Astrid Stavro & Addicted to Patterns

After a couple of weeks of glorious sunshine, the night of our talk forecast thunder! Fortunately, the only storms were those created by our superb speakers.

We started by hearing about the practice and passions from our warm-up act Addicted to Patterns. Justyna and Mani — the perfect duo of dreamer and realist — talked humbly about collaborating with craftspeople, artists, fashion and costume designers. Casually dropping into conversations the stories of patterns they have created in their Bristol studio for Paris catwalk shows. Telling us how they hold the process and the craft close, always packing the sketchbook and camera first for any trip — even if just to the supermarket around the corner. Never following the trends but trying their utmost to create them, being the leaders, not the followers.

We were then inspired, excited and delighted by Astrid Stavro, co-founder of Atlas, a brand and design consultancy working from offices in New York and Mallorca and now London. It was a talk filled with so many unfamiliar references to books, typefaces and texts that Astrid had collected from her travels and experiences around the world it was no wonder we had so many requests for the book list to accompany the talk. 

Here are my top five with a full list available at the end of the article: 

Supplement to the Italian Dictionary by Bruno Munari 

To accompany what our WEDF Photographer Ben McClusky said was one of the most wonderfully expressive speakers he’s had the privilege of photographing — the Supplement to the Italian Dictionary is all the hand gestures that need no words (when used by experts). We now know just how to leave a meeting and say what we wanted to say without needing to speak! 

Point it: Traveller’s Language Kit by Dieter Graf 

A picture dictionary developed by an architect that travelled extensively in India. It gives you the most wonderful array of images that can handle any situation. In the case of Astrid’s cold it provided the perfect opportunity to point to whiskey — no sooner pointed at than administered! 

The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce 

A satirical dictionary first published in 1906 also known as The Cynic’s Word Book’ was the text one of Astrid’s master’s projects at the RCA under the tutelage of none other than Alan Kitching. Full of witticisms such as; Architect, n. — one who plans a draft of your house, and plans a draft of your money. Astrid showed some of the spreads which must have taken hours to typeset. Answers on a letterpressed postcard with suggestions as to how Astrid’s one personal copy could be reproduced and available to buy! Just beautiful. 

SuperVeloz by Joan Trochut 

This is a fascinating modular typeface system design by a Catalan Printer Joan Trochut in 1940. After being nominated to join AGi in 2010 Astrid was to then retrospectively work for that nomination by fulfilling the gargantuan task of the branding for the 2011 AGI Open in Barcelona. SuperVeloz, at first glance, gives the impression of a modular system designed in the 1940’s because that is what it is. Does it hang together? Not sure. Is it too whimsical? Could be. But in the hands of Astrid and her team, the branding for the AGI Open both held together beautifully, was glorious in its whimsy yet contemporary in its application. 

Digital is the future’ is bullshit in the same way that the end of print’ was bullshit. Digital is just a new sibling in the house.

— Astrid Stavro

Photos by Ben McCluskey 

32 Amendments by Atlas

A new self-initiated project, working with the writer, Nick Asbury. I don’t believe yet available for public consumption (a lucky few received a copy for their excellent questions at the Q&A) but one that we are sure to see featured in the design press in the not too distant future. 32 Amendments are a series of positive changes they would like to see in the world. Each change expressed as a single word or phrase, elegantly altered using an interpretation of the proofreading marks we know and love. Atlas has transposed sentiments and meaning of these statements as polite rally cries – The words we use to define the world around us. By changing the words, maybe we can change the world.’ Fed up becomes Fired up’ with the addition of the ir’, apathy is swapped to empathy, break becomes make, exclude include and my favourite, with the repositioning of the s’, sword’ becomes words. Mightier.

An incredible evening of talent. One that will resonate for a long time in the audience’s minds. We will be forever trying to get gargantuan letterforms into our page layouts, printing out entire magazines to walk all over and certainly asking our future publications what do you want to be’.

One of the best questions from the audience Q&A provoked one of the best answers. “‘Digital is the future’ is bullshit in the same way that the end of print’ was bullshit. Digital is just a new sibling in the house.’”

Long, long live print.

And thanks once again to our print hungry speakers Astrid, Justyna and Mani.

Photo credit: Ben McCluskey

Book & reference list

Download file