Konst & Teknik defines themselves as a graphic design office dealing with art, technology and things in between. Through close collaboration with programmers and customers, they deliver conceptual projects which really stands out.
On the website you did for Uglycute, you turned the entire process into a collaborative workshop with the client. Is close collaboration with the client essential for you?
Close collaboration is always important for us — we work together just because of that — but the level of collaboration varies a lot between projects. In the Uglycute case, there was a mutual interest in each others practices. The budget was tight and we thought it would be more fun, interesting and rewarding if we learned from each other and bartered instead of exchanged money. This worked out very well with Uglycute, but might be harder to pull of in other cases — even though we currently are investigating the possibilities to work this way in bigger projects too. We generally think its interesting to think about and try out different ways of working as we — quite frankly — too easily get bored otherwise.
In many of your projects, it seems that the process itself is reflected in the end result. Why do you use this way of handling projects?
We try to separate process and method. For us process is more about development, the steps you go through during the time of a project. Method, for us, is how you decide to execute your project, both practically and theoretically. To choose method is one part of the process. We don’t think the process is so evident in the end result of our work, but the method can be. We definitively think the final result is very important, but we also always like to think about different ways of ending there. In some projects we think the method is as important as the end result, as it might be where the interesting part mainly takes part, and in those cases we let it be reflected in the final result.
You work with both print and web based projects. How do the process differ from a web project compared to a print project? How do you embrace the possibilities of the web?
From a theoretical perspective, our relationship to web and print projects doesn’t differ that much; we often think of the printing process (of for example a book) and programming process (of for example a website) as slightly equal when it comes to our involvement. Both ‘technologies’ are something we have a more theoretical than practical knowledge about, and we are equally interested in how both develop. However, one thing that clearly does differ, is that we usually have our programmer collaborator (Martin Ström or someone else) quite close by and therefore really can collaborate on an everyday basis. A printer is always in another part of the city/country/world and therefore a different relationship.
A lot of your collaborations with Martin Ström are self-initiated. How do you find the time and resources to do this?
We believe that our self-initiated projects are as important as commissions and therefore decided when founding the studio that we would try to spend at least 30% of our time on our own projects. Mainly because we want to work on these project, but also because we never knew how to ‘get’ new commissions and thought that it probably would be better to invested our time in our own projects and hope that future commissioners would recognize them. Therefore it has never been a question of finding time to work on our own projects, as it’s always been a natural part of our studio work. From an economical perspective, we have put ourselves in a situation where we don’t have huge living expenses (cheap studio, small apartments, etc) and try to make sure that we have some extra margins on the more commercial commissions we take on.
Many of your websites have a flexible layout. And on the SNMBL project, the layout adapts itself even to smaller devices such as the iPhone. How do you treat this in the sketching process, as sketches often are static? And do you design a specific sketch for small devices?
We usually don’t work with ‘final’ design in Photoshop, but instead make rougher mockups for the layout (in Photoshop) and typography (as CSS files). Then we talk to the frontend programmer about these mockups and how to proceed depends on that person and the nature of the project; it could be that we don’t do any more Photoshop work at all and instead sit next to each other and work the details out as they come along (thus giving the frontend programmer as much freedom as s/he wants), but sometimes we work out one or several detailed static Photoshop documents so that the programmer doesn’t need to talk/make decisions s/he isn’t interested in making.
When it comes to small devices, it is still pretty new to us — we have only worked on iPhone versions of 2 projects, but are definitely interested in doing that more — but that process isn’t completely worked out yet. We just know that even the idea of adjusting a site to iPhone (with for example the idea of ‘responsive design’) also needs questioning from project to project; maybe it makes no sense to spend the extra time working on iPhone/iPad/etc versions of some projects at all.
We usually compare programming with the printing process
In a design perspective, are there any web designers who inspires you? Someone that you believe treats the web as a design medium in the right way?
We partly follow (often American) designers like Trent Walton and Jason Santa Maria, since they often are at the forefront of webdesign from a ‘typotechnical’ perspective, but when it comes to general ideas about design, we probably have a quite different approache. In Europe we see great things here and there but they usually pop up more randomly through other channels; from graphic design friends and colleagues who we often know personally or semi personally and stumble upon through social networks, blogs and forums.
Some graphic designers fear the web because of the technology and coding. Which skills do you believe a graphic designer must have to make great websites? Are basic coding skills necessary?
We (again) usually compare programming with the printing process; Of course you can make a nice book even if you just send a printer a PDF and hope for the best. But when you understand the whole process, know how to talk to the printer with their language, know what can be changed and done and where to invent and push things, then you most likely end up making the most interesting work. The same goes for the web; you don’t need to know a single line of code as a designer to design a website, but the outcome will probably be quite generic. In order to push things, one needs to have a certain insight into the structure and development of code. So yes, we believe that in order to make great websites, one needs to know a bit of code... We also — maybe lazily? — believe that our lack of ‘perfect’ knowledge, naiveness (belief in!) and tendency to miss-understand coding makes our work more interesting, since that often makes us try things out without really knowing where they will end up at all times.www.kon.st