Designing Beyond Design

TYPO Berlin 2016 brings the graphic design sector together under the motto “Beyond Design”. It’s a challenge. As a designer, you have to ask yourself what goes beyond the concept of modern design. We understand communications design as an all-embracing discipline, along the lines of Paul Watzlawick’s “one cannot not communicate”. There’s nothing we should or could keep our hands off of. So what can be “beyond design”? How do we design a conference that is true to that motto?

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Von Magnus and Steff Hengge, studio adhoc

Beyond design means unlimited cooperation

The desire to design things is an attitude that can potentially impact the entire world. That’s our approach at studio adhoc. However, many things that could be better designed seem inaccessible, beyond the direct influence of designers. How can we implement our will and our claim to design? How do we work within society’s “realities”? And how is design recognizable in our undisputedly global world? There’s only one answer to that question for us – cooperation!


Bacteria as a model

It is not until we realise that unlimited theoretical cooperation with others is an opportunity that we will be able to go beyond the classic idea of design. So what might be an energetic and extremely successful model for boundless influence through total capacity for cooperation? Bacteria!

These days we know that 90% of all cells that we regard as “us” are not human. They form the microbiota, the community of foreign microorganisms in each person, determines our behaviour, our taste and the way we think. They even regulate our genes. As the de facto designers of our form and function, bacteria influence everything.
In addition, bacteria can evolve at lightning speed and adapt to even the most hostile conditions, while forming seemingly endless variations of different symbiotic communities.

So let’s let go of bacteria – we’re powerless against them anyway. Let’s look at how they make the world their own and change it. Let’s use their networking capabilities as motivation to get a handle on and progress in a world that is networked in every direction.

Biomorphic Sketching

Bacteria have the principle of trial and error to thank for their ability to adapt. And that can also be a successful approach for designers when they need to break out of fixed patterns of thinking. Steff Hengge practices this as an illustrator under the pseudonym Stefanidad. With a thick felt pen in her left hand, she draws her way toward solutions. The communications design of TYPO Berlin 2016 »Beyond Design« picked up Stefanidad’s biomorphic style and followed her exploratory work method.


Beyond Font – This Type is Alive

In an early phase of the design concept, Steff Hengge also sketched in all the textual components of the illustrations. In an unprecedented cooperative venture with Ulrike Rausch of, the hand lettering became a living handwriting font with countless ligatures, context variations and illuminated letters, which is now being used as the headline and web font for TYPO Berlin.

By the way: We are planning to publish the typographic microbe font in the spring of 2016.