We’re a boutique graphic design studio based in Berlin founded by Emma Skaaning (Denmark), Madeleine Berg (Sweden) and Lana Belton (Canada). We work in close collaboration with a wide range of clients—from entrepreneurs, to artists, to corporations. Our work is interdisciplinary and we don’t limit ourselves to a specific medium, though we focus on branding, editorial and web design, and print.
At the same time, we’re really committed to our own creative practices and try to carve out time to devote to our own work each week. We always have a side project or two on the go, whether it’s a community workshop, printmaking, or self-publishing. It’s not always easy when we’re busy working on commissioned projects, but setting that time aside is so important to our personal and professional development.
One thing that we love about what we do is that each day brings something different. Whenever we can, we start the day together with coffee in our studio. We put on some nice music and talk about what we need to accomplish that day and assign tasks to make it happen. Running a small business takes a lot of admin work, so we try to split it up and support each other. If we’re doing a lot of solo desk work that day, we always stop to ask for someone else’s input—feedback is a constant in our studio. We’ll usually break for lunch together and take our studio dog Billy for a walk.
Then the afternoon is more coffee, music, and work. One of us might run out to meet a client, someone might be researching, and someone else might be photographing our latest project. After finishing up whatever the day has thrown at us, we try to head home in time to maintain a reasonable work/life balance.
In addition to technical skills and a great eye for typography, we look for conceptually strong, research driven projects that show a well developed sense of self. Attention to detail and a love for the craft of design really help a portfolio to stand out. We also like to see a little bit of the process behind the work so we can get a glimpse into how you think.
Working with clients who value our craft and the power of design is key for a successful relationship. At the same time, the client needs to be able to step back and let you do your job—sometimes if the client is too involved in the process they can derail the project by trying to become the art director. Finding a client who values your work and your expertise as a visual consultant is super important. When we find a client who ticks those boxes, the project is always successful.
Be careful what you get good at! Saying no to work might seem like a luxury you can’t afford when you’re just starting out, but it’s really important to remember that each project you work on opens the door to the next. We really believe that if you commit to doing great work that you love, the right people will start to come to you—with a lot of hard work, of course.
We’re very interested in how play can be a method of artistic practice. We have an ongoing collaborative collage workshop called Semiotomatic that explores this idea. It was started while Lana was at an artist residency in Banff, Canada, as a reaction against the pressure she was putting on herself to produce perfect work. She invited the other artists in residence into her studio for an evening of games based on the Surrealist exquisite corpse method. This impromptu salon was sort of therapeutic since the process is so much more important than the results. Everyone could just relax, listen to music, have a glass of wine, and not be so serious about what they were making. And funnily enough, the work produced by the end of the night was actually pretty nice!
We took this project back to Berlin and try to organise a workshop every few months. At the end of the event, we scan all the work we create together to make a publication for each participant. We announce these events on Instagram, so follow along if you’d like to join in on the next one!