“People both liked us, and had enough of us”. Interview with Superdesigners

This March our Instagram fell into the hands of five guys called Superdesigners. Each of them has created his own mini series: spatial deconstruction, supermarket lyricism, 360-degree camera, wild nature, self-irony and sarcasm. We talked to Superdesigners about their experience with our font catalogue, and the feedback they received

June 6, 2019

Ilya Ruderman: Hello! Please, tell us a bit about superdesigners.co. We were shown a huge office with a large number of staff.

Ilya: There’s not that many staff, in fact. We are just five.

Valeriy: Including us.

Ilya: Superdesigners is a computer graphics studio. We have been here for a year and a half, so no one really heard of us.

Valeriy: We didn’t start from scratch. Ilya had already had some experience in animation, and me, I was more about graphic design. At some moment, we got together, and I began to dig into animation —so, we decided to join our forces by setting up a studio, superdesigners.co.

Ilya: Initially, this was a name of our chat in a messenger app. Then one we were drinking beer, and suddenly realized that the name was actually not that bad. We googled it, found nothing similar, and purchased a domain.

Valeriy: Yeah, I guess it all started with buying a domain. — Superdesigners’ non-commercial project dedicated to a topic of digital hygiene

IR: Your portfolio features 3D, animation and flat design. What do you actually prefer?

Valeriy: My favourite is designing 3D, with the use of 3D tool set, — but making the outcome flat. I would like to experiment in combining the flat and photorealistic 3D.

Ilya: Yes, the intersection of the two is the area of experiments we’d like to work on. As a matter of fact, superdesigners.co are all about intermediate experiments like that. Designer should be able to do everything, because he is a super-dude. And we are the super-dudes, exactly.

Valeriy: Only it hasn’t to be serious, you know, that we are those super-dudes, you see? We go with a certain irony. We are breaking the rules by combining and balancing the things that were never combined and balanced before, because designers hadn’t dared to take that risk.

IR: Could you perhaps name some studios that inspire you? I mean those who are doing it quite right, to your mind?

Valeriy: That would be these German guys, Zeitguised aka Foam. And the British ones, Field.

Zeitguised’s projects

Foam’s projects

Field’s projects

Ilya: Yeah, Foam guys are doing great in terms of experiments. They are setting trends and producing a reference product, which is then picked up by everyone else for their little folders and consequently replicated by all of them.

Valeriy: I believe that they are leaders in terms of ideology and approach. They are in the process of searching for new form, and new expressive tools by means of 3D-graphics. One of their recent projects was a response to BASF’s request for visual studies, and Foam came up with a corporate identity for this company, totally based on video screenshots. The findings of the study, as shown in this video, are abstract: there is no objects, everything is very weird, it is even hard to describe. Just a thing that could be easily created in 3D.

Ilya: It looks like something very of high-quality, but now and then you notice some details which can be easily taken for a mistake. The thing is that this seeming mistake is deliberate. And a hell of a combination results in a truly cool thing. A bold experiment, and it works. And it is what will work for some time in the near future.

Valeriy: The trick has some kind of unknown force of attraction. I can’t even define it with precision, why it is so appealing. Maybe, it is exactly its vagueness.

Valeriy: There’s some kind of unknown force of attraction. I can hardly explain what exactly attracts us to it. May be, some kind of obscurity. But we cannot estimate how commercially successful this story is. We see some cool content, but we don’t know if there is any profit in it, if there is any monetization.

Ilya: One may also name a couple of guys, more commercial than we are. We keep an eye on them and collect bit by bit what works for them, so we would like it to work for us as well. ManvsMachine is quite well-known studios, they’ve made lots of high-quality and expensive products. We like London office of Builders Club very much. Our designer is leaving us to work for them…

ManvsMachine’s projects

Builders Club’s projects

Valeriy: It’s a cool thing, that such a co-worker being taken to such a high level has been brought up by us.

Ilya: Yes, it’s huge to mention that after our studios experience one can go working to London. Builders Club is engaged in film-making in addition to graphics, they’ve got a directors’ department. This interests us as well, we would like to direct such small ‘art movies’ so that it would be not just commercials, but already a theater sort of thing — a louder name …

Valeriy: More to it, no one has cancelled our movie making ambitions, as well as the interest to storytelling. We’d like to take a segment that would allow us to realize the entire product completely — from concept and story to production line.

IR: Let’s get down to the type.today Instagram experience. Tell us about the month.

Ilya: We liked it a lot. It was fun, nice and easy-going. Although it was a challenge. But we’ve got not one but five persons, making pictures, so it was easier for us than for the guys working alone. We thought how we could manage the whole thing and decided to divide it into parts. Each made a 6-8 pictures story or a video.

Valeriy: We’ve discussed in advance all the concepts, moves and topics, how we would imply them and play with, so there were no disputes. Everyone chose for themselves, the aesthetics, one is interested in.

IR: Since we are talking about the five of you, it’s worth going through each of the participants’ stories.

Valeriy: My story is flat, with graphics rotated upon photography footage. It was interesting for me to take photo material with typography, I decided about the method and quickly selected the photos. And the photos were just found in my phone, I did not take them specifically for the project.

IR: It’s a great story of space deconstruction. I’ve showed all of them to my eight-year-old son as a charade: how to guess what is depicted in the photo in this three-dimensional thing. They utterly fascinated him. How have you ever come to this idea?

Valeriy: I was the last to produce my part, for I had to work on another project. I didn’t have much time, but there was a lot to do, I wanted to make not just some pictures, but something interesting, using 3D and animation techniques. The solution came to me quite accidentally. The trigger was the Shawarma photo. I used only my pictures, not from the Internet, so that everything was as honest as possible. I was uncertain about my to some extent. For example, the two wagons with NBK written — everything is too obvious. But plastically, with the Druk Condensed, it turned out to be very cool. For some reason I call him ‘drUk’ instead of ‘drAk’…

IR: We also called it ‘drUk’, for a year, until the author made a special explanatory video on Instagram. After that this world will no longer be the same.

Daria Yarzhambek: Anyway, in almost every interview we have a couple of regular headings and the ‘DrUk-DrAk’ is one of them.

Ilya: And I liked this story because there were graffiti of Valera’s friends.

Valeriy: Yes, I had been doing graffiti for about eight years. Tags on the freight train and on the trailers are the work of my colleagues, and in fact they are co-authors of these drawings. I even tagged them on Instagram.

Ilya: I saw them following. It’s great that they could see their tags in a new way.

DY: How have you chosen the fonts for each photo? Why exactly those?

Valeriy: There was no concept. In some cases the choice can be explained by technical features, in some — composition ones, and sometimes, to emphasize something in the font itself. For example, on a freight train, there was a stencil font — so, I used Cera Stencil.

The Cafe sign was one, and I wanted to take the most accidental font — CSTM Xprmntl 01 went well there. As for navigation, there was a cool giant arrow plus numbers, but I wanted to show these glyphs, I’ve never showed them anywhere.

Ilya: My story is monochrome and minimalistic. I wanted to dream a bit about Internet in our life, how it collaborates with us and how we see it. On Internet, both fonts and media can be anything. Internet is incomprehensible, so I wanted to put it through my system to make this strange graphic story. The answer why I’ve used one or another font, is simply like that: I opened the folder, I liked the font, I took it, and it’s perfect on a can, or on a grave, or on the futuristic shades.

IR: Which picture do you like most of your story?

Ilya: I like the farewell one. It is about the digital oddity that awaits us. We do not know what it will look like. And these are our digital clones, such fashionable guys.

IR: Can you explain the picture with the water cup and Thank you? I haven’t quite got it. There was an explanatory text, but it confused me even more.

Ilya: This is about gratitude. The Internet constantly gives something, you drink and you can’t have enough, and this is all overwhelming. This is too much. Too much of the gratitude. And you say: «Thank you, that’s enough! Enough!»

IR: And this tripod, with CSTM Emoji?

Ilya: This is a Facebook street ad. But look, this street banner is chained like a dog.

And these emotions are mostly sad. I picked up faces from the emoji set. They are all so cool, sometimes angry, sometimes sad. This is the range of emotions when you go to Facebook and watch the endless holy wars there. But you can’t delete Facebook, you are chained.

DY: Tell me more about the trash and Just scroll down.

llya: It’s a gag: no matter what the post is, it is trash. You keeps scrolling — it only gets trashier. Then, in a swipe, you realize that your content is trash as well. This is both the case with us and the viewer. Oh, the self-irony…

Valeriy: Just sarcasm. Today, your content is cool and trendy, tomorrow it is scrolled over, that’s all. Angelina, join us.

IR: Angelina, good afternoon! Will you please tell us about the Shop story. How has it come to your mind?

Angelina: The idea came to me when I saw your logo — the euro slot, everything is hanging on it in some supermarkets. When we see the font shown in a 3D object, it is most likely a mockup depiction of goods. It looks beautiful and even in the picture, but it’s ugly and uneven in a real store. I’ve spent some time in Auchan and made some photos of funny stuff and things not in their proper places. The whole story was based on these photos. Almost every picture is based on a real photo. When you’re just loitering in the store, you don’t pay attention to such things, but when you hunt for them, you begin to notice that it’s strange that a shelf with irons turns out to be a kind of jumble of wires or objects moved from their proper place create fun meanings of things.

Ilya: There is a picture with a lemon lying with gas bottles. It’s about when you take something in a supermarket, and then you go and think: “I don’t really need it, do I?” and you put this object on the shelf in a completely different place.

Angelina: The picture of fruit with stickers is about the fact that there is too much unnecessary packing — like when an orange or a banana is, quite manically, wrapped in a plastic bag. So, I used these stickers as product logos: it was possible to extract a lot of alternative glyphs From CSTM Xprmntl 01 and make some great logos for bananas and bakery. The logo of Today Groceries store is, too, a glyph from CSTM Xprmntl 01.

IR: We’ve received so many requests about where and when it would be possible to purchase a stencil with Cera. The image was the released in the very first days, as the second one, but I had been responding the requests the whole month long. You’ve managed it to make so realistic!

Angelina: I had such a ruler in my childhood. And all the time I was torched by the question: why is an airplane, a heart, and all that kind of thing there? I thought that I would grow up and find out what it is for. The ruler, when you grow up, makes sense, but what is plane or heart for still doesn’t. But I still have the thing, and I drew it right from life, only replaced the font.

DY: What kind of fonts did you like the most?

Angelina: CSTM Xprmntl 02, basically because there are three fonts in one, and CSTM Xprmntl 01, where there is a huge amount of glyphs that gives room for imagination. You can use them in an inappropriate way and achieve some interesting results.

Ilya: I’ve reread your interview with Andrei Shugalsky and simply laughed when he says that one font fits another not for 3D purposes. I hardly think so. In fact, everything in your catalogue is a great fit. I’ve used all of fonts. My favorite one is CSTM Xprmntl 02. I’ve used Amalta several times — it’s a great font too, I love it. The others were also up to the mark. Oh, here Ivan comes.

Ivan: Hi, I’m Ivan. My story is with type tunnels and deconstructed, broken letters.

IR: What is your story about?

Ivan: Initially, type for me is a story-bound thing. There was this sort of type, then it transformed to some other form, and now we use a bunch of simplified, sans serif type, for everyday routine in wayfinding and digital environment. But the rest of type still remains, and we can use it as well. Roughly speaking, we are now unbound, and in terms of type, we are out of the historical course of time. We use everything at once. It’s like the Tower of Babel, being a kind of sunk into the ground: so, you can go into it from any floor. And I wanted this titanic spirit to be traced in my story. More to it, I have always associated type with architecture. Therefore, I wanted to build titanic constructions with type, showing the titanism in type itself.

llya: Another interesting technical move is that Ivan used a 360° 3D camera, it gives an unusual bend while rendering — such a break in perspective.

IR: It’s a mega fisheye. What fonts did you like most of all? Honestly, in this story we are not always able to recognize them.

Ivan: I like Giorgio family most of all, all of them. I like Amalta very much. These are my two favorites. And I’ve used CSTM Xprmntl 02 because it is so futuristic and just suitable for titanic tunnels and font cities, in terms of style and sensations.

Ilya: We used to work with Ivan Kovalevsky. His story is about three-dimensional letters in natural conditions. But he doesn’t work for us anymore — he went freelance. But I can tell his story for him: in every picture there is a lost letter found somewhere in the nature, in something organic.

IR: A great story. Only It’s a pity though that it’s all about one and the same font. We can’t imagine any other fonts in such conditions.

Ilya: That’s true. Ivan fell in love with Brioni and made the whole story about Brioni, which is also pretty cool. Long Live Brioni!

IR: How often does your studio deal with fonts and typography?

Ilya: We would like to have more experience with it, because we like letters.

May be, you and I have a different look at the letters thing. Sometimes we do not have to explain anything, having just some inner desire to use one or another font, some of our taste preferences. In our work we try to use fonts that somehow underline the necessary forms. Sometimes we even order custom lettering from our colleagues. The interaction of letters and 3D is often important. And we want more fonts in our works, and more quality fonts. And the choice is so small, so far.

Sometimes it is simply imposed by the agency or client restrictions. We are simply told: ‘We’ve got a license for this font. Excuse us’.

IR: Do you follow the news of the type market?

Ilya: Novelties somehow catch the eye. Like, for example, these animated thickness of letters with a slider — now you do not have five outlines, but infinitely more. What is it properly called?

IR: Variable fonts. Have you worked with them?

Ilya: Unfortunately, no, but I’d like to. While it is not very clear where this might work out. May be in some kind of identity for the event, this will somehow shows the diversity of what will happen. I hope we are lucky to take part in something like that.

DY: You once wrote to me in our working correspondence: ‘It is interesting for us to make a good font no different to Times New Roman’. Tell me more about it, please.

Ilya: You can divide people into those who know how to deal with type (or they think they know) and those who simply make the design they need — for example, when the cafe owner’s son types an ad. It seems to me that it would be interesting to look at high-quality fonts in circumstances when they are used by non-designers, which are the majority. Just take your cool font instead of the usual Times or Arial, in which everything is typed, and see if it works better. Probably – yes, it does. To type something in a good font, and it does not matter if there are good proportions and composition. My opinion is that wherever a good font is placed, it remains a good font.

Valeriy: So, using the right font can improve your design.

IR: According to my experience, clients often refer to the font as a lifebuoy: ‘That’s it, we don’t cope with the graphics, our concept is crap. The only thing that will save us is a new cool font’. Therefore, cases when a good font is used in a bad design are quite common. And often, nothing good happens.

Valeriy: Indeed, one should separate the design process in general and the font as a design tool, because they can’t replace each other. By changing the font, you will get something new, but not necessarily something better.

Ilya: I guess this is an open question in general. I grew up in the world of trash ads, and I can imagine this easily. And there are people who have devoted their whole lives to making beautiful compositions, who try to adjust everything — this would feel like a knife to their heart. That makes all the difference. I mean, I’m such a punk…

Valeriy: Like you don’t know anything about the rules. That’s all.

Ilya: No, I know the rules perfectly, but I don’t like to always follow them. What we do is disobeying the rules.

Valeriy: Yes. But Ilya and I have different approaches to design. And we have disputes, as we should. Ilya is a harder opponent to all rules, and I have a wider background. But that’s why we are interested in each other a lot — some people are more punk than others. The majority of the employees of our studios are 3D-modellers. Before that, I was mostly involved in graphic design. While working for the Zoloto Group, I have been a wayfining designer for a year and a half, working out various media data, drawing pictograms. But now I’ve stopped doing all that and switched to 3D and animation.

Ilya: 3D is cooler. We also have a new team member, Jaroslav, he had one picture that we hung out for the time being: such an abstract piece with Cera.

Valeriy: Stylistically and from the graphics point of view it looks more like the tiny worlds Ivan did. But nothing can be said about it as far as the concept is concerned.

Ilya: This is a classic abstract piece with beautiful materials. The type started to live on in some kind of a 3D world. I think one can see it in all our works and the way we work with 3D.

Valeriy: To summarize all the works we’ve done. We did not influence each other. We did not say to each other where one should use what type of font, that type of leading or text blocks. Everybody worked the way they can.

IR: Somewhere in the middle of the month I found myself feeling that the time seemed to slow down. Whether the number of works, or the images were so powerful that I had the feeling that I was fed up with them. And by the end of the month we’ve received a bunch of messages. Half of them said: ‘Well, it’s more than enough! Let’s wrap up with the 3D thing! Isn’t it enough?‘ And the second half was of exactly opposite meaning: ‘No 3D anymore? It was so much fun!’

Ilya: We didn’t have the task to be liked by everyone. It was fun for us.

Valeriy: Yes. And we wanted to check out the tools we use, there was no goal to amaze anyone.

Ilya: What has everyone said about us? Oh, they got tired to watch! Pity them, they should take things easier. In general, it’s cool that somebody liked it as well as somebody got bored. Superb! This is the spectrum of emotions one should experience.

Mentioned fonts