The Family Five: Sonnenzimmer - Design Bureau

The Family Five: Sonnenzimmer

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Describe what do you in 3 words or less.

Nick: Art factory.

Do you and Nadine share a common vision for how design should function?

Nick: Sometimes. I always value strong imagery over conceptual mush. Great concepts don’t do anything if the image is boring or generic. I find that, when coming up with an image, there is an inherent concept within; one that works on a visual level in a more direct way than any heavy-handed didactic “concept”. I am a firm believer in intuition and following your nose. In general, Nadine works with more forethought. This makes for a really great push and pull when it comes to our collaborations. On a good day, the conceptual elements feel intuitive and our images have weight.

What’s the difference between art and design?

Nick: Art tells a story. Design sells a story.

Who do you most admire in your field?

Nick: Phillip Guston for his path and technique, Kim Hirothøy for his ability to surprise, Robert Ryman for his single mindedness, Ornette Coleman for his exploration.

What’s your favorite industry-related website?


We are realizing design is becoming more and more mere content driven and form is becoming craft again.

What inspired you today?

Nadine: The Center for Book and Paper Art at Columbia College. Seeing all their amazing presses and the general openness of the faculty and staff was really inspiring.

What do you hope people take away from your work?

Nadine: That being loud doesn’t immediately mean you make the best point. That being quiet also has its limitations, but can be refreshing. It’d be cool if people intuitively opened up to a library of imagery that’s outside of what they are used to and thus makes them reflect on it. Ultimately, I wouldn’t want our visuals to come across as an insider joke, but instead instill a certain transparent honesty.

Favorite typeface?

Nadine: Currently, I like Gravur Condensed.

What are you doing differently?

Nadine: We are slowly making decisive decisions in working outside of the computer platform for collaborating. We are realizing design is becoming more and more mere content driven and form is becoming craft again.

Tell us something about yourself that no one else knows. Pretty please?

Nadine: I gave Magic Johnson a high-five on Japan Air a long time ago.

Bonus Round: What are your thoughts on design/art education? Do they prepare you well for life after school?

Nadine: I was lucky. I feel I got a very well-rounded education that went hand-in-hand with practice. But that was due to me going to school in Switzerland where graphic design education could be pursued through the guild practice or academia. But the job of letting students know, it’s not just about name-dropping a person, a resume or a certain college name. It’s about paying your dues, in terms of work. You will work 70 hours a week and you will start at the bottom. They don’t teach the mindset of the profession that you will have to adapt to extreme changes in the field as you get older.

Nick: My design education did not prepare me for life after school. I went to Middle Tennessee State University. When I was there, the design program was at a turning point. The old guard was on their way out and the new guard hadn’t arrived yet. I hear things are much better now. I didn’t really go to art school, but I have pretty negative association with those places. Art schools need to take a good, long look into their souls. Ethically, I’m not sure how they can churn out thousands of artists with no real world skills and tons of debt. In your senior year, there should be mandatory classes for establishing an art practice outside of school. We’re talking the basics here, bookkeeping, etc!

The Post Family is an art and design collaborative in Chicago.

From top: Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi; 8-color poster for Books, April, 2009; 4-color poster for Fischerspooner, May, 2009; 5-color poster, April, 2009.

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