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Trailblazers: Finding courage with Studio Mut

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Based in South Tyrol, a very curious area of Northern Italy located right next to the country’s border with Austria, where the majority of residents speak German despite their Italian nationality, Studio Mut is used to looking at the world a little differently. The studio’s playful yet powerful solutions for brands, websites and publications has garnered international attention, we asked founding partner Thomas Kronbichler to tell us more about working across two languages.

Hi Thomas, welcome to Creativepool! Can you tell us a little about the creative atmosphere over there in South Tyrol?

Hi there! It’s an interesting place. Although we’re in Italy, our town (Bolzano) is actually more like a traditional Swiss town. The region is very wealthy and there a lot of small to middle-sized companies exporting goods and doing great things, our job is amazing because we often get to work with them and help them grow their brands. There’s also a fantastic museum here and the university has an internationally renowned art and design faculty.

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So it’s a German speaking area of Italy! How does that affect the work you produce?

Well our posters and editorial content are nearly always in both German and Italian which is a challenge. Sometimes English is included as well so that's a hell of a lot of text. But in our typography work we strongly believe that the most important things are written words and over time we’ve developed tricks to get around the limitations of having to work in two languages. Visually there’s no compromise.

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Have you and Martin (Studio Mut’s other founder) always been Bolzano-based?

Martin and I actually met whilst freelancing in Berlin but we’re both from Bolzano originally. Over time, more and more projects were keeping me here and eventually Martin had to come back and help me fulfil them all. Studio Mut was slowly formed! It means I’ve moved from the first floor in my building to the third floor, but via Berlin and London!

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In coming together to form Studio Mut did you guys bring with you a design agenda?

No not at all, we both come from different schools of design and bridge the border inbetween. We like to be direct and clear, but aside from that it’s far more important to us to ask how something feels rather than to find a style. The first thing we ask ourselves on all design tasks is always “how does this feel”?

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With this in mind, what’s your process when a new brief comes in?

We tend to ask a lot of questions and think up between 15 and 20 ideas in the heat of the moment, then we’ll come back to the studio and work through things practically. I read a really good article recently which said ideas are easy come up with, it’s the form that’s difficult to find. Once we’re back in the studio we work on finding the right form to fulfil the client’s aim. It means some clients come to us wanting a website and get a book, but in the end we’re sure it’s exact right way for them to communicate their message.

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Can you give us an example of a brief where this happened?

Well The Wedding Enterprise came to us wanting a very classic brand design - elegant, bold and gold - that sort of thing. We had an intern at the time who loved unicorns though, and we started working on the idea that a great marriage is like finding a unicorn. With our intern’s infectious enthusiasm, our client also fell in love with the idea and the result was a website, business cards and more all with a unicorn design on it!

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What are the studio’s plans for 2017?

We’re a very young studio so we’re still finding ourselves in many ways, but it would be great to think more about our style and the size of the studio next year. We have a lot of super interesting work coming to us both in Italy and in the USA, but it’s too much for all of us. We need to find a way to grow or say no to things.

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Where did the name ‘Studio Mut’ come from?

Let me tell you, it took a long time to find our name! When we first started out we called our collaboration of photographers, videographers etc ‘The Institute of Friends’. But that sounded kind of scientific. Then we thought about the acronym ‘Tum’ (Thomas und (and) Martin) but that didn’t seem to quite fit. Then one day I went to the toilet and the word ‘Mut’ popped into my head, which means ‘courage’ in German. And that was it, we ordered our business cards that same day!

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Aha! So last question Thomas - it’s a tough one. What do you want for Christmas this year?

My girlfriend back! She’s been in the Caribbean for a month already but I get her back for Christmas!

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