Assumed long-distance relationships were a recipe for heartache and angst? Clearly you haven’t met Australian graphic designers Craig & Karl; collaborating across the world with brands like Apple and Chanel – and all remotely!
February 7th, 2017
You know your stars are on the rise when your surnames become passé. ‘Craig and Karl’ used to be illustrators Craig Redman and Karl Maier, two Queensland College of Art students who co-founded an art collective with a bunch of uni mates and launched a design partnership of their own in 2011. When Craig’s quirky visual blog, Darcel Disappoints, caught the eye of Parisian design store Colette, a string of collaborations ensued that in turn attracted interest from fashion labels as diverse as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Converse.
Within six years the boys had wooed a string of global clients including Nike, Apple, Google, Air France, Herman Miller – even the Pet Shop Boys – with their wildly playful, exuberantly patterned, Pop-Art-esque iconography.
Editorial illustrations, product and packaging design, animations, posters, typefaces, album art, sculpture, car park murals, public art installations, iphone wallpapers, neon signage, set design – you name it, Craig and Karl have surely designed it. Magazine covers (often featuring celebrity portraits from Kanye West to Einstein) are a speciality. The dynamic duo have made their mark on Vanity Fair, Vogue, Variety, The New York Times, Wired, Billboard, The Guardian, Monument, The Washington Post and National Geographic. New York magazine recently turned to them for its post-election Obama cover.
All this and the partners haven’t shared a time zone since their early days, when Craig scored a green card and moved to New York. The pair adapted so comfortably to collaborating via Skype, messaging and Dropbox that Karl left Sydney for London soon after.
Locally their collaborations are as diverse as toilet paper packaging for Who Gives a Crap to children’s flooring with adult appeal for illustration agency Jacky Winter. Regardless of client or brief, however, their development process remains the same. “We usually get an overview of the project, then we’ll jump on a Skype call with each other to discuss the direction,” Craig explains. “We rely on the Internet for all our projects. We message each other all day and save our work into Dropbox so each other can alter or reaffirm the direction we’re headed in. Once we’ve got the piece to a point we’re happy with we’ll share it … take … feedback into consideration, and go back and forth from there. It’s very much a collaborative process all round.”
Craig jokes about the pair operating a “24-hour sweatshop” but the friends clearly relish the freedom to design with some autonomy and maintain their freshness by working across multiple projects simultaneously. A shared design philosophy and signature style are essential. “We always try to create work that is stripped down to its essence,” Craig says. “Something that can hopefully tell a story in as simple a way as possible.”
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