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9th February 2017

Everything is Connected: Q&A with Bielke & Yang

Following the enormous success of 2016’s Norwegian design show Structure, our beloved Scandinavians are heading to back to Milan for another showcase of incredible creative talent during the most pivotal week of the design industry’s year. 

Everything is Connected is being brought to you by the same dream team that put together Structure and we are practically salivating over the brilliantly curated collection of products and designers. Something else that has our jaws dropping is the flawless brand and graphic identity of this year’s show. A visual departure from last year’s exhibition, the cool blue branding is the handiwork of Oslo-based creatives Bielke & Yang. We asked them to tell us a little more about being involved in the show and why they’re thrilled to be back for another year of Norway in Milan. 
Hi Bielke & Yang! We love the branding and you’ve created for Everything is Connected. How does it feel to be asked to create a visual identity for a show that represents an entire country in design?

Hi! Thank you, we're looking forward to showing more of the identity as we get closer to the exhibition this April, it's quite different to last year’s profile and maybe a little unexpected too, so we're excited to see how people react. It's a huge honour for us to work with the identity for this exhibition each year, the fact it reaches so many people and plays a part in forming or challenging people's perception of Norwegian design is a big responsibility, but the focus for us is always to showcase the work and the theme each year to a high standard. That for us is the biggest reward; being able to provide these talented Norwegian artists and designers with the best possible platform to present their work and in turn, build the reputation of Norwegian craft and design internationally.

How important are national identities to you as creatives? Does it have any definitive impact on your work?

Being an Oslo-based studio there is, of course, an assumption that we work in a Scandinavian/Nordic style, however, we don't necessarily see it that way. For one, we're a multinational studio comprised of four Norwegians and one Irish person, we regularly collaborate internationally with illustrators and printers, we have had interns from England and Italy, at the moment we're also looking to add some new people to join our team and have interviewed designers from Spain, Ireland, England, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, so the concept of a “national identity” is never something we actually talk about, it's more of a shared mindset towards design that has the biggest effect on how we work together. 

Everything is Connected
Brexit is a widely discussed topic among the UK’s creative community. Norway is not in the EU (although it is in the EEA), how do you think the EU and a separation from it affects creatives and creative industry?

The situation in Norway and Norway's relationship to the EU is very different to that of the UK's at the moment, so it's difficult to compare the two. In Norway, the government is now encouraging all industries to look abroad and build relationships with other countries as they feel it will make Norway stronger. We as a studio have worked with clients abroad and, as mentioned above, are not limited by international borders when we want to collaborate with people so, although we are technically separated from the EU it's not something we feel is a barrier to creative industries in Norway. We're actually seeing a real surge of interest in promoting the cultural/creative sector, leading to the emergence of exhibitions like Everything is Connected that are striving to define and establish Norway as a leader in art and design internationally which is exciting to see.

With so many designers and so many beautiful products making up Everything is Connected, what is your starting point when it comes to creating an identity that is both unique and cohesive?

Our starting point is always the theme and how that is the common thread tying each element of the exhibition and identity together. We then look to build a set of assets and rules around how the identity should be implemented on different surfaces, which creates a continuity and consistency that builds recognition, but we always like to leave room to play within the structure of the identity.

You worked on the identity of Structure last year, how did you find the experience? What does it mean to you as designers seeing your work in Italy, in front of a global audience, for the biggest week of the year in the design calendar?

We're fortunate to collaborate with such a fantastic group of people at every level of this project, not only for Structure, but also Norwegian Presence and this year for Everything is Connected. There is such a high level of ambition for this project, from the products and curation to the styling, exhibition design and photography, there is a common goal here because we are showcasing Norwegian design to the world and that really drives everyone to improve year on year which makes it such a positive and inspiring experience. Of course, we are proud that our work will be seen by a global audience, and it's a huge compliment that Norwegian Crafts, Klubben and Doga have trusted us to present this work for the past three years.

Everything is Connected
Who have been your biggest influences?

We have, of course, all studied design and are very engaged with what is going on in terms of global trends in graphic design, however, this isn't where we find most of our inspiration. What really influences and inspires us as a studio is many of those we collaborate with, to mention a few; stylists Kråkvik&D'Orazio, the team at Oslo Design Fair, Esben Holmboe Bang and his team at Maaemo, artist Edith Lundebrekke, architects Vardehaugen, illustrator Magnus Voll Mathiassen, developers Værsågod, photographers Tuukka Koski and Lasse Fløde the list goes on. Many operate in completely unrelated fields to graphic design, but it's the level of detail, ambition and dedication they show in their work that really influences our thinking and how we approach our craft as designers.

How does the identity you’ve created for Everything is Connected reflect the themes of the show?

This year's identity focuses on – as the name suggests – the idea of connection and how every object and participating designer is somehow an abstract consequence of their combined experience and place within the context Norway's wider cultural narrative. With this as a starting point, we wanted to use the silhouettes of the different objects featured at the exhibition to act as somewhat of a teaser to engage and intrigue people to discover how each designer created an object that is a balance of their own experience, but also contrasting materials and techniques. We are also using these shapes as a set of graphic assets that will express different statistics and other information curator Katrin Greiling has gathered during the research phase of the project.

What else are you working on in 2017? Where else can we see your work?

2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year for us—we're hoping to add some new faces to our team here in Oslo, which we're looking forward to. In terms of work, we've just released a new profile and website for Fjordfiesta, which we're really proud of, we can't wait to see the cookbook we worked on with Maaemo – Norway's only 3-Michelin star restaurant – which is being released later this month, our third identity for Oslo Design Fair launched this past January a fair is only getting better and better each year, we're also working with some new clients abroad and several exciting startups here at home in Norway—keep an eye on our Instagram for updates!
Everything is Connected
Everything is Connected will be showing at 6 Via Ventura, Ventura Lambrate, Milan on 4–9 April 2017.
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