Knoth & Renner

18. May 2018

You describe your collaboration as a “virtual studio”. Would you explain the implications of this condition on your practice?

We make things that you interact with and consume while being online from every place in the world and at every time. We also work for clients and with collaborators, that we have never met in IRL. Furthermore everything we built is based on digital networks, so we decided to exchange our ideas about all those things in the same way as we work on them — virtual. It saves a lot of offline infrastructures and feels very precise at the same moment. WYSIWYG.

You worked on several projects for artistic and cultural institutions. Was there any need to make compromises? And if yes how did you approached them?

There are always compromises about money, time, design and usability ideas. Since graphic design for the internet doesn’t materialize in any physical form and everything can be changed all the time, you can get lost while developing. Clients often are not aware of that, so it became more and more our task to structure things in a very specific way, to determine certain project stages and to make compromises — something that you can only learn by doing it. For cultural institutions we developed a dynamic questionnaire about their needs, expectations and tasks that help us to outline central scopes and to avoid too many compromises before doing the first design decision.

Websites often have a central role in your visual identity projects. Could you say that some websites are a starting point to develop entire identity systems? Something like website-first visual identities?

Maybe not the website itself. It is more the general digital approach of the institution that can be an interesting starting point. Is it about making complex data legible, about digital entertainment or is it about the interaction with the website visitors and can there be a moment of self-reflection? To have a significant idea about the content helps us to translate this into visual language that then can be adopted on all media and then you could speak of a website-first visual identity.

In the Klasse Digitale Grafik at HFBK you investigate on the relationships between digital culture and graphic design. Do you see a hybridization — both technical and theoretical — between designers and developers?

Students often ask us if it’s necessary to know how to code when applying for the class (www.digitale-grafik.com). We do not think so. For us it is more important to know and understand network politics, the power of algorithms and many other relevant aspects of the digital world that surrounds us. And we then ask how do those things have influence on contemporary graphic design, which is also mainly digital these days. We help students to make visual concepts, that can interact with digital culture and that are questioning beaten visual paths and all the template engines. To do that, coding can be helpful, but sometimes a simple pdf can be much stronger.

As you say “the development of a website is a chaotic process”, a multitude of possibilities which also depend on empirical factors. It looks like you consider the development process a performance. What do you think?

When you work on digital projects you have to deal with a bunch of unknown dependencies. The API you have to use, the users devices, various browsers and much more. You can then try to find a common ground that probably works in every case. And even when you have dealt with all technical issues, you have the editors, authors, the humans that work with the website. It is another endless pool of unexpected factors that can change the project completely. In our experience you will never reach a stable point.

That’s why we describe the development of a website as a chaotic process. We find this is a honest starting point when we start to develop a website with somebody. In one of our recent projects, www.k-komma.de, which is a new project space in Berlin, we are trying to make this process transparent. “A Website is Never Ready” means, that we are practicing what we normally do without saying it: changing, adopting and optimizing the whole website eco-system — visible for visitors of the space in a performative way.

What are in your opinion the most important and interesting code repositories?

There are too many to name but I just heard Jürg Lehni from one of the coolest canvas drawing libraries paper.js is looking for maintainers.

http://knoth-renner.com/
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