We’ve come across some bold, odd, and cheeky studio names in our time, but none that expresses how fun the work its designers create quite as blatantly as Rotterdam’s Studio Spass. “Spass” literally translates to “fun” in German, and a playful sensibility combined with rigorous, thoughtful problem-solving is exactly what defines the studio’s approach. Case in point: its two latest typographic sculptures.
“As graphic designers, we love dynamic identities and playing with typography. Working on custom type design and typographic installations is therefore a lot of fun for us,” says the ever jubilant, Jaron Korvinus, one half of the Studio Spass, the design agency he co-founded in 2008 with Daan Mens.
Rotterdam’s Kunsthal most recently commissioned the studio to interpret Robert Barry’s original “do it #93” (2012) from Hans Ulrich Obrist’s well-known ongoing exhibition/treaty. Specifically, Studio Spass was asked to respond to Barry’s idea that one should “Do something unique that only you and no one else in the world can do. Don’t call it art.” So Korvinus and Mens did something only Studio Spass would do, and created 50 typographic designs of the words “SO ME THING,” a literal interpretation of the directive and a playful twist on the word.
The studio enlarged each of the 50 designs and layered them one on top of another across 144 bright yellow Post-it notes, inviting visitors to tear off different parts of the composition over the course of the exhibition.
“We ordered the layers in a kind of rhythm that felt right,” says Korvinus, describing the way the minimalist type was paired with explosive, oozing shapes or scratchy, speckled forms. He recalls how some visitors carefully chose a specific sheet to rip away after inspecting the composition for several minutes, while others just went wild, tearing off pages until they found something they were pleased with.
Studio Spass wasn’t precious about watching all their work get ripped to shreds. “We really enjoyed challenging people to interact and to turn the installation into their own composition for a moment,” says Korvinus.
And while you might not expect there to be such a demand for it, creating large-scale typographic sculptures is something that Studio Spass is becoming extremely well-versed in. Last year they also made an energetic, contorting installation for Typojanchi, Seoul’s international typography festival. The studio designed letterforms that dangled from the ceiling as if they were about to be swept away in a gust of wind, playing off the curvaceous, marble hall of the event’s entrance (below). Since the conference considers the way that people interact with typography in a city, Studio Spass wanted to build something that visually responded to its surroundings.
“We’re fascinated by optical illusions and love it when something spatial and three-dimensional comes into play with something flat and graphic,” explains Korvinus, citing Lichtenstein’s Brushstroke sculpture as an example of the 2D and the 3D colliding spectacularly. “We’ve been exploring the technique in a lot of our projects, so we decided to do it for Typojanchi, too.” As a result, the sculpture seemed to float flatly, in clear juxtaposition with the rounded columns nearby. A set of Studio Spass mini-type sculptures were also displayed at Typojanchi; these referenced a street installation the studio created for a Rotterdam arts festival a few years before (below).
In addition to specializing in editorial, branding, and web, Studio Spass’ Korvinus and Mens are kings of large-scale, interactive typographic creations. “It’s great to see how people communicate and interact with them, whether it’s someone actively participating by ripping a page, or someone just using it as a background while taking a selfie,” Korvinus says. These projects are so visually arresting and often literally in your face that you can’t help but take note; the way they interact with space brings type to the forefront, inviting spectators to consider the importance of the forms and how they function in a new, more playful context.