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Trailblazers: Brutalist aethestics at The Rodina

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The Rodina was founded in 2011 by Tereza and Vit Ruller, two Czech-born, Amsterdam-based graphic designers, interested in connections between culture, technology and aesthetic. The Rodina designs events, objects and tools as well as videos, interactives, installations and visual identities for clients which have included MTV and Tunica Magazine. Their cross-media approach has produced an enticing, super-modern portfolio of work which is ever so slightly mad. We love it, and we think you will too...

Hello Tereza, can you tell us a bit about what makes The Rodina different to everyone else?

I am not sure if we are different. Rather than trying to be different, we try to find what we have in common with our environment, clients, institutions, artists etc. Our work aims to prove that is possible to create suitable relations between any aesthetic, milieus or community.

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You seem to have a lot going on in between events, talks, workshops, design and video. How big is your team? 

We are a couple so it’s purely a family business. Our studio is also our home, so that means we live within a never ending discussion about our work and a constant flux of ideas.

Occasionally we cooperate with other people, recently for example, Joeri Woudstra aka Torus, who is a great musician and talented trend-creating graphic designer. We also collaborated with the super energetic concept designer, Julia C. Aguiar, who is part of our Educational Unit.

What are you working on as 2017 kicks off?

January was an extremely busy month as we worked intensively on the Sonic Acts Festival 2017 which explores what is it to be human through art, sound installation, symposium and concerts. We are also in the process of finishing a symposium called ‘Agents in Anthropocene’ organised for the Piet Zwart Instituut. AND we’ve just finished the concept and syllabus for two big workshops for graphic design students at CalArts and Otis, both in California.

It’s great to do these things because we love the content. They require us to spend a few extra hours researching, but this is a great insight for is into contemporary philosophy, fine arts and politics. All in all these are intellectually demanding events.

Meanwhile, as a ‘relaxation’ of sorts we are playing around with a commission for a Graphic Design Festival in Paris, finishing up an identity for the Architecture Film Festival in Budapest, and developing an identity for other upcoming projects that are still a secret. So much fun, right?

Can you tell us more about your work with the MTV International team which won a D&AD Award last year?

Actually, it was quite a smooth job and we had a great time filming it. We realised that a TV channel showing music videos was a dying medium because everybody watches their favourite songs and videos online these days, so people are just becoming algorithms through which they’re served a selection of music based on their previous preferences.

As a result, we approached the visual identity as though television with music was an ancient medium and created a cave with a campfire, inhabited by a caveman (which was me!)

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Sounds great! And tell us, what goes on in your research lab?

The research part is mostly chunks of self-initiated projects, experiments and thoughts. It’s a kind buffer, later we adapt these into commercial projects.

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You guys work in a very offbeat, quite brutalist style. How would you describe your design philosophy?

We are always trying to make our work accessible to a variety of different kinds of viewers. And to make it effective in an informationally overwhelmed world. A few of our core principles are: make it a challenge, keep it in dialogue, contextualise yourself, and work hard!

What does your office look like? What's in there to inspire you?

We are constantly changing the setup of our working space. It’s good to feel free and not too familiar with everything - we don’t want to be ‘settled’ because that might kill the active atmosphere. Right now you’ll find our small-render farm and a lot of books and computers. Posters and screensavers full of things we collected from the blogosphere are a great inspiration too. Our studio is a place where you should never be bored!

What did you master last year?

We invested a lot of time in mastering digital and interactive design and learned to start coding and designing websites in a single, fluent, unified process.

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What's going on in Amsterdam's design scene right now?

Amsterdam is great. It’s a relatively small city with a dense concentration of design and art institutions. In comparison to other cities there is an incredible space for experimentation that has a lot of potential to be heard.

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