Spotlight: Berger & Föhr

Berger & Föhr is a graphic design and art studio based in Boulder, Colorado. The studio practices contemporary visual communication, informed by the past — inspired by the future. The partners, Todd Berger & Lucian Föhr have been practicing graphic design and making art together since 2003. Over the past 12 years they’ve worked with a select group of transformative clientele who believe that intention and foresight will shape the future. Currently, they’re leading design at Ello.

Photo by: Chip Callbac

Photo by: Chip Callbac

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. We’re a two man graphic design team based in Boulder, Colorado. We’ve spent the last dozen years working side by side for a variety of clients with transformative ideas and entities. Our focus is on identity, user interface and user experience design. We make a good bit of art too, mostly prints (screen prints, block prints and lithographs) as of late. Our prints can be found here. We’re currently completing a 12 print series commemorating the life and work of one of our mentors, Massimo Vignelli.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Currently, we’re working explicitly on ello.co, an ad-free social network that we co-founded and released in the fall of 2014. It’s based on the principle that people are not products, even though all of the current social networks treat us as such.

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What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other designers are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? Design has become incredibly interdisciplinary and it’s becoming more so. This isn’t necessarily a challenge, as much as it’s something one needs to be aware of and take into consideration. It makes working in the design space very exciting. Graphic design in particular is now a very broad field requiring a firm understanding of typography, composition, color, identity, print, desktop and mobile design for both web and native environments, environmental graphics, wayfinding, branding and marketing as a whole. One could certainly consider the awareness and knowledge base required to practice good graphic design a little overwhelming. We find it intriguing and motivating.

How did your interest in art or design begin? Both of us discovered our interest in art and design at a very young age. It began with an interest in drawing and making things, an awareness of branding (even though it wasn’t yet called that) and a distaste for advertising. We share a desire for simple, beautiful things and clean, pure spaces. Our work and thinking continues to be driven by these feelings and ideas.

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How has living in Colorado affected your design practice? Boulder, Colorado is a unique place, fond of its Western roots and late 60s hippy heritage. Both of these characteristics can be felt today. As far as cities go, it’s a metropolitan mountain town nestled in to the base of the Rocky Mountains. A sort of rugged individualism still persists here, but in new and contemporary ways. Boulder’s hippy roots have given way to an open minded and forward thinking community that remains closely knit. Predominated by notions of good health and well-being, access to nature, spirituality, entrepreneurism, and as of late — technology.

Our lifestyles are informed by these ideas and our often counter cultural approach to thinking and making work is well supported here.

What products or companies are you interested in right now? We’re interested in products and companies that challenge the status quo and that marry design and culture in new and forward ways. We find companies that put society first to be of particular interest.

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What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? The materials we work with artistically tend to be paper, ink and some form of press, be it a screen printing press, or a woodblock or lithographic press. In the past we’ve worked with more sculptural media yielding a variety of art objects, although we’re not doing much of that right now. Our design work is Mac driven and our media is the screen, the printed page and the physical spaces in which we implement things like signage and large format graphics.

Tell us a joke. Facebook’s privacy policy.

What artists or designers are you interested in right now? We are discovering amazing new designers and artist everyday on Ello right now. It’s kind of blowing our minds.

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What’s your favorite thing about your city? Brilliant access to the outdoors. We’re surrounded by exceptional hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing and climbing. All activities we love to partake in when we’re not in the studio.

What was the last show you saw that stuck out to you? Our friend Bud Shark has been giving regular artist talks at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. He brings his current visiting artist (when he makes prints with an artist, the artist stays with he and Barbara at their studio in Lyons, Colorado) and hosts an intimate conversation about the artist’s work and the act of collaborating on whatever lithograph or woodblock or other type of print that they happen to be in the process of creating. The talks are really insightful, super personal and always amazing.

What is your beverage of choice when working in your studio? There’s a steady flow of both coffee and tea.

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What are you really excited about right now? We’re very excited about the work we’re getting to do with Ello. Social networking is broken, people are being taken advantage of, privacy is being degraded and very few are doing anything about it. We’re fighting to fix those things and make them better. We’re very close to releasing a new and improved Ello web experience along with a handful of super cool new features, while building native apps for both iOS and Android.

We’re also pretty pumped about the Massimo print series we’re working on. We should be wrapping that up in a week or two. 2015 looks to be a very fun and exciting year for us creatively. We feel very lucky.

What are you listening to right now? The snow fall. We’re having an epic Colorado snow week!

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Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? Ello was one of the biggest viral hits of 2014. We have to consider that as one of the best reactions to our work to date. As far as worst reactions go, fortunately there haven’t been too many. However, in 2013 we were part of team tasked with designing a new identity system for the state of Colorado.

We really poured our hearts into it, and our solution made it to the final round, only to lose out due to its refined contemporariness. Sadly, we consider that a big loss for the state of Colorado, and our fellow Coloradans. For us too. It was kind of rough. It’s funny, we’ve worked on all sorts of larger civic projects over the years and we’ve yet to really figure it out. It’s a bit of game. Lots of politics. Anyways, one day we’ll push a big one through!!!

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