Studio NOI, Zürich-based studio founded by Simone Koller and Corina Neuenschwander.

— Hello Simone and Corina, how are you?

SK/CN – Very well, thank you.

— Can you introduce yourselves?

SK/CN – We both studied Visual Communication at the Zurich University of the Arts and completed our Master in Design at Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Since 2014 we collaborate as Studio NOI. Our work ranges from art direction to editorial design, visual identities and digital applications in the fields of art, culture and commerce.

— Where does your interest in design come from?

SK – As a teenager, I was eager to become part of those who influence the way public space looks like. During my studies, however, I started to become more and more interested in the invisible aspects of design: dealing with content, meaning, hierarchies… Even though designers usually don’t come up with the basic content, we always influence the way a message is being read and communicated. And that is highly interesting.

CN – It grew over time. When I started my design education I was not very sure where all of this was leading towards. Today, I appreciate that as a designer I get the opportunity to create a tiny part of what is consciously or unconsciously seen, perceived every day.

— How did you come to start up the studio?

CN – We started to occasionally collaborate on projects after our studies at WT. It was fun, and we realised that we complement each other. When I decided to move back to Switzerland, after living abroad for almost 7 years, it was clear to both of us that we wanted to make our collaboration “official” by founding Studio NOI.

— Would you like to explain to us one of your projects?

SK/CN – Last year we were commissioned to design the catalogue of the Most Beautiful Swiss Books 2014. We were free to direct the content and form of the catalogue in whatever direction we wanted. It was important for us to take on a position and bring in our personal approach.

When designing books, we think of them as characters, they’re maybe shy, or radical, friendly, difficult to read at first glance… It helps us to develop a vision of how we would like a book to be and behave in the hands of a reader.

Therefore, we decided to treat the awarded books like a group of different characters. Rather than unifying them in a strong visual language, we wanted to push the idea of heterogeneity: each book has a certain specific quality, different from the other books.

In the end we presented the awarded books as if through a kaleidoscope, approaching them from three different perspectives:

1. The book as an object: What expectations, which atmosphere does it evoke when you see it for the very first time? So we gave each book to a different photographer and asked them to portrait the book in their very subjective way.

2. Looking into the book: How does a reader perceive the book when flipping through? Here, we presented from each book scans of 3 spreads, without comments.

3. Behind every book, there’s a story: How did the book project came into being? What were the conditions, and how did the designers deal with them? We met all the designers (and sometimes editors or curators) in their studio to ask what their story was. A writer joined us to take notes and write a text, which together with some visual reference material forms the last part of the catalogue.

The most interesting aspect of working on the catalogue was to hear about the different methods of approaching a subject and collaborating with an artist or client. But also to collaborate with many great photographers.

— Do you have a favorite typeface to work with?

SK/CN – No. We like both, the classics and the freshly released ones. We try not to fall into patterns.

— Is there any designer you appreciate a lot?

SK/CN – We feel fortunate to have had Karel Martens and Armand Mevis as our tutors during our studies in the Netherlands. We admire their fresh and radical approach. However, to have non-designers as mentors, such as for example curator and art critic Maxine Kopsa, has been equally influential.

— Is there a book or a manifesto which opened your eyes about design?

SK/CN – Bruno Munari’s books maybe, as an eye-opener for not only the eyes but also all senses. With them it is not about the perfect layout but rather intuition, colors, and you can detect a sense of humour which we feel is essential when it comes to design.

— The last word…

SK/CN – Thank you.

Pictures and projects by Studio Noi.

Interview: Dennis Moya + Tiffany Bähler, 04.16

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