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Regulars / Ones To Watch 2018

Ones to Watch 2018: graphic designers Offshore Studio

Illustration:

Mason London

It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch shines a light on 12 emerging talents who we think will conquer the creative world in 2018. From a global pool of creative talent, we have chosen our 2018 Ones To Watch for their ability to consistently produce inspiring and engaging work across a diverse range of disciplines. Each of our selections continually pushes the boundaries of what is possible with their creative output. Ones to Watch 2018 is supported by Uniqlo. 

“It’s funny, people often question us about how we work – ‘How do you work so smoothly? How are you so efficient?’ But for us, it evolved very organically, it just works and we don’t think about it too much,” Austrian graphic designer, Christoph Miler, remarks. Alongside Isabel Seiffert, Christoph is one half of Zurich-based design studio Offshore and the next name on It’s Nice That’s list of Ones to Watch in 2018.

Known for its storytelling abilities through projects that place an emphasis on strong editorial design, Offshore Studio is the product of the truly unique collaboration that exists between Isabel and Christoph. Although possessing their own areas of expertise, Offshore’s projects emerge from a process of back-and-forth designing between the duo. “We like to do things together,” the studio tells It’s Nice That, “so at the end of a project you can’t say one person was responsible for ‘this’ and one person was responsible for ‘that’. The projects we’ve worked on – as they are now – wouldn’t exist if we were working alone. They came out of this collaboration: out of our two minds.”

When working on a project, something which can range from a website incorporating 3D models to an album cover featuring imagery of a hybrid sonar device, Isabel and Christoph utilise this collaboration to produce increasingly recognisable and accomplished work.

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Offshore Studio: Migrant Journal

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Offshore Studio: Migrant Journal

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Offshore Studio: Migrant Journal

Although now clearly rooted in their choice of career, neither initially gravitated towards the world of design. Isabel, who grew up between Stuttgart and Magdeburg in Germany wanted to study art but instead veered towards fashion management and later, textiles technology. “I didn’t even know graphic design existed when I was in school,” she remarks. It was while studying, however, that Isabel acquired her first laptop and discovered the world of Photoshop. “I would try and do creative things with it and eventually realised it was the direction for me,” she explains, “then I met someone in a car on the way to Berlin who was studying graphic design and two weeks later I applied!”

For Christoph, it’s a surprisingly similar story. Initially wanting to study art, he eventually wound up at a technical school: “I really hated it, so I continued to draw alongside that until I figured out what graphic design is, what it means and what it involves. I got really interested in it – especially in editorial design because I love to read and it provided a way for me to deal with text and give it form.” From here, he searched for a school that would facilitate his interest in typography, magazines and narratives, landing on the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) where he met Isabel.

While studying for their masters in editorial design at ZHdK, Isabel and Christoph noticed a correlation in the political and social issues they were exploring in their individual practices. Upon graduation, Isabel went to Denmark to do an internship and Christoph to Italy to work at Colors magazine. They kept in touch, worked on a few projects together after which they returned to Zurich and so Offshore was born.

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Offshore Studio: HKB Infotag

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Offshore Studio: Klassensprachen

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Offshore Studio: Klassensprachen

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Offshore Studio: Klassensprachen

This tangled journey to fruition plays a major role in the studio’s name and is reflected in its ethos. “When we first started working on some self-initiated projects, we wanted to release several publications and take them to a book fair in Zurich so we needed a name,” Isabel recalls. They spent one afternoon brainstorming and “somehow came up with Offshore”. The name functions as a nod to the fact that Christoph is from Austria and Isabel from Germany, both German-speaking countries. It also describes how they both serendipitously settled in Zurich, a city which incorporates the studio’s approach to design. “We had always thought that we had adapted to the Swiss way of designing,” Isabel explains, “but we have so many other influences that we always felt a bit ‘offshore’ compared to our peers.”

As a result, the pair creates work grounded in strict Swiss ideals combined with international elements as a way to disrupt this. The studio not only designs but creates content, performing the role of researchers and editors. It’s this implementation of authorship within their work that makes it so successful, and nowhere can this be seen more clearly than with their work for Migrant Journal.

“Everything started in 2015 during the so-called ‘migrant crisis’,” explains Christoph, “when hundreds of thousands of people were migrating from Syria to Europe. Justinas [one of the publication’s editors], Katerina [an architect] and Isabel decided they wanted to add another voice to the discussion which, at the time, was incredibly polarised and polemic.” Migrant emerged as a way to create space for a more complex approach to the topic, one that considers all of the political, economic and sociological factors that play a role in migration. Since launching the first issue in 2016 and with three issues now behind them, Migrant is only growing in popularity.

With a preplanned publishing run of six issues, Migrant demonstrates Offshore’s foundation in strong concepts translated into interesting systems that function across multiple platforms. With a bespoke typeface and a unique plethora of imagery from iPhone pictures to slicker editorial photography (printed in a special colour profile and with metallic ink throughout), Migrant is both visually arresting and multi-faceted in its content.

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Offshore Studio: Migrant Journal

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Offshore Studio: Migrant Journal

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Offshore Studio: Migrant Journal

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Offshore Studio: Migrant Journal

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Offshore Studio: Migrant Journal

In a recent project, titled Natural Capital, Offshore was able to show a very different side to its practice – a much more digital one. Isabel and Christoph were approached by two curators developing the concept for a new festival. The idea was to hold an event taking place every two years in a different country, exploring it from an artistic perspective. Isabel and Christoph were asked to develop the visual identity for this year’s festival taking place in Indonesia, dealing with the topic of biodiversity and how this is influenced by economic and political processes.

The pair worked alongside the curators throughout the project, creating a website that will function as an online journal. In order to reflect the festival’s theme, Christoph and Isabel experimented with 3D technology creating a series of rotating, interactive forms. “They’re a symbiosis between natural and organic things like stone and grass and very artificial things like plastic and oil,” Christoph explains.

This kind of experimentation is a core principle of Offshore: “With every project, we try to come up with something new, explore a new direction. Whether that’s 3D printing or some open source software, from this new aesthetics can emerge,” the pair tell It’s Nice That.

So what’s next for Offshore? 2018 will see the release of its collaboration with photographer Elisabeth Real and the first two volumes of The Lesbian Lives Project. However, in what is probably their biggest project to date, the pair have been asked to design the visual identity for the Istanbul Design Biannual. Based on the theme, “a school of schools,” Christoph and Isabel are exploring the notion of collaborative production with a view to holding a series of masterclasses with students in Istanbul to develop the poster campaign. Isabel explains how “we are going to be trying new ways of working and challenging ourselves in terms of how much we can control.” With the next two issue of Migrant also on the way, it’s shaping up to be an incredibly exciting year for such a young studio.

Supported by Uniqlo

The idea at the heart of all of Uniqlo’s clothing is LifeWear – clothes that make your life better. Style doesn’t have to be superficial; it can keep you warmer, cooler, drier. Uniqlo creates LifeWear by evolving the ordinary, producing innovations big and small that benefit you every day.

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Offshore Studio: Natural Capital

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Offshore Studio: Natural Capital

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Offshore Studio: The Lesbian Lives Project

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Offshore Studio: The Lesbian Lives Project

Supported by Uniqlo

The idea at the heart of all of Uniqlo’s clothing is LifeWear – clothes that make your life better. Style doesn’t have to be superficial; it can keep you warmer, cooler, drier. Uniqlo creates LifeWear by evolving the ordinary, producing innovations big and small that benefit you every day.