JOHNSON / KINGSTON — Interview
Johnson / Kingston, design studio founded by Ivan Weiss and Michael Kryenbühl. Bern / Luzern.
— Hello Ivan and Michael, how are you?
A little tired, but nonetheless perfectly fine! We just returned from Seoul that we visited after giving a lecture and holding a workshop in Vladivostok the week before. So we’re pretty much full with impressions, inspiration and ideas
— Can you introduce yourselves?
We’re Ivan Weiss and Michael Kryenbühl. Our nickname is Johnson / Kingston. And we’re mostly interested in experimenting and working around topics influenced by the huge technological and social changes happening nowadays. What an interesting time to live in for graphic designers!
— Where does your interest in design come from?
Probably it was all about having an excuse to spend as much time as possible in front of a computer.
— How did you come to start up the studio?
During our studies at the Lucerne School of Art and Design we recognized that we were much more productive when working together. As William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin claimed in their book “third mind”: “if two people are working in harmony on a project a third mind will spontaneously be generated in which the participants are able to draw from the knowledge and inspiration of each other through the third mind”.
By winning the Swiss Federal Design Award with our Diploma project we had the opportunity to live and work in New York for 6 months which was the starting point for our studio.
— Would you like to explain to us one of your projects?
«These Ain’t No Books» – our latest self-initiated project – deals with questions about the future of the book. A digital publication consisting of collected quotes which are linked on different levels and put together within a non-linear body of text. It’s about finding other ways how to publish digitally, beyond using the big companies standards and limitations.
And it is mainly about trying to make designers aware of the huge possibilities opened up in this field. We really should take part in this, trying to shape the new media and to work on establishing a digital book culture with a variety in structure and style fitting a certain content like in printed matter.
— Do you have a favorite typeface to work with?
We most often do our own typefaces. The process of designing a typeface has definitely changed in the last decades. On a technical level it is really simple to produce a new font today. This allows us to work faster, more intuitive and to test the ideas directly in the product.
We often work with fonts such as Arial or Times as a base and start to work on the style, impression and temper of the glyphs and the whole font in detail. The font develops hand in hand with the layout until all fits together – which is typically right before the deadline. The point is always to produce typefaces with a strong characteristic which stick out of the perfect shaped and spaced typefaces which lose impact in an already too straight and clean environment. Our aim is not to produce classic typefaces fitting every project but rather to have bulky ones that produce attention through the abnormality and non-perfection. In our opinion, attention is the new legibility!
— Is there any designer you appreciate a lot?
We appreciate all those fellow designers who are trying to push boundaries in some way or another.
— Is there a book or a manifesto which opened your eyes about design?
Fischli/Weiss “Findet mich das Glück?” – It’s always useful to have a lot of questions.
— The last word…
спасибо / 고맙습니다 or – Thanks for having us!
Pictures and projects ©Johnson / Kingston
Interview: Dennis Moya + Tiffany Bähler, 04.16