Background Stories

Blog

Below you will find background stories, in depth articles and a look behind the scenes of our studio. Get an insight into the choices we’ve made, challenges we had to master and our work philosophy.

88 Days at the AIRPORT

Our former intern Fabienne Rößing created a beautiful report about her time at the studio. Start reading and find out how she experienced the internship.

During my internship at Studio AIRPORT I was able to work for international clients like ’The Drug Issue’, ‘Utregse Unie’, ‘Loveland Festival’, ‘Inspire Innovations’ and ‘HKU’. I have worked on diverse assignments like a festival campaign, an online e-book, several posters and did some research for a cool new app. With my Studio AIRPORT mailaccount I was able to accompany the client during the whole process. I have held my own presentations and helped at other peoples presentations. This enabled me to get a feeling for external communication and giving advice to a client. Which is sometimes quite hard, because you want to defend your opinion and ideas if needed.

As a very structured design-student I was interested to compare my work process with the process used at the studio. I’m pretty committed to the research part which sometimes results in missing the jump into the visual language. Of course starting with a blank page wasn’t actually the aspect I was looking for. But when starting with a blank sheet gives space to think in potentials rather than in restrictions, so I learned.

For me it was really interesting to see how the guys at the studio draw lines between a topic and its visual aspects. Sometimes it was actually connected to the topic and sometimes it was just an interesting new tool or visual design they would like to apply. It was a mix of solid approach with a twist of fun and interest, which slowly formed the visual language. The results were always different: sometimes stunning, sometimes rubbish but definitely always worth a try. By following their intuition they have assembled a toolbox of cool techniques over the years which they’ve shared with me. I would like to continue using this mentality along my way.

Everyone gave more than 100% with a drive to perfection. They kept me involved through each stage of their projects and always asked for my opinion. That is what made them a team and gave me the feeling that I was an even part of it. And because of their hard work for the studio, I’m very proud that I got a lot of freedom in my work and had the support of the whole team if needed. Now I’m really looking forward to my graduation and of course to my first steps in the work field.

Thanks for the time and space I needed and more important for the fun we had. Because that is something you can’t learn during your study!

Type Romance 06 → GT Walsheim

Type Romance is a monthly reoccurring post about, you guessed it, our love for type. When it comes to typefaces, we keep falling in love. Every now and then you spot her, that special one with the extra curves. There are show-off types, who love to be on display all day long. But we also have a genuine love for the more basic types, because we wouldn’t know what to do without them. So this is a little ode to the beautiful shapes that we call fonts! By yours truly, Studio AIRPORT.

This time: GT Walsheim

Inspired by the lettering of Swiss posters, GT Walsheim is a friendly but precise typeface. Unlike other geometric sans-serifs, it sports warm curves and wears a broad smile. Designed by Noël Leu (Grilli Type). Keep your eyes peeled, because we are planning to show this beauty in an upcoming project.

A note from our music producer

We asked our good friend, DJ and music producer Larry de Kat to tell a bit more about our collaboration on the HKU films we released earlier this year. Since the music became an essential part of these films and took the whole experience to another level. So let’s see what this beautiful colorfull and totally nuts guy has to say. Oh and while you read the article make sure you listen to this minimix, exclusive for this article.

Sup everybody,

First I would like to thank God for knowing everything about the past, present and future. Which indirectly means he knew Eva would eat the apple. I guess this makes all the suffering on this planet somehow more understandable, at least from my perspective. But never forget: Since he made humans as a copy of himself it’s without any doubt he/she can make mistakes. And that’s where this story starts… One big mistake 😉

Sooooo, as you can guess the girls at Studio AIRPORT asked me to write something about our visual/musical adventures for the HKU (the art academy of Utrecht). I was just finishing a deal in Hawaii when I had radio contact with Studio AIRPORT about the assignment and since I was never accepted at the academy as a youngster I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give them back the same dedication and love they gave me.

After our weekly monday morning gettogether with Elvis and Michael “Mikeyboy” Jackson I suddenly saw it all clear, one track per video, customized and adapted to all the different studies they offer. It was hard work but it always pays off (literally), we had to do a lot of “last minute” stuff because, well, every video has a duration and also a last minute.

Luckily this project asked for an outro which could be used for every video. It’s an homage to latin jazz and modern trap music, and it really makes you want to visit the school. At Least, that is what it was meant for. It’s also bound to be released on my label Katnip records (www.soundcloud.com/katniprecords) anytime in the future, just as the other tracks. I don’t know when or why but I do know that if you like it you might want to keep an eye out for any future releases (/spamoff).

I had so much fun, errr, I mean headaches, doing this project and it was a delight to work with my babydoll Lennard Lobrij, the main FX doctor and sound designer from DoorHetGeluid. If you need a professional sound designer with a lot of discipline and passion, ask this G.

To conclude this silly story I’d like to give a kiss to Studio AIRPORT for this dandy opportunity to combine motion and frequencies, which is special to me because a track is a story and when it adds to the video it really sets an atmosphere that’s incomprehensible. So profound, so settling, so sturdy, so (insert interesting english vocabulary).

Down below you can listen to a minimix of all tracks used on this project, if you want to lend my musical profession, I can only say. Let your people contact my people so my people can contact your people so your people can reply to my people. Which practically translates to: If guns don’t kill people, but people kill people. Does that mean that toasters don’t toast toast, but toast toast toast?

x LdK

HKU poster series

We did a little bike ride through the city to capture all 8 posters for the HKU campaign. Each one drops a statement appealing to attitude of the students-to-be. For example: “I don’t learn to remember, I learn to explore” or “I don’t expect something to happen, I make sure it will happen”

The series is printed in two PMS colors which makes them pop out of the crowd like grazy. We got a little smile from all those bright colors during these dark winter days. Hope you did as well.

Type Romance 05 → Fugue

Type Romance is a monthly reoccurring post about, you guessed it, our love for type. When it comes to typefaces, we keep falling in love. Every now and then you spot her, that special one with the extra curves. There are show-off types, who love to be on display all day long. But we also have a genuine love for the more basic types, because we wouldn’t know what to do without them. So this is a little ode to the beautiful shapes that we call fonts! By yours truly, Studio AIRPORT.

This time: Fugue

Fugue is a light sans-serif typeface designed by Radim Pesko in 2008. It was designed solely for use in a book called The Wonder Years, for Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem. The typeface is a homage to Paul Renner, creator of the Futura. This is why the Fugue also has a strong geometric foundation, with extremely low weight contrast. The characters are designed to look as unlike a serif as it can.

‘The Making Of’ the HKU films

Over the last few months we published 8 films for the biggest art academy in Europe; the HKU. For each film we strived to capture the ‘making process’ of that particular student. Each film is designed for a different education, namely: Fine Art, Art and Economics, Theater, Conservatorium, Games and Interaction, Design, Music and Technology and Media.

The films all became a creative world on their own, mainly because of the different sets and actors. But while all videos are visually very different from each other, the film concept was fixed and clear from the start. We restricted ourself to the concept we called “Object vs. Subject”, meaning we only filmed through the eyes of the student or from the perspective of the object. This gave each film two different viewpoints on the making process mentioned earlier.

This behind the scenes video gives an insight in the film production and the amount of work it took us. With our small team we filmed for 2 weeks straight. As you might notice, we build all the camera installations and sets in-house. It was total madness, but so much fun at the same time. In the coming weeks we will publish some more in-depth articles about more specific subjects of this project like the animations, music production and camera installations.

Making a series of catchy illustrations for a corporate and technical website

Last month we published the new corporate website of agile testing specialist Bartosz. As a team we worked for 4 months on this advanced website. A very important part of the design are the illustrations and animations. We’ve asked our former intern Robin van Gurp (also known as Bobby) to tell you guys a bit more about the process and ideas behind these illustrations since he played an important role in it.

Robin about the process 

One part of Bartosz’ website are the illustrations and animations, of which we made hundreds and consider it a shame to keep them from you.
 
It was evident that a purely literal translation of the concepts that needed to be visualized would be neither interesting nor captivating. ‘Software analysis’ is, in itself, a rather technical term, and technology does not always lend itself well to clarity in visual language. To be able to visualize this term in an accessible way, one must immerse themselves in the world of software analysis, in doing so attempting to temporarily become an expert. Through adopting this mindset, comparisons and metaphors with which one can visualize the current goal will become apparent. By developing an understanding of the subject matter, one can truly get to the core of the subject in question. In essence, this is what an illustration should do: bring together the most diverse imagery in order to comprehensively summarize a complex process. An example of this is the illustration of the captured cursors: I myself have never met anyone trying to fish for cursors in the sea with a net, however, within the context of the website, the illustration helps paint a picture regarding the analysis of clicking behavior on the internet.
 

Concepts such as self-confidence, transparency and respect are very abstract, and ways to visualize  such concepts are seldom clearly apparent. It was therefore quite a challenge to summarize them in an illustration. To clarify these concepts we made a small ‘calculation’: core value X ball. Sometimes illustrating is a lot like mathematics. How can I portray balance, confidence and initiative with a ball? The answer lies in the 5 animations under the heading ‘core values’. The use of animation provides a means to even further simplify the illustration itself. The tension lies in its movement.

Thanks you Robin for your hard work, talented contributions and hilarious moments.

Studio AIRPORT – 5 year Anniversary

We can hardly believe it ourselves: we exist 5 years! Time flies when you’re having fun, and we have certainly laughed our way through this roller coaster ride. People close to us know we won’t let an opportunity pass without throwing a party. So that’s exactly what we did last Friday at the venue of the cultural cinema Louis Hartlooper. What an outstanding atmosphere!

By throwing back on discussions from the past 5 years, Maurits and Bram engaged the visitors to think with them about their dilemmas. They held debates about design choices, concept directions and strategy in front of the crowd, just like they do in the studio. The visitors could choose whether they thought either Maurits or Bram was right and find out what really happens inside the studio. For many it was a disclosure to hear how they can argue about the smallest details for hours. Next to the debates there was a compilation video of the past years, which you can view below.

Nor did we just looked back, we also showed a premiere of our latest project, namely the HKU films. It was for the first time we took on a huge film production with our small team and since the edits were done last week it just so happens they were ready at the same time we celebrated our anniversary. For us a very exciting moment. It was beautiful to see that the crowd was thrilled by the result. Immediately after the films we played the ‘behind the scenes’ video to give an insight. Most people told us afterward we gave them a glimpse inside our studio and they now understand better what it is we do each day. We couldn’t wish for a better compliment!

Thank you friends, family, client, colleagues and everybody that was part of this amazing night! On to the next 5 years.

 

Type Romance 04 → ITC Benguiat

Type Romance is a monthly reoccurring post about, you guessed it, our love for type. When it comes to typefaces, we keep falling in love. Every now and then you spot her, that special one with the extra curves. There are show-off types, who love to be on display all day long. But we also have a genuine love for the more basic types, because we wouldn’t know what to do without them. So this is a little ode to the beautiful shapes that we call fonts! By yours truly, Studio AIRPORT.

This time: ITC Benguiat

ITC Benguiat is a decorative serif typeface designed by Ed Benguiat and released by ITC in 1978. It has an Art Nouveau reference in it, but it’s not too extravagant. You may have seen it before in our design for Trage Wegen and we were stoked that it was used for the new sci-fi serie Stranger Things. So we couldn’t resist doing this little reference…

Behind the scenes of the HKU campaign

The last couple of months we’ve been working like maniacs on a new exiting project. We’re asked by our former art academy the HKU, to develop the new campaign for new art-students. For us it’s a huge honor and challenge to make sure the new talents find their way to the art academy by this new campaign.

On our facebook-page we already published some video’s during the film-shoots but now we’ve got some special behind the scenes shots for you. The campaign consist of a posters series, print-work, online ads but most important: 8 films. For each school we produced one short video.

What you see here is the process of the title shots at the end of these films. For each process we designed the desk of a specific student. Soon we’ll be releasing some more material of the other parts. Stay tuned!

Designing a visual brand identity for Trage Wegen

Assignment
The assignment consisted in designing a visual brand identity for the non-profit organization Trage Wegen including a printed publication in the form of a newsletter, a fold-out poster and a document binder, business cards, stationeries and e-mail footers. The focus, however, was on the printed publication about the association’s future vision. The main objective was to visualize the philosophy and approach of the foundation into an expressive identity.

About the project
Trage Wegen, founded in 2002, is an association based in Ghent (BEL) that advocates for a better walking and cycling infrastructure with a robust and dense road network. The foundation whose main clients are municipalities around Belgium, was formed from a broad group of civil society organizations including hiking and cycling clubs, nature conservation and environmental groups, heritage organizations, recreational players and local groups. The term ‘Trage Wegen’ literally translated means ‘slow roads’ and relates to routes suitable for pedestrians and cyclists such as cycle ways, country lanes, cross roads and hiking trails. Not only the development and maintenance of these roads but also the creation of city maps and geographical maps lies in their field of activity – their philosophy is an ode to ‘the unstructured’. In order to further raise political awareness about walking and cycling infrastructure and spread the associations’s vision for the future, we came into play.

Getting started
During the kick-off meeting with Andy Vandevyvere and Maxime Vancoillie from Trage Wegen, which took place in our office in Utrecht, we got an understanding of the philosophy of Trage Wegen. We’ve been very pleased about their feedback as they liked our suggestions on a contemporary identity with a more playful way of communication and asked for a very conceptual approach and artistic input from our side. This gave us not only the possibility to design a very dynamic identity and the freedom to experiment to a certain extent, but also an additional boost of motivation. However, their open-mindedness turned it into a personal challenge for us: We had to explore the limits of the project and find a concept that is not only characterized by an intriguing design but is also commensurate with the professional standard of a cultural organization targeting local governments, hiking associations, cyclists, hikers, landscape architects and environment planners.

Subsequently, Maurits and Bram traveled to Ghent to get to know the rest of the team and to give the first concept presentation. There, we introduced the concept and ultimately agreed upon the basic idea behind it. Now we started designing all the different components of the identity while always keeping Andy  and Maxime up to date about our working progress as well as considering their requests for modification.

Concept and Design
The concept is based on the idea of the “organized chaos“. Most of the ‘slow roads’ are situaded in somewhat unstructured or crowded surroundings. They often remain unnoticed or are taken for granted which is why the value of these public spaces is seldomly recognized. For this reason, we approached our workfield as a map: The typography can be associated with structured spaces such as buildings, parks and transportation routes whereas the “white spaces” relate to the spaces where the ‘slow roads’ can be found – which is exactly where the non-profit organization operates. We decided to replace the patterns we initially intended to use to fill these spaces through more simplistic closed forms with organic shapes to relate to the core of their activities: roads.

Additionally to all of this, the design of the newspaper is characterized by zooming in and out. On the one hand, we zoomed in by enlarging little pebbles inordinately to sharpen the view for detail: though they seem inconspicuous at first glance, the beauty lying in their detailedness comes to light when having a closer look. On the other hand, we zoomed out by showing numerous ‚slow roads’ on a two-page spread to raise awareness about the existence and the sheer amount of these roads.
To emphasize this even more, the design constitues of many white spaces, which are only crossed by forms with closed organic shapes relating back to the nature these roads are framed by. The arrows pointing in all wind directions recur throughout the whole identity and are used as stylistic elements as well as a contextual navigation tool within the printed brochure.

Thank you Trage Wegen for trusting in our artistic approach, the detailed and sophisticated  feedback and this great and uncomplicated collaboration!

Type Romance 03 → Selfica

Type Romance is a monthly reoccurring post about, you guessed it, our love for type. When it comes to typefaces, we keep falling in love. Every now and then you spot her, that special one with the extra curves. There are show-off types, who love to be on display all day long. But we also have a genuine love for the more basic types, because we wouldn’t know what to do without them. So this is a little ode to the beautiful shapes that we call fonts! By yours truly, Studio AIRPORT.

This time: Selfica

“The serif of selficotown is dead” jokes the designer in a typespecimen. The Selfica is the sans serif version of the Selfico. It’s a pretty honest letter with a direct character, but there are some comic like references in the details. Funny curves and almost out of balance shapes give this typeface a humourous aspect. We haven’t used this typeface yet, but don’t be surprised when you see it popping up in a future project!

The Selfica type family is designed by Nico Inosanto from Nootype, who also designed the Selfico type family.

Dutch Design Daily – Lecture about Beyond Prison

Last week Bram gave a lecture during Dutch Design Daily about the ‘Beyond Prison’ project and our development as a studio concerning information-design and storytelling. We give an insight into the process and the choice we had to made. You also get to see which infographics didn’t made it to the final result and because of which reasons.

Dutch Design Daily LIVE is a bi-monthly series of live events organized by Pakhuis de Zwijger and Dutch Design Daily, in which a selection is made from the archives of the online platform. Several designers, in the broadest sense of the word, are given the opportunity to tell their stories, show their projects and engage in conversation.

This addition was about designers specializing in data visualization. With Daniel Gross & Joris Maltha (Catalogtree), Karin Schwandt, Thomas Clever & Gert Franke (Clever°Franke), Roel Stavorinus and Bram Broerse (Studio AIRPORT). Moderator: Woes van Haaften. Although we definitely don’t consider ourself as a data visualization specialist, we’re very honored to tell our story amongst these great people.

Thank you Dutch Design Daily for giving us the opportunity to tell the story behind ‘Beyond Prison’.

Designing a poster series for lectures at the HKU

Assignment
The assignment consisted in designing a two-part poster series for an array of lectures at the Utrecht-based Arts Academy HKU under the theme ‘Homo Faber’.


About the project

Studium Generale is a lecture series at the Arts Academy HKU in which professionals from different creative fields – faithful to the motto ‘Homo Faber’ – spoke about how skilled craftsmanship changed the environment in which they themselves but also the listening audience live in. Among others, the presentations included the following topics:

•      the process of creating sound compositions
•      artworks that question the change in perception of photographs through the new media
•      how mankind’s craft aspirations and inventiveness in digital technology formed an ‘attention economy’
•      the creation of theatre plays that convey emotions, modern society is afraid to express openly

The presentations aim at inspiring the students and encouraging them to make use of their own craft skills.


Getting started

Soon after the kickoff meeting in which the representatives of the HKU explained us what the lecture series is about, the idea of abstract sculptures was being born. The HKU quickly gave us the go for a concept characterized by playfulness, colorfulness and bold outlines.
From this moment on, our studio was crowded with papers, ideas and thirst for action! In total, 120 A4 drawings have been produced within 9 weeks. We perceived this assignment somewhat as an experiment in which we explored the possibilities the rectangle format of a poster offers, the question at which point a flat illustration becomes an object and how depth can be created in an image with as few elements as possible. Each friday one poster for the series was sent to the HKU.


Concept and Design
For the first part of the poster series, a different sculpture with a screw was displayed on each poster to symbolize the process of creation. The recurring title ‘Maken met…’ (‘Creating with…’) was supplemented by the respective name of the lecturer. We deliberately decided to go for abstract forms instead of visualizing the specific content of each lecture in the posters. On the one hand, this made the sculptures represent the process of making as a whole and, on the other hand, emphasized the diversity of lectures as each sculpture was given a different shape and color scheme.
The world of ‘making’ and dynamic was brought to the sculptures by drawing them with only one line and rather fast, which made the flow of the brushstroke visible in the sculpture. The playfulness of the thick outlines and dots as well as the choice of colors aimed at visualizing the colorful and creative world of making.
The second part of the lecture series took place in another timeframe. For this reason, the HKU asked us to stick to the basic concept while making it distinct from the first series at the same time. When asking ourselves how we could develop the concept further, the question “What if the sculptures became tangible?” came to our mind. Based on that, we came up with the idea of using clay – as a clean, colorful and easily modifiable material – to bring the sculptures alive. To achieve the dynamics of the first part of the series also in the second one, we used typography to accentuate the flow within the image. The typeface intertwined with the clay creatures following their shapes and lines.

Behind the scenes
In the course of the design process, we came across some challenges. Some restrictions, such as the format of the poster or that every sculpture has to have three different colored sides. This challenged our imagination in a sense that we always had to come up with new surprising sculptures within this given frame. However, it helped us to not loose track and stay focused. Also we had to find ways to create posters with depth while using as few elements as possible.

Thanks HKU for giving us the opportunity to transform our studio even more into a world of making!

Type Romance 02 → Value Serif

 

Type Romance is a monthly reoccurring post about, you guessed it, our love for type. When it comes to typefaces, we keep falling in love. Every now and then you spot her, that special one with the extra curves. There are show-off types, who love to be on display all day long. But we also have a genuine love for the more basic types, because we wouldn’t know what to do without them. So this is a little ode to the beautiful shapes that we call fonts! By yours truly, Studio AIRPORT.

This time: Value Serif

The Value with serifs is a letter family that makes you think of classic typefaces like Plantin and Italian Old Style but with a modern and bold twist. The Value Serif was designed to be a little more funky and weird, which makes it perfectfor contemporary headlines, like we did in the design for Beyond Prison. Like a wise man once said; your waistline, banging like a bassline.

Designed by Anthony Sheret & Benjamin Critton for Colophon Foundry.

A branding strategy for Zospeum, a translucent construction material


Assignment
The assignment consisted in coming up with the whole branding package and the design for a more than exeptional product: a construction material that is permeable to daylight. We created the whole branding identity including its name “Zosepeum”, a promotional video trailer and a website introducing the product and it’s uniqueness.


About the project
Zosepum is a start-up founded by the Dutch architect Peter van Delft Westerhof who is mainly working in the Netherlands. When his architectural office Van Delft Westerhof was commissioned to design a house for a client, he saw himself confronted with limited possibilities of bringing daylight to inside spaces due to static and technical conditions. From his intent to solve this problem by creating a new building material, the idea for Zospeum originated. Making walls permeable to light, opens up countless new options for architects.


Getting started
Right in the beginning of the project, Peter brought a prototype of the concrete block to the studio, which immediately knocked us off our socks!  In a brainstorming session we discussed criteria that need to be considered for the design of a name and a brand identity for the product such as it’s magical nature, permeability, exclusivity, architecture and craftmanship. Furthermore, we came up with a rough storyboard for the movie.

We had two test shootings trying to find out how different light settings can be used to create certain effects and to check up on the technical feasability of the storyboard. Later on, we went to the production plant of Hurks in Eindhoven where Zospeum is manufactured. After receiving high-visibility clothing and safety shoes we filmed the manufacturing process of the product and made some audio recordings of production and ambient noises.

The next step consisted in finding a special location that is worthy of the exceptionality of the product. And we made a find sooner than we thought – an abandoned building in Utrecht. The buildings charme stemmed from it’s rough and obsolete appearance making the location a perfect, industrial-looking filming spot for Zospeum. In consultation with the responsible construction company, which surprisingly enough was Zospeum’s manufacturer Hurks, we inspected the location.

The daze after, we drove to the location in the late afternoon for the video shoot, packed with all kinds of equipment such as a camera track dolly, which enabled us to to make smooth movements around the oncrete block. While the sun was already pretty low, everything had to go quickly to capture the beautiful light play it created in combination with the concrete block. When it got dark, sequences with short light pulses and some experiments with rays of light got filmed. After filming the whole evening (and having some pizza), we’ve been very elated that everything went so smoothly.


Concept and Design
The concept for the name is (believe it or not) based on a snail called „Zospeum tholussum“ with a transparent snail shell. This recently discovered species does not only share characteristics of Zospeum such as light transmission but also indicates to architecture since the snail shell is simultaneously the snail’s „house“.

The logotype and the respective form language allude to a Roman typeface, which remind of lapidary inscriptions. In this way, we draw the line to the craftmanship needed in Zospeum’s manufacturing process. The openness of the letters refers to the translucency of the material and also create an impression of elegance and exlusiveness. The matching form language is build upon the same concept and looks like the front side of the concrete block.

The focus of the video was on the product itself: the material’s tactility, how it is manufactured and its uniquness. For this reason, the video is divided into three sections: a teaser revealing the magical nature of the product and awakening the viewer’s interest in it, the production process and a presentation of the product and its implementation potential for modern architecture.


Behind the scenes
Although everything went in general, a challenge we did not expect occurred: Since the concrete block was way heavier than we thought, we had to pull it up with help of a crane. From there on, it had to be placed upon a rotatable frame by hand – but luckily our male team members successfully proved their muscle strength.


Thanks Peter for somewhat “infecting” us with your passion for Zospeum, being there in person at so many stages of the project and trusting in our imagination and skills from the development of the name to shooting the video. It’s been a blast working with you!

 

We won 4 European Design Awards!!!

Last weekend we went with the studio to Vienna for the European Design Awards 2016. A couple weeks ago we already got the fantastic news that we were nominated four times this year. But now that we also won all four of them we can’t even put in words how thrilled we are that our work has paid off: Gold and silver in the categories ‘infographics’ and ‘information website’ for Beyond Prison and two times bronze in the category ‘digital self-promotion’ for our own website as well as in the category ‘motion graphics’ for Utrecht Down Under. Totally nuts it is!

Beyond Prison nominated for the Webby’s and the European Design Awards

A very special project that kept us busy for about one year is Beyond Prison, a collection of multimedia stories that features proven, vibrant models of transformative prison work in the US. The project might be the most beautiful assignment we’ve worked on last year – not only because it challenged our creativity and ability to translate content into concise design solutions, but definitely because of the visionary idea behind it. We’re thankful for the privilege to contribute to such an innovative social engaged project and especially feel honored that our work has paid off: We’re nominated for the Webby’s as one of the five best in the world in the category ‘activism’ and, on top of that, for the European Design Awards in the categories ‘infographics’ and ‘information website’. This helps to get the project’s story out in the world and to spread the word about it.

If you are now eager to learn more about Beyond prison click here and start exploring.

Designing a portfolio website for the artist Tom Heerschop

Assignment
The assignment consisted in designing a portfolio website for the Amsterdam-based artist Tom Heerschop that does not only display his tremendous amount of work but also enables the viewer to see the relations between his artworks and his life story being characterized by dramatic ups and downs.

 

About Tom Heerschop
Tom studied fine art at the Rietveld Academy and the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, which are said to belong to the most prestigious art academies in the Netherlands, and was deemed a very promising artist. Though at the age of 25, when everything seemed to be right on track – he was successfully working as an artist and started a family – soon his life went off the rails. His behavior was marked by agression, violence, lethargy, depression, impulsivity, memory loss as well as a lack of empathy and ambition. Upon insistence by his wife, he did several therapies but there was no improvement in sight. Though he was very productive in the beginning of this period – producing and selling more than 100 artworks per year – his condition got worse until he was not able to work anymore and the situation became unbearable for his family.

In September 2008, it was discovered that a benign tumor has been growing in his head for at least ten years.  The diagnosis was rather a release than a shock as it proved that he is not crazy but ill. After the tumor has been removed he was almost euphoric, resulting in a very productive phase. But, after things have settled back into their everyday routine, his usual workflow vanished and he fell back into old behavior patterns. A couple of months later, another specialist in neurology discovered that he has a considerable brain impairment that has been caused by the tumor. Although Tom is on the mend again, he is forced to slow down for several years and has to learn to live with the limitations of his brain injury. Looking back at his work,  his illness had a huge influence on his work. The human brain, overload and explosion are topics that always recur in his artworks.

 

Getting started
Tom and his girlfriend (and manager) Bregje, came to our studio in search of an online presence that does not only display the heaps of artwork Tom produced in the past but also tells his story and draws attention to his comeback. We were immediately exited about the project due to his intriguing story and personality but also because it was a long desired wish for us to work for a contemporary visual artist.

As Tom’s story already offered numerous possibilities, we hardly needed any references or inspirational material. Bram and Maurits started with a conversation about the projects during lunch and went out for a walk. In this initial stage, they asked themselves how they could stand out from the crowd and would present themselves if they were a visual artist.

 

Concept and design
It was clear form the beginning that Tom’s story will play a central role in the concept, as you have to understand him to understand his work. The concept is based on the following three components that highly influenced his work: His brain tumor, his sheer productivity and the fact that he always draws right away without knowing beforehand what he is going to create.

Our initial idea of a narrative concept that takes you into Tom’s world directly met Tom and his wife’s expectations 

In contrast to many other visual artists that are rather reserved and keep themselves in the background, we’ve decided to make Tom present throughout the whole website. He is looking you straight in the eye from the moment you get to the website which surely makes the visit really intense and something you haven’t seen before. By clicking on his head, the ideas floating arond in his head become visible in the form of different animations. Even though Tom still has to be very careful with his energy, we asked him to actively contribute to the animations. For this reason, all of them are the result of a strong collaboration between our studio and Tom. In total, the website displays 50 customized animations that can be divided into four different types: GIF animations, SVG animations and animated collages. 
The portfolio is divided into different series that are displayed in chronological order. In this way, you can track back the different phases of his life, put them into context with his artistic development and discover the variety of his work. However, if you come to the end of each series or the whole portfolio, there is a loop bringing you back to the start. This of course has functional reasons but also alludes to Tom as an unstoppable maker and the seemingly endless loop of creation he is situated in.

 

Behind the scenes
During the concept development phase, we made certain changes bringing along some unexpected challenges. In the beginning, we thought about splitting the website into an introduction page with the animations popping off Tom’s head. Once we decided that Tom should be visible even in the deepest part of the website, we had to master some technical challenges, especially as we had to somehow place the massive amount of around 1200 artworks around his head. Also the amount of animations kept us busy, especially the rather complex ones consisting of more than 200 drawings and 24 frames per second. And as you can imagine, every now and then an inadvertent mistake happened such as a stroke that couldn’t be programmed or not connecting the laptop with the charger forcing us to start all over again.

 

Thanks Tom not only for sharing your personal story with us but also for putting so much energy in this project! 

 

Type Romance 01 → Eksell Display

Type Romance is a monthly reoccurring post about, you guessed it, our love for type. When it comes to typefaces, we keep falling in love. Every now and then you spot her, that special one with the extra curves. There are show-off types, who love to be on display all day long. But we also have a genuine love for the more basic types, because we wouldn’t know what to do without them. So this is a little ode to the beautiful shapes that we call fonts! By yours truly, Studio AIRPORT.

This time: Eksell Display

Eksell Display is a typeface that stands out because of it’s characteristic curves. This firm letter was hand-drawn by Olle Eksell in 1962 and was digitised by the font foundry Letters From Sweden.

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