Daan and I both studied at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. He started two years ahead of me within the illustration department. We got to know each other through a school trip to New York with students from all years. We had similar humour and interests and started to collaborate while at university. We were interested in more design fields rather than just illustration and had a lot of interest in typography and identity. So we proceeded our study partly at the graphic design department.
After my internship at an Amsterdam based agency I knew I wanted to start my own studio right after graduation.
Daan at that time, already had two years of experience working for at another agency in Amsterdam.
We decided to start the studio together so he quit his job. The studio name “SPASS”, actually means “FUN” in german. Humor plays a big role in our work and our vision was/is to show people you can have great fun while making a design. We are very much into experimenting with different techniques, media and disciplines. Our first jobs came from a relatively close circle. BOEMKLATSCH a DJ collective from Utrecht that organised several parties gave us a chance to do their visual identity. We got to make a catalogue and poster for the graduation show of the Fine art department ARTEZ in Arnhem (My girlfriend studied there at that time). We presented these project at my graduation show instead of my own graduation work to promote the newly found studio. We made some very time consuming designs for simple products such as flyers, but it made them stand out. I think we were very aware to aim for a lot of trust and creative freedom within commissioned work. We knew that if this freedom would show in our portfolio, it would attract new clients that would have similar ambitions.
Don’t be afraid to pursue a creative career! When I was 16, I was afraid to turn my hobby— drawing and typography into my profession. At the time I feared studying design and thought focussing only on this subject would make me lose the fun I used to get from it. After high school, I worked for a year as a caretaker for elderly people. I used this year to reconsider this fear I had. Being a caretaker is a very social and thankful profession. I talked with many elderly about their lives and careers. They made me realise that being able to freely choose to study design and turn what I love doing into my profession was a huge privilege.
We love being challenged, working with interesting curators or clients! We had a great collaboration working with german curator Lukas Feireiss for an Art festival in Rotterdam called De Wereld van Witte de With. He always had interesting briefs and great feedback on our initial plans, in a way that the outcome would become much better. We still love the identity we made in collaboration with him for the 2012 edition of the festival titled: The Streets, Live issue. These editions celebrated the street as one of the last and most important places for social, cultural and political interaction. We created an identity, signage and a series of huge street sculptures. The shapes were based on billboards and protest signs interacting with their context, in this case the street. All sculptures communicated a famous street related quote selected by the curator.
Some years ago we made an exhibition design for a client. The exhibition was located in an old building (not your average white cube) and we had designed a special orange carpet floor. The carpet would be installed the morning, right before all the shelves and sculptures would be brought in, a very tight schedule. On that day we arrived early but the floor was already installed and the carpenter had left. What we found was one of the most sloppy and bubbling orange carpets we had ever seen. When we called to ask for an explanation the carpenters told us they thought the floor was going to be used for a one night Queensday party instead of an exhibition. (Queensday is our national holiday happening the next day. Orange is the national colour mostly used on Queensday.) Because of all the exhibition content coming in we had to think and act fast. We free-styled a new design by cutting the orange floor up in smaller graphic shapes that we combined with the original flooring for a new design. We barely made it but eventually it turned out a lot better than the initial design and we were done right before the shelves and sculptures were brought in. Looking back at this now we like to call this a happy accident. It affected the outcome in a positive way. The carpenters had no clue what this floor would actually be used for and I guess they should have been briefed way better. A month before when we made the design decisions we had never thought about the possible link or miscommunication regarding a Queensday party. In general we learned to surround ourselves with a network of creatives and preferred suppliers such as third parties, people that we trust and vice versa. Its very good to know what you can and can not do yourself and who you like to collaborate with.
Traveling and doing projects abroad, exploring new cultures and context are very inspiring for us.
We also love to meet and exchange thoughts with other creatives. Being invited and participating in the main exhibition of Typojanchi the 4th international typography biennale in Seoul november 2015 was absolutely a huge honour and one of the highlights so far. We got the chance to go to Seoul and build a large scale site specific Typographic installation. We collaborated with local designers and carpenters and worked with a wonderful new script; Hangul. We had never been to Asia before so this mega city with it’s organised chaos of architecture and infrastructure made us rethink the concept of a city. The biennale itself was really well organised and the organisation was very warm and welcoming to us. Besides exhibiting interesting projects on the border of art and design the biennale also functions as a hub or meeting place for designers from all over Asia. For a typography event and compared to European standards it attracts amazing numbers of visitors. The design scene in Seoul and Asia in general is so alive and interesting it was a real eye opener for us. We got to meet amazing new people this lead to new projects in Asia.
Always stay hungry for new things, never stop exploring and learning. Try to find out what you really like doing.
Work with people that you like and strive to learn as much as you can from other disciplines, collaborate whenever possible.
Don’t conform to what “the market” wants from you to be, follow your own path and don’t be afraid if this isn’t an instant success.