of different groups of society, ultimately, the work shows “the importance and the voice which graphic design can have in the ‘everyday life’” and exemplifies the communicative and democratic role that graphic design can have, too.
This is an important distinction between art and graphic design for Marco and Achim. While art is “safe and protected” behind the walls of museums, in contrast, graphic design is “directly in contact with people, with the society.” He adds, “design can change the way people see and reflect with our time, more than art.” It was interesting to see how this played out in a different city for Vier5, in this case, Athens.
Even now, a while after the project is finished, Marco and Achim still enjoy how the citizens of Athens interact with the remaining signage system which still exists dotted around the city. They planned for some of the signs to be stolen during the festival (which they were), particularly a set of marble bricks which acted as labels for the artwork. Marco finally goes on to say, “sometimes people write us that they stole a brick and use it for something else. It makes me proud to see that our work is part of a ‘normal’ social life.”
documenta 14 official poster, artistic direction by Adam Szymczyk (Copyright © Vier5, 2020)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.