Meet the studio where cross-pollinated ideas overlap with a simple visual direction
Having worked at some of the UK’s most respected studios, Jason Wolfe and Luke Hall founded Wolfe Hall in 2019 as an exciting new challenge and a space for research-led typographic excellence.
- Jyni Ong
- 27 July 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Founded in 2019, Wolfe Hall is a London-based multidisciplinary design studio established by Jason Wolfe and Luke Hall. Working with a global roster of cultural clients, the two-man studio creates publications, brand identities, signage and web design across fashion, art and academia in a sophisticated display of printed prowess. Both designers boast impressive CVs to date; they met at A Practice for Everyday Life where they discovered a range of common interests before Luke went onto work with Fraser Muggeridge for almost six years. He tells us, “we would often talk about setting up a studio together over drinks in the pub after work, but it took more than five years to make the leap.”
The move came as Luke and Jason looked for a new way to push themselves further. Though they built up years of valuable experience with internationally respected studios, setting up their own studio was “an important first step to shape who we are as designers.” In turn, Wolfe Hall has crafted a unique practice with typography acting as the base element of its visual language. Utilising the tool of type, the studio’s output is distinctly pared back in order to highlight the beautifully crafted type at play. “We pride ourselves on our knowledge of typographic history and we design our own typefaces in the studio,” adds Jason. The type design is influenced by “a constant process of research” which shapes the style over time, often arising through a lack of suitable already existing typeface. Collaborating with type designers and small foundries to add another dimension to Wolfe Hall’s creations, the studio highly values “where others’ expertise can complement your own,” as a result, ever-expanding the studio’s breadth of knowledge and keeping tabs on current happenings within type design.
In this way, the physical production of Wolfe Hall’s projects is equally central to the final outcome itself. The studio’s physical space is conducive to the making process, filled with material swatches, paper samples and examples of innovative production techniques that provide inspiration and fuel for experimentation. Having these physical motifs at hand allows Luke and Jason to prioritise how something feels in the hand as opposed to an object purely appearing aesthetic. “We strive to design things that people want to keep,” Luke goes on to say, “no matter how short-lived the content may be.”
Keenly exploring how design can be used in conjunction with an artwork, Wolfe Hall was founded on the ethos that graphic design can be so much more than a flat representation of imagery. For the two founders, there is a lingering fascination with print and the endless possibilities that can be achieved within its seemingly restrictive parameters. With a hands-on approach to problem-solving, Luke and Jason spend a lot of time in secondhand bookshops where they eagerly search for vintage design gems that get them thinking: “How did they do that?” Interested in how narratives can be reinterpreted, Wolfe Hall respectably pays tribute to a design’s origin while adding a contemporary twist to bring hints of nostalgia into the present.
Stripping a design from any trace of their own personalities or egos, the content of a project sings centre stage. Projects are formed around a process of conversation, collaboration, research and production. Then, through these maze-like probes, Luke and Jason find the best way to visually relay information. “We try not to overcomplicate the design,” says Jason, “a simple visual direction allows the content to speak for itself.” A strong line of research that looks beyond the confines of graphic design underpins the justification for a chosen aesthetic, and throughout Wolfe Hall’s work, ideas are twisted or moulded into varying contexts to offer the viewer an intriguing point of view featuring a healthy cross-pollination of discussions.
Jason and Luke take us through two recent projects which demonstrate such processes. The first is an ongoing series of free exhibition booklets for Hollybush Gardens, a London-based gallery. Within the framework of this series, the two designers showcase a diverse range of shows in a confined printed space. In one booklet for a group show The Sky is Leaden in the South: An Evocation Through Grey, Wolfe Hall entices the viewer to leaf through the show’s content – an investigation of the colour grey – by creating a delicate publication that unveils the text gradually.
In other editions for Hollybush Gardens, Wolfe Hall highlights two artists’ conversations for Anne Tallentire’s show using a bold clash of red and pink while creating geometric typography which takes cues from the forms found within the artist’s work. Elsewhere, the designers create a reading experience where the viewer leads you to the centre of the Earth (where you’ll find rock-like orange speckled recycled paper) on a tour of Claire Hooper’s work. Through Wolfe Hall’s numerous collaborations with cultural institutions including Hollybush Gardens and other frequent collaborators such as publisher, Compagnia, the highly thoughtful design studio is making a name for its reflective processes as well as beautifully precise designs.
While continuing to create such work is of utmost importance to Luke and Jason going forwards, so is implementing a nurturing work environment for the people behind the work. Hoping to grow the team with time, “creating a positive and fair approach” is essential to the founders who hope to provide invaluable studio experience for designers just starting out. “Establishing good support structures and fair pay is a priority for us as a studio,” the pair finally goes on to say. “You can learn so much from working with others at every stage of your career.”
Wolfe Hall: Lund Humphries, New Directions in Contemporary Art (Copyright © Wolfe Hall, 2021)
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. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.