Court TV ambient advertising campaign, 2005

Trollbäck & Company

Location: New York, New York | Los Angeles, California
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What makes one television network different from another? What personality does a network hope to convey, and—above all—who does it hope is listening? The most soughtafter demographic is aged eighteen to forty-nine, that broad cut of viewers who have become adults but do not yet qualify for a senior discount. Often enlisted to help networks reach this precious market is Trollbäck & Company, a visual and conceptual creative studio founded by the self-trained, Swedish-born Jakob Trollbäck in 1999.

For clients such as TCM, AMC, TNT, HBO, Lifetime, Court TV, and TV Land, Trollbäck & Company has created station identities that are clean, direct, and always inventive, saying more with simple means. No exploding rainbow backdrops or liquid metal logos for these designers; every project is framed by a solid concept executed through strong, purposeful typography, reflecting Trollbäck’s lifelong respect for the work of the Swiss designer Josef Müller-Brockmann and the German typographer Jan Tschichold.

A painterly sensibility pervades much of Trollbäck’s work. Sculpting light out of darkness, the firm’s designers and directors incise the screen with glowing bits of text and image. For TCM, Trollbäck devised navigational spots that list the evening’s offerings against the gridded office buildings of New York City. The project quietly recalls the film-noir era, known for its distinctive use of light and shadow and grim view of human frailty. As Jakob Trollbäck explains, “The graphics reflect our passion for architecture and typography merged with filmmaking, producing a mood that incidentally resonates with the neo-noir of David Lynch.” A similar approach illuminates many of Trollbäck’s opening titles for feature films, including A Beautiful Mind and Vanity Fair, in which imagery emerges from blackness.

Trollbäck’s work has moved offscreen into print advertising, magazine design, environmental graphics, and more. A campaign for Court TV infiltrated New York City with “ambient” advertisements that imply that any person, place, or thing in town could be secretly engaging in a crime or undercover operation. A phone booth becomes “The Lookout,” a taxi is a “Getaway Car,” and a bus provides “Witness Relocation.” Such projects bring home the fact that design—as well as crime—can turn up absolutely anywhere.