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Did you have any reservations about publishing the monograph so early in your careers? What did you learn during the process of putting it together? We didn’t have many reservations about making the book. Who wouldn’t like to make a whole book about your own work? And when the publisher basically gave us no restrictions, it was too good of an offer to refuse. Since none of us had actually started our professional career as designers when the book came out, it felt kind of strange. Releasing a monograph is usually something you do at the end, and not the beginning of a career. One problem of releasing a book so early on, might be that people very soon will try to label you as one type of designer, and that clients come to you because they want you to do one sort of design. If you’re not aware of this you might easily end up doing the same things for the rest of your life. We talked a lot about this while designing it – Trying to push the work in as many diverse directions as we possibly could, and at the same time push it in a direction that we would like to explore.Making the book was also probably the best job we could ever get. The projects we had done earlier on were not at all of this size. Of course we learned a bit about production and got some experience in doing a larger typographical job. More importantly, we learned about editing ourselves, writing about what we do and putting our work into context. We actually designed the book twice. The first time the book didn’t include that much text, but that didn’t feel right. The book didn’t say anything about the context of the work or reflect the environment of Metronomicon Audio – It just felt like a range of random images that didn’t have anything important to say. When the publisher told us they would like to put the release on hold for six months we decided to start all over again. That was a valuable experience.
What have you been up to since the release of Yokoland? It’s now been about 6 months since the release of the book. At the time it was released we had just finished college, we didn’t have a studio and most of the projects we had been doing were projects we had started ourselves. Since then we’ve been fixing our new studio, had a couple of exhibitions, designed a few of record sleeves for Metronomicon Audio, tried to get enough work to pay our rent and for the first time in years had a one month vacation. So far a lot of our time has been spent on work of a more boring character. Like administration, answering phone calls and e-mails, going to meetings and getting a grip of the economical part of the job. None of us knew that it was so much boring work connected with this job. A former teacher of Aslak told us that he had read an interview with the designer Morag Myerscough where she said that she answered phone calls all day, and when her clients went home she started designing. It has felt a bit like that sometimes. And it’s probably not going to be any less phone calls in the future.
What effect has the attention had on your progress? So far it doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten that much attention. We’ve done a few interviews and some students have been e-mailing us about internships, but that’s basically it. But of course it feels a bit scary to experiment in new and unknown areas when we’re not the only one to see the final result anymore.
How has your involvement with Metronomicon Audio and music in general affected your art and design efforts?Our interest in art and design started with an interest in music. As teenagers we couldn’t really relate to the art we were shown in art classes at school – It was either old art that had little or nothing to do with us, or it was contemporary art that didn’t speak to us at all. We were interested in other things like music, records, books, music videos, film and graffiti. And it was the interest in these things that brought us into art and design.We started working with Metronomicon Audio about five years ago now, and the label has definitely played an important role in our development as designers. From running the label and working with the musicians we’ve learned how to organize our studio, deal with clients, and to collaborate – not only with each other, but also with clients. But the most important thing we’ve learned is to be open for new inspiration from every possible place, and not to be afraid of failing. In this way Metronomicon Audio has definitely been important. We’ve also got a form of freedom in the work with Metronomicon Audio, that you rarely find elsewhere. That’s probably something we can bring into other jobs. When that’s said, the work for Metronomicon Audio tends to be quite different from other jobs we do. Even though we try to put a lot of ourselves into every project we do, different jobs always call for different solutions.
What has influenced your practice and how do you see yourselves inspiring others? There are a lot of things that have influenced us through the years, so that list could be a mile long. As we’ve said the work for Metronomicon Audio has been of major importance, since this has been a place for us to find our own graphic voice. In the same way, the exhibitions that we’ve done the last year or two has taken us in a slightly different direction. One the people that has influenced us the most is Norwegian artist, designer, musician and filmmaker Kim Hiorthøy. He has kind of been like a mentor for us and from him we have learned that it’s not impossible to work in different fields simultaneously. We’re also huge admirers of the work of filmmaker Michel Gondry, as well as work of filmmakers like Mike Mills, Spike Jonze and Geoff McFetridge. There are also a lot of other contemporary designers, artists, filmmakers and musicians that have influenced us. And then there are a lot of historic periods that have influenced us. Just think of all the interesting periods in the history of art, how much interesting music that exists, and how many good movies that have been made, not to mention all the good stuff that’s out there that we still haven’t seen. In this way, we hope to be an inspiring little secret for other people to discover.
Young Norwegian designers Aslak Gurholt Rønsen and Espen Friberg, who have been collaborating on projects since they met in high school at the age of 16, inhabit Yokoland. Together they create design, illustration and art that are idyllic, humorous and poetic without ever being mawkish some of which has been featured in Hidden Track. Being one of the most inventive design studios of today, Yokoland skillfully blends their Scandinavian approach to design into their work melding elegant humor and human touch, exploring new ways of creating graphic design solutions to stunning effect.