Profile: Double Standards

Published:  April 15, 2015

Late last year we had a chat with Berlin studio Double Standards about their body of work as fuelled by the motto, “design is a matter of urgency and necessity, not so much as decoration.”

We checked in with the studio again ahead of the Biennale Arte in Venice which kicks off next month, for which Double Standards have designed all printed matter and merchandise. Here, they talk about the Biennale project, and their approaches to exhibition graphic design.



Double Standards was selected to create the graphic identity for All the World’s Futures, the 56th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. Can you tell us about your pitch to exhibition curator Okwui Enwezor for the project?

It was a very exciting brief we received from Okwui. Even the title, All the World’s Futures, led us in so many different directions and at first we didn’t know which route would be the best one to take. As in every process of design you need to make a decision and we picked the one we believed in the most. The key visual is not ONE explicit image.

Since we knew there were multiple formats to fill, we picked the direction that could work as a metaphor and could be used as a pattern. We wanted to symbolise the endless options of the utopian All the World’s Futures. Then one poster could be made of a single element, or 100 of them could become one single poster again.

How did you explore the curatorial concept All the World’s Futures in your design?

What we were after was that if you, or anyone looks at the same thing, each and every single one might understand it differently. And taking all of those views together on the same issue creates something else. This is what we were working to create. A loop of the same is not a singled out opinion, but it still is a part of many different points of views.

How involved was Enwezor and the Biennale team in developing the print design and identity — from the initial conceptual stages, throughout the design process and its execution?

After the initial presentation it was only between Okwui and us. The Biennale Arte team trusted Okwui and us fully after what they had seen in the first presentation round. It was, and still is to us, absolutely unbelievable to work this freely for such an institution —an exhibition that has been running now for 120 years. It’s been quite an experience.

A few elements of the design stand out, particularly the large, slanting typography, and the iterations and inversions of black and white text and negative space. What, in your view, is the most successful element of the project?

We don’t know yet how successful this is going to be as the Biennale Arte 2015 hasn’t started yet. We are certainly looking forward to seeing how the visitors will receive this. We’ve heard already from some industry peers that [our design] is quite BOLD and RICH. They didn’t judge it, but generally they mentioned that it appears more playful than the Biennales before. I actually don’t know what to make of this, but I think we did what we had to do in creating something very conceptual.


How did the objects themselves influence your spatial design and the visual language you gave to the exhibition?

It wasn’t the objects that inspired us, but more the stories the exhibition curator Amelie Klein told about her trips to Africa. Also, finding one simple, but not too simple, visual language for all these voices was quite a quest. It took quite some time to get our heads around the idea of bringing together over 200 different objects from many different origins and backgrounds and develop something that doesn’t scream the wrong words and create the wrong impression.

Can you give an example of signage or wayfinding of a museum or specific exhibition that you particularly admire?

To be honest, we’re really ignorant and almost obnoxiously stubborn when it comes to this. The best things I have seen so far in this area, I think I didn’t realise were there in the first place.

There was an exhibition at the Haus Der Kunst in Munich about the Jazz record label ECM which I found quite impressive because of its invisibility and unpretentiousness. I love to go to the Museum fuer Naturkunde in Berlin (Natural History Museum) with my family as I appreciate the very old handwritten labels.


“The amount of objects to be exhibited was overwhelming. The explanations for each object were extensive. It would have killed the impression of the exhibition right away. The directors, the exhibition designers and us decided to put all necessary information in a magazine instead of bother finding a place next to the objects.”


Can you give a little insight into the challenges and highlights of life at Double Standards?

When running a studio like ours, not one day goes by without challenges. And believe it or not, I think we really like to master these problems by finding a smart solution to handle them. Often the downsides turn into the upsides and with each and every obstacle we managed to get back on the right track. I believe this is why we like what we’re doing and why we’re good at it.

Where do you turn for inspiration, and which designers have had the biggest influence on your work?

We’re fascinated by the many artists, architects and filmmakers we’re working with. We try to turn the experiences with them and their work into something meaningful and lasting.

What excites or frustrates you about the current state of design?

As always … the quick and flashy design. It always turns sour within half a year. It’s better to try to portray a meaning; that will last a lifetime.

What are you working on currently?

We have just began working with the Muenchner Kammerspiele Theatre and the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. Also Ocaña which is an event/resturant/café in Barcelona. Started on creating a cyrillic font for the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, the exhibition graphics on Elain Sturtevant and Michael Beutler, the new season book for the Schauspiel Frankfurt Theatre and a book on Jeppe Hein’s work…. more?


All images courtesy of Double Standards

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