Designers
Rhythm Science, 2004

COMA

Location: Brooklyn, New York | Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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The catalogue for the Triennial (and the font it is set in) are designed by Cornelia Blatter and Marcel Hermans, the founders of COMA, designers of some of the new millennium’s most memorable and inventive publications. These designers think like architects and filmmakers as well as graphic designers, bringing a sense of time and a concern for program to the printed page.

Frame magazine, published in the Netherlands, documents the international world of interior architecture and design. COMA designed Frame from 2003 through 2005, and the magazine’s design changed from issue to issue, a move that defied standard publishing practice to adapt the strategy of a good architect: to treat each space as a new problem demanding a customized solution. In Frame 34, on the subject of uncertainty, text appeared on opaque slabs of color floating over images. Frame 39 commented on its own status as a printed medium—the crop marks offsetting the photographs refer to trim lines used in the printing process.

Across the issues of Frame, funky display fonts mingle with structured layouts, reflecting COMA’s enjoyment of American pop culture alongside Northern Europe’s more rational design ethos. Blatter, who is Swiss, studied fine art in Zurich and at Yale University School of Art. The Dutch-born Hermans trained in the Netherlands and met Blatter while teaching in Stuttgart, Germany. The team now operates in both Amsterdam and New York.

Many designers today are practicing across national borders, including the Dutch product designer Hella Jongerius, the subject of a monograph designed by COMA. Responding to the mix of craft and industrial processes seen in Jongerius’s work, COMA’s book design aimed to feel open and unfinished. In place of polished product shots, the photography presented living portraits of Jongerius’s objects in the factory, in the workshop, and at home, often in multiples.

Like DJs, graphic designers remix a body of content into a new work. Blatter and Hermans’s design for Rhythm Science, an exploration of DJ culture by Paul Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, approached the book as a temporal medium, reflecting Blatter’s background in video and installation art. The team has applied this thinking to exhibition design as well, exploring time, space, and image in three dimensions, as seen in a project about the visionary architect/engineer John M. Johansen.