Five years ago, graphic designers Maurits Wouters and Bram Broerse were in The Netherlands, sitting lake-side in Utrecht on a summer evening after work, trying to dream up a name for the design agency they wanted to co-found. They were both working in a factory at the time, and wanted their studio to reflect the “hands-on mentality” they so enjoyed in the industrial environment. Wouters and Broerse already had a logo—they’d come to love the “this side-up icon” printed on cardboard boxes—and then suddenly by the lake that evening, “the name just dropped out of the sky” when a plane passed overhead.
“That’s when the name Studio Airport was born. It has this contrast between a small location (the studio) and an ambitious, endless voyage of discovery (the airport) which we liked,” explains Wouters.
Now the studio specializes in design that combines digital and analog, with a team that has grown to include photographers, UX designers, and motion designers. Its client are mainly Utrecht-based companies in the media, art, architecture, and charity sectors. Having just won four prizes at the European Design Awards, good things are on the horizon for Studio Airport, and its client base is starting to expand.
The studio likes to play on its name in its business relationships, too, putting clients at ease from the get-go by assuring them that they’re in for a “safe and exciting journey.” The airport motif colors the studio’s website as well; the home page is splashed with a photograph of a runway with the design team standing at the ready to one side. At the center of the runway are hand-painted lines leading the way. It’s no coincidence that Studio Airport has a love of hand-painted lines and that these “runways” feature in many of its identities and posters.
“Lines often sneak into our work,” confirms Wouters. “The line is one of the strongest and most essential forms of the graphic language.” And because Studio Airport (like most design outfits) thrives on restrictions, it often limits itself to using a hand-drawn line as the predominant visual detail of an identity.
“A line has so many possibilities, it has a width, direction, and length, plus the variety of tools it could be drawn with.”
Hand-drawn lines appear in Studio Airport’s identity for the Nieuwe Architecten architecture company, which reflects the sketches and blueprints that the firm works on. Sketched lines also feature in the studio’s campaign for Utrecht Down Under, an art project that took place in the former prison Wolvenplein. These scrawled lines invoke the black-and-white stripes of a prisoner’s uniform, but drawn freely, suggest the freedom of opening up prison doors to the public. Loose lines also appear in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes across Studio Airport posters and video clips, honing the eye into a piece of graphic design or into the shape of a letter.
“We also try to avoid fixed and ready-baked elements in our work,” says Wouters. “Compared to digital elements, the hand-drawn line attracts the viewer’s attention because it holds a form of spontaneity, which is a language that we all speak.”