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RUEDI BAUR WAS BORN IN PARIS. HE TRAINED AS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER IN ZURICH AND, IN THE EARLY 80S, HE RETURNED TO FRANCE AND FOUNDED HIS FIRST STUDIO IN LYON. INITIALLY HE DESIGNED VISUAL CONCEPTS FOR MUSEUMS AND CURATED DESIGN EXHIBITIONS. IN THE LATE 80S HE MOVED TO PARIS AND BEGUN DESIGNING FOR MUSEUMS LIKE THE PICASSO MUSEUM, RODIN MUSEUM AND THE POMPIDOU CENTER.
A A Ruedi’s design work focuses on signage systems and the development of identity. In 1989 he founded, along with Pippo Lionni and Philippe Delis, the Intégral Concept Ruedi Baur Paris, and later the Intégral Zurich. In 2007 he and Denis Coueignoux started the IRB Laboratory of visual experimentation. And in 2011, together with Vera Baur-Kockot and Imke Plinta he founded the <<Civic City>> in Geneva, which was a follow up to <<Design2context>> at ZhDK in Zurich. Ruedi is also a founder of the Heterotopia Institute in Essen. Ruedi Baur has been a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) since 1992. He’s the author and coauthor of many titles including Don’t Brand My Public Space, Signs for Peace, An Impossible Visual Encyclopedia, Dis-/Orientation 1 and 2, and Scents of the City, to name a few. As for signage systems, he has designed among others the André Malraux Multimedia Center in Strasbourg (2007-2009), the signage concept for the Metro Cable Caracas (2007-2008), the signage system for the Vienna International Airport and its extension (2005-2012), and the signage system for The New School (Parsons) New York and Paris (2013).
KINGA KOWALCZYK In conversation with Ruedi Baur
I’ll make a short introduction first. Your design is, for me, humane, authentic and respectful of people, places and environment. You always carefully study the context of each assignment; you approach it with an open mind, imagination and freshness. When I see your designs I immediately think of something open, something that gives a sense of freedom within a functional structure. There is a lot of breathing space in your design, something comforting and reassuring. At the same time I often get the impression that it is surreal, surprising and unexpected. You seem always to reinvent yourself, reinterpret the surroundings. I think you have the ability to listen and look carefully and pick up the details that matter. You wonderfully balance intellect and functionality with poetry. Perfect. I have a copy of Design in Question with me. It is a compilation of the questions that were gathered during a project you and Design2context did with the Elisava School of Design in Barcelona. First, could you say something about this project? We were asked to make a mural with questions at the entrance of the Elisava. Sometimes I find myself wondering about the students who are entering the design profession without questioning it. I think the best way to design is to question the profession. Anyway, we just emailed a couple of friends and thousands of questions came back. This mural is sort of a bridge between designers who have already finished their studies and designers who have not yet entered the reality of the design world. It is a very interesting situation.
Would you like to pick one question from the book and answer it? I like, “Is design toxic?” When is design toxic and when is it not? We have to question the attitude towards design from within the design profession. That’s why I am interested in civic design and I try to keep distance from the toxic part of design. I wanted to ask you about Fronzoni. AG Fronzoni was a very radical person; he impressed me a lot when I was coming out of my studies. He fascinated me because of his radical position. He was very critical of technology and superficiality. He had this multidisciplinary approach. He was a graphic designer; he made architecture and furniture.
Workshop "Design in Question" University Elisava Barcelona_Spain 2009
IS DESIGN TOXIC
Design in Question Elisava School of Design Barcelona_Spain 2009
The idea behind Intégral Concept is a cross-disciplinary approach to design. Intégral’s teams work together because they want to and not because they have to, and there’s very little attention given to hierarchy and bureaucracy. Could you point out what led you to open Intégral and how it has evolved over the years? So the first idea, when Pippo Lionni was my partner, was that we were not going to be graphic designers in a traditional way. We would be professionals who were not afraid to confront all sorts of design problems. After two years we realized we needed to separate and create some distance, so we opened two studios that were related but independent. This was also the moment when we decided to invite other designers and professionals from different fields to be a part of the network. And then we invited a third partner, Philippe Delis. This network is different from agencies like Pentagram. Each partner is independent economically, so all the partners and collaborators meet on an intellectual level. Intégral is something that exists and doesn’t exist; there are very strong relationships within the network. We’re there for each other to teach, to make a book together, to do a project together or just to share a glass of good wine. Visual Language for Manifesta 11
« TYPOGRAPHY CAN INFLUENCE OUR PERCEPTION »
Typography has a very special place in your design. Typography is part of my visual language, a verbal expression that can be recognized visually. A typeface is something that is not at all silent. One point is to make it strong enough so it is recognizable and a second thing is how to use it in a public space, for example the texts you see in a city. I find it fascinating how the quality of presentation influences the content. I always say to a German philosopher I know, I can make a book about Kant and make you hate Kant. I am able to change your opinion about Kant if I act with typography. And he says, no, no it’s impossible. But typography can influence our perception; this is a part of our culture that is not well understood.
N.Y.C: A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE FINE AR T S H OW TO LISTEN TO MUSIC D E M O C R AC Y I N A M E R I C A TO DAY AR T IN THE SOCIAL ORDER TRENDS IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN CULTURE: THE BEATNIK THE POWER OF THE PRESS PROBLEMS OF EVERYDAY LIFE VALUE: CLASSICAL ETHICAL THEORIES THE DEVELOPMENT OF ART IN CHINA LIVING BETWEEN TWO EPOCHS WAYS OF LIFE MUSICAL SYSTEMS OF THE WORLD MUSHROOM IDENTIFICATION COUNTRIES BLACK AND WHITE DRAWING AND PASTEL ASIA & ENVIRONMENT BIOLOGY AND ITS SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS GREAT HERETICS OF PAST CENTURIES COSMOPOLITANISM: INTELLECTUALS IN THE PUBLIC SPACE FUNKSHOP BLUES AND THE ABSTRACT TRUTH PLANNING NEW LIFE STYLES RADIO TODAY AND TOMORROW OLD WEIRD AMERICA: MUSIC ADVERTISING: SCOURGE OR ELIXIR? PHOTOGRAPHING NEW YORK AND ITS PEOPLE IDENTITY POLITICAL SCIENCE THE WORKING CLASS AND ITS STRUGGLE FOR POWER BODY WORK YOUR LIFE IN LINE AND COLOR WOODBLOCKS THE MASS MEDIA OF COMMUNICATION SOCIAL CONTROL THE CONSUMER AND THE AUTOMOBILE PIANO HARMONY ART AND RITUAL DRUM MASTER CLASS INTELLIGENCE JANE JACOBS CHARL ES ABRAMS 1958
KIKI SMITH 1995
HANNS EISLER 1940
MAX LERNER 1945
HARRY A. OVERSTREET 1937
RICHARD KOENIGSBER G 1966
SIL AS BENT 1927
KAREN HORNEY 1937
PAUL W. KUR TZ 1960
HUANG WEN-SHAN 1951
ERICH GUTKIND 1936
SIDNEY HOOK 1945
HENRY COWELL 1932
JOHN CAGE, GUY NEARING 1959
JULIUS S. HELD 1946
PEGGY BACON 1938
Signage system for New School in New York New York_USA 2014
CAROL BRECKENRIDGE 2008
OTTO GLASER 1923
PAUL EDWARDS 1954
JACQUES DERRIDA 1996
BERNARD PURDIE 1987
Can you tell me about the signage system for the New School in New York? I was especially drawn to the typography and the typeface you used there. It was Irma by Peter Bil’ak. The New School in NY was interesting because it is a building of seven floors. I had to make seven typefaces. In the end, we had to design fourteen because I had two possible solutions. And we did all those experiments that were close to a joke. But it gave this place a very special character. It was hand-painted. Were you inspired by the culture of sign painters in the US? I often travelled to NY. Those hand-painted signs are fantastic. I liked this contradiction, the combination of high tech and handmade elements.
JAKI BYARD 1987
BARBARA MOGULESCU 1968
ROLF KALTENBORN 1940
GREIL MAR CUS 2007
H.A. LINET 1960
LISETTE MODEL 1951
RENATA SALECI 1994
HORACE B. DAVIS 1933
MARIA LEY 1940
WALTER STEIN 1979
ADJA YUNKERS 1947
HANS ZEISEL 1950
ALBER T SALOMON 1945
OF LIFE SYSTEMS O WORLD M IDENTIFICA COUNTRIES AND WHITE AND PASTE 1945
MUSICAL OF THE MUSHROOM CATION BLACK ES TE DRAWING TEL ASIA HENRY COWELL 1932
JOHN CAGE, GUY NEARING 1959
JULIUS S. HELD 1946
PEGGY BACON 1938
« IMPERFECTION MAKES YOU SEE WHEN SOMETHING IS PERFECT. »
You use hand-drawn or hand-painted lettering in your work quite often, like in the signage system for the Le Musée de la Croix Rouge in Geneva or the installation you made for the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Bordeaux, or ten kilometers of poetry in Mons titled The Phrase. Why? Imperfection makes you see when something is perfect. Before the computer everything aimed at perfection. Came the computer and made everything perfect and this was a disaster. It’s a visual disaster when something is presque parfait. Perfection is beautiful but it’s also boring, artificial. This is something absolutely central in my biography because I have experienced the before and the after of the computer. Now all the energy we have as graphic designers goes into how can we break the perfection. For the New School we made even the smallest detail on the computer first, and afterwards we painted the signage by hand. So this is, for me, something we can do today, to reintroduce the handmade elements that are not controlled by the computer.
La Phrase Mons Mons_Belgium 2013-2016
You work with so many different techniques and media, like silkscreen, signage painted directly onto walls, installations made with fabrics, solar energy paint and photographs. How do you know what’s right? Tell me something about your process. It comes from each specific project. Each time it’s different. Sometimes I know right away and sometimes I need two years to find the solution, and probably not a perfect one. Sometimes you immediately feel the way, you don’t have the solution but you see the direction. The media and technique are a part of the solution, but not the most important things. Finding the answer is more important than technology. For me it’s a slow and sometimes also a long process of combining the answer to the problem and the materials, technology and typography. Visual Language for Rodin Museum Paris_France since 2010
And when you do the signage, how do you measure how successful the outcome is? Do you know it? Do you check it? I do it but it’s not so straight-forward. I’m not a big fan of testing because it’s so complex. When designing an exhibition you cannot know if it’s going to be successful before it starts. Your reaction when you prototype it and when you see it in place won’t be the same. I’m not saying I don’t do it; I think it can give you an idea what it is going to look like. It’s important but I don’t trust it one hundred percent.
While I was preparing for this interview I came across terms like poetic approach and signage engineering. Can you explain them a little? When designing a building an architect has an idea what he’ll do. He has to think about how the space is going to be organized. Then an engineer comes and resolves the functional elements and formal aspects of the design. In designing signage we have to be architects and engineers at the same time. We ask ourselves, where is the best place to put the information? What are the optimal dimensions of the characters? Bear in mind, though, if you only think in terms of functionality, it’s going to be very boring. You have to bring it to another level. And this is something very complex in sign systems because when doing a signage system like we are doing right now for the Metro of Paris, which in terms of complexity is absolutely crazy, I am thinking a lot about the interaction between signs and people. And I am thinking about the quality of that interaction, which is not functional. It’s a kind of intelligence. Something that makes you think or feel? It’s where you show respect for the citizen. Design that doesn’t look down on people? Absolutely.
Hypothèses pour un interstice public Installation cour du Musée des Arts Décoratifs Bordeaux_France 2014
I see this respect in projects like the one you did for Quartiers Créatifs, in which you were socially engaged, and also in the signage systems you have done for parking lots. Yet these two kinds of projects seem so different. I’m not sure. Think of the fear we all have of loosing our sense of direction. Where and why do people feel disoriented? When is it negative and when positive? I think car parks are very social. It’s satisfying when I am able to add quality to places like car parks and bring them to another level. I don’t know why I like car parks.
Signage system for Vienna Airport extension Vienna, Austria 2004-2012
Usually people hate them. It has to do with Marc Augé’s Non-Places, Non-lieux—places you’re not in, but where you have to be, spaces of transience. How can I add quality to places like airports and parking lots, which are boring but an important part of our life? How can I introduce a poetic dimension there?
« PLACES YOU’RE NOT IN, BUT WHERE YOU HAVE TO BE, SPACES OF TRANSIENCE. » The presented projects were realized with the teams of the studios Integral Ruedi Baur Paris and Zurich, the laboratoire Irb, the institute Design2context or the institute of critical research Civic city with Vera Baur. La phrase of Mons in collaboration with Karelle Menine.
01 CHRISTOPH NIEMANN Illustration 2009 02 MICHEL MALLARD Creative Direction 2009 03 FUN FACTORY Product Design 2009 04 ANDREAS UEBELE Signage Design 2010 05 HARRI PECCINOTTI Photography 2010 06 KUSTAA SAKSI Illustration 2010 07 5.5 DESIGNERS Product Design 2011 08 NIKLAUS TROXLER Graphic Design 2011 09 JOACHIM SAUTER Media Design 2011 10 MICHAEL JOHNSON Graphic Design 2011 11 ELVIS POMPILIO Fashion Design 2011 12 STEFAN DIEZ Industrial Design 2012 13 CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER Sound Design 2012 14 MARIO LOMBARDO Editorial Design 2012 15 SAM HECHT Industrial Design 2012 16 SONJA STUMMERER & MARTIN HABLESREITER Food Design 2012 17 LERNERT & SANDER Art & Design 2013 18 MURAT GÜNAK Automotive Design 2013 19 NICOLAS BOURQUIN Editorial Design 2013 20 SISSEL TOLAAS Scent Design 2013 21 CHRISTOPHE PILLET Product Design 2013 22 MIRKO BORSCHE Editorial Design 2014 23 PAUL PRIESTMAN Transportation Design 2014 24 BRUCE DUCKWORTH Packaging Design 2014 25 ERIK SPIEKERMANN Graphic Design 2014 26 KLAUS-PETER SIEMSSEN Light Design 2014 27 EDUARDO AIRES Corporate Design 2015 28 PHILIPPE APELOIG Graphic Design 2015 29 ALEXANDRA MURRAY-LESLIE High Techne Fashion Design 2015 30 PLEIX Video & Installation Design 2016 31 LA FILLE D'O Fashion Design 2016
PUBLISHER Design Friends COORDINATION Anabel Witry LAYOUT Annick Kieffer INTERVIEW Kinga Kowalczyk PRINT Imprimerie Schlimé PRINT RUN 500 (Limited edition)
with Carrérotondes asbl MAPPING AUGUST. An Infographic Challenge 2010
WWW.DESIGNFRIENDS.LU WWW.IRB-PARIS.EU WWW.IRB-ZURICH.EU WWW.RUEDI-BAUR.EU WWW.CIVIC-CITY.ORG
ISBN 978-99959-947-3-0 PRICE 5 € DESIGN FRIENDS Association sans but lucratif (Luxembourg) BOARDMEMBERS Nadine Clemens (President) Mike Koedinger (Vice-president) Anabel Witry (Secretary) Guido Kröger (Treasurer) COUNSELORS Heike Fries, Silvano Vidale
This catalogue is published for Ruedi Baur's lecture at Mudam Luxembourg on May 11, 2016, organized by Design Friends within the framework of Design City 2016.
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Between complexity and poetry, Civic design and global citizenship.