Dual Room is a Swiss studio that manages to straddle clean, classic design aesthetics and unabashed, collage-driven, erotic layouts as though the two sensibilities were the most natural of bedfellows. That takes some skill—but skill, boldness, and stretching the boundaries of design convention is what Dual Room’s portfolio is all about.
The studio was formed in Berlin by ECAL graduate Emmanuel Crivelli and photographer Cédric Raccio 2010. That’s where the name originates. “We were literally working in two rooms for quite a long time,” Crivelli explains. Raccio has since left, and the studio has moved back to Crivelli’s native Switzerland, settling in the city of Bienne. Usually it’s just him and an intern, though depending on the project he frequently collaborates with interaction designers, web developers, and photographers.
If you can tear yourself away from the studio’s beguiling and often sexually charged work on its website, you’ll notice a slightly oblique strapline: “attractive presages, structured visions, and radical phantasms.” What does that mean exactly? “Those are the three criteria on which I based my working methodology,” says Crivelli, “to create an image or a visual concept that is teasing to your eyes or questioning you, through a structured design using radical hierarchization of information.” That’s cleared that up, then.
While Dual Room is still relatively young, Crivelli says he’s learned a lot in the past seven years, namely that you have to “master the rules to break the rules. So I’m still trying to break the few rules I know and to master many others,” he says. “But I feel more and more comfortable with what and how I like to do things. I quit doing projects I don’t like very quickly. In seven years from now I see the office on another planet, creating new ways to communicate images directly in the brains of other people.”
The studio works across a range of cultural and commercial projects, but much of its work centers on editorial design. “I like to find new graphic systems, to question the way you read information, to build a story from one point to another, and to create my visual vocabulary and grammar for every publication,” says Crivelli.
He also teaches editorial design, and recently printed the beautiful magazine Artichoke, a collaboration with the students of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland.
The project that really seduced us though was Dual Room’s designs for POV Paper, a magazine that bills itself as a “quarterly mindfuck about gender and sexuality.”
The publication sprang from La Fête du Slip, a festival about sexualities in Lausanne that Dual Room has also worked for. “The festival was generating so much content and discussion that, together with David Berguglia and the actual editorial team—Viviane and Stéphane Morey, Elorri Harriet and later Mathias Clivaz—we decided to create this publication,” Crivelli explains.
Each issue takes an entirely new creative direction, referencing work in photography, video, and virtual reality installations to “talk about a very complex but exciting theme; sex and sexualities,” he says. “Most of the time we work with performers from the sex-positive scene or sex workers, together with photographers, videographers, artists from the art and fashion scene, to create new aesthetics on the visualization of a fantasy.
“POV means point of view, so every time we are reading or listening or watching from a unique point of view on a specific theme. That’s the reason we change the design for every issue.”