Through the studio GUNMAD and type foundry Or Type, designers Mads Freund Brunse and Guðmundur Úlfarsson work closely with fine artists and other clients to find experimental and idea-driven solutions. We asked them a handful of questions about their exciting work.
How and when did you meet and decide to form a studio together?
We met at a school in Denmark called Krabbesholm Højskole. It’s a kind of foundation art school where we both studied graphic design. After our course ended we both went our separate ways (Guðmundur to Amsterdam and Mads to Lausanne), but we kept contact and worked on several projects together. Then we started going back frequently to Krabbesholm to teach, which was a big part of what kept us together. We just never stopped working together after we started; we’ve never really sat down and taken any decisions about our studio, we’ve just done it.
You seem to specialize in designing for artists and other creatives, like Kristinn E. Hrafnsson, Lloyd Corporation, Merete Vyff Slyngborg, and the LungA art festival. Was this a conscientious choice?
It came naturally to us after our studies, really. We’re both very interested in art and we’ve always felt comfortable working with artists. I guess that’s also a key word: with. Artists are always open for a good dialogue and care about more than just the looks of things.
On your site you say the way you collaborate with clients is by encouraging new ideas and striving for the “enigmatic” in addition to the well-designed. Do you see yourselves more as artists or designers?
In our opinion there isn’t such a big difference between the two disciplines. It’s a lot about creating something we feel is appropriate for the people we work with. The results then come through strong concepts and visual ideas. We try to push these ideas with our own logic and that’s probably where the experimentation and enigma comes in.
Both of your websites—for your studio GUNMAD and for Or Type—are creatively coded in nonlinear ways. Did you undertake their design as artistic expressions unto themselves? As ways to do things differently, be purposefully enigmatic?
You could say so. What’s interesting about web projects is being able to create these non-linear experiences; It’s something we’re generally quite interested in.
Have the typefaces in your new foundry Or Type evolved from work you did for and with artists? You mention some are derived from research.
Several of our typefaces have been developed for specific projects or commissions. The basis for most of the alphabets come either from things we’ve seen around us or on ideas we get. You could say our fonts are based on idiosyncratic values.
Do you see yourselves working on more typefaces now that you’ve started the foundry? How might that affect the time you can put into design/art projects?
We have quite a few typefaces in the making to be honest. Actually a bit too many, because they’re so time-consuming. Now running our own type foundry has definitely pushed us to try and finalize things.
The foundry launched two years ago and your fonts have been used by some high-powered publications like the New York Times and the Wire. Have you seen interest grown? What other places have your fonts appeared?
It’s been exciting to see our fonts in big projects like these, also at the Sundance Film Festival. But there have been many other projects worth mentioning by designers from all over. It’s really a privilege to see your typeface being used by someone else in a great project, and we love discovering it in use somewhere.
With Mads in London and Guðmundur in Reykjavík, how do you collaborate? Email, Skype, carrier pigeon?
Through all the channels mentioned, except the pigeon. Loads of written messages throughout the day and Skype, of course. Our work is really based on dialogue; it’s the essence of our work. This obviously goes alongside a lot of visual development and experimentation.
Anything upcoming in the next few months you can tell us about?
We’re busy these days. Right now we’re preparing our show for DesignMarch in Reykjavík. It’s going to be a structural installation with a roll printer outputting what is written on ortype.is. Besides that, we’re working on a couple of identities as well as our on-going collaborations.