Over the course of one year, graphic designers Mark Bohle and Raffael Kormann designed posters for all concerts at the music and arts venue Kulturzentrum Merlin in Stuttgart. 80 posters in total, some of which have been awarded internationally, each of them a unique artwork. Now, the duo has turned this noticeable collection into the publication ‘Tonight at Merlin’, published by Stuttgart based Prima Publikationen. “The idea already existed when we first started talking about the project. This being said, the book turned out to be something very different from what we had in mind in the beginning”, Mark and Raffael tell C24, “On one hand it contains the entire poster series and on the other hand it also documents the whole process of creation and collaboration.” The book features three essays by Arne Hübner, Nikolaus Troxler and Das bisschen Totschlag, contextualizing this symbiosis of communication, music and pop culture.
With Mark being based in Barcelona and Raffael living in Stuttgart, the duo had to work remotely, using their digital devices and chat messengers to discuss and develop ideas. All those conversations are included in the publication, offering an authentic insight into the visual making-of and the thoughts and ideas behind. Moreover the publication is linked to the bands and their posters, enabling the reader to listen to the corresponding sound while deep diving into the artworks. “As diving into the music was a crucial part of developing the visual language of each poster, we thought that it might be important to the reader too”, Mark and Raffael explain, “Furthermore this enables you to test our design. Is there a bridge between the visual and the auditive part? Or did we cheat on you?”
What was the best moment of this collaboration so far?
Both: The most intense time definitely was august 2019 when we had to develop 20 posters within one month because of the Klinke Festival happening at Merlin. During that high intensity workout we tried out a lot of things and came to some of the most surprising and interesting results.
All in all, the project granted them total creative freedom, a playground for exploration, innovation and experimentation. With each of these posters, Mark and Raffael tried to create something a little “unexpected”, while being deeply inspired by the music of the presented artists at the same time. “We feel very comfortable in surroundings like that. In this case, it was a great gift to work on a long term project with our friend and booker Arne Hübner from Merlin Stuttgart who supported and trusted us to the upmost”, they tell us. “Working without any exterior limitation and being able to work without any doubts or personal preferences by the client was a great experience. It was a very pure investigation on where are our own boundaries and limitations in terms of creating.”
What was the biggest challenge of this collaboration?
Both: Not giving up and smashing our heads through some of our devices’ screens after 200 drafts went straight into the trash.
Both designers are currently in the process of setting up their own studios, balancing between commissioned and self-initiated projects, as well as teaching. Mark works in a broad variety of cultural and economic fields, working with an exciting range of clients, like Watergate Berlin, Zeit, Fahrenheit, Kulturbetrieb Wagenhallen Stuttgart, ABK Stuttgart and many more. Last year, he initiated Dietz, an online shopping mall for prints by different artists, designers and illustrators. Apart from working at his studio, he also teaches typography at Elisava University in Barcelona.
After spending some time at ZEITmagazin in Berlin and Bureau Borsche in Munich, Raffael now works as a graphic designer and art director in Stuttgart. At the moment, he specializes more and more on video and animation and has several commercial, as well as cultural projects on the go. Apart from that, he gives workshops at art academies.
The duo met when studying together at ABK Stuttgart in the class of Patrick Thomas, sharing not only a studio space, but also a deep interest in new aesthetics and investigative design.
Why is it important to you to collaborate with other creatives? And what makes collaborations between the two of you so fruitful?
Both: Collaborating sparkles and is equally healthy for both, mind and body. Like doing yoga asanas in the middle of the dance floor.
It’s this aspiration for new, unexpected aesthetics always combined with an intuitive and playful touch, which makes this impressive collection so unique. The publication creates not only a new and contextualizing environment for these playful and experimental artworks, it also documents a free and unrestricted creative process in which collaboration, but also overcoming the fear of failure and the courage to experiment have essentially contributed to its success.