Rosario Florio (Kasper-Florio) interview

Collaborative relationships, idyllic studio spaces, and the importance of simplicity... Rosario Florio of Swiss design duo Kasper-Florio chats to us from St.Gallen.

 Interview by Julian Hutton
June 2013

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i.  Annual report, 2012 by St.Gallen’s art association Kunstverein St.Gallen
ii.  Flyer for the 6th edition of Eau de vie
iii. Flyer for the St.Gallen Museum of the Arts
iv. Visual identity for Heimspiel, a triennial regional art exhibition

All photographs © Kasper-Florio 2013

I recall a few years back looking through both your website and Larissa Kasper's website, and thinking you complemented each other so perfectly. Where did you first meet and what is it like working with your partner?

We met about 11 years ago and were a couple first, actually quite long before we started to work together. I did an apprenticeship as a typographer, and later on Larissa did one as a graphic designer. That was the first time we made things together and tried to mix our skills.

We then both started studying graphic design in different places. During that time we already worked on projects collaboratively, which helped us to develop our working process. We had great luck having a similar view of graphic design and things in general, and also wanting to pursue the same goals. So it was, and still is, a steady progression.  

Where did you study?

Larissa studied at the Zurich University of the Arts. I studied at the School of Arts and Design in St.Gallen.

What was your experience studying design?

Most of all it was a really nice and unforgettable experience. Our study time opened up a lot of important connections with great and inspiring people. It gave us the opportunity to empower our own working process while sharpening our view on typography and graphic proportions. 

"It was our goal since the early years – we just waited for the right moment to move over to a full-time collaboration."

What made you decide to start collaborating as Kasper-Florio?

It was a very logical consequence of our collaborative working, which we did for quite a long time. It was our goal since the early years – we just waited for the right moment to move over to a full-time collaboration.

You're based in St.Gallen, Switzerland. Are you both originally from there?

We grew up in different towns very close to St.Gallen. We have been living and working in the city for a couple of years now.

What's it like there? Does St.Gallen have a good creative community?

St.Gallen has a strong tradition in book design, going back to Rudolf Hostettler, Jost Hochuli and Max Koller. But today most of the ambitious people in this field are moving to bigger cities like Zurich. 

During the past five years we have built up our own little community, sharing a big studio space with our friends Dominic Rechsteiner, Bureau Collective and Bänziger Hug. It's a nice big space with a lot of light, a small kitchen and a big table where we usually come together to share and discuss ideas or have a beer after work is done. So for us there are many reasons to stay. 

Being firmly anchored in the cultural activities in and around St.Gallen has brought us together with interesting contacts and projects during the past years. Being part of our online portfolio, these regional works finally opened up new paths to commissions in Austria, Germany, Italy, England and France, and helped position us within the international field of graphic design. 

"The abstraction and simplicity of elements and forms evoke different associations for every viewer, which we find particularly interesting."

Do you come from a creative background?


How would you describe your graphic style and approach to design?

Simplicity is an important approach in our work. It originates from a balance between idea and realisation, and results in refining the message. Abstraction helps in transmitting the message in a very direct yet open way. The abstraction and simplicity of elements and forms evoke different associations for every viewer, which we find particularly interesting. 

Equally important, the concept is both the initiator and activator in every new project. With a well thought-out concept, the visual forms emerge naturally. Their execution demands a lot of dedication and diligence, which is reflected in the quality of a work. 

You seem to work across a lot of print projects. With the big push for digital solutions over the last few years, do you think you and Larissa will begin producing more online and digital work?

We're intrigued by the physical qualities of printed matter. But most of all, it is a question of finding the right way to communicate what you need to. At the same time, we don't want to miss out on the knowledge and possibilities of the digital world and its new ways of communicating – it is an important part of our job. Some projects require a digital solution. We can't say that we will produce more digital work but it is already part of almost every project, as an addition to the printed communication.

"It goes back to creating new fancy handwriting as kids on lazy Sunday afternoons, and downloading hundreds of crappy free fonts on our first computers."

What was the process behind designing the 2012 annual report for St.Gallen's art association, Kunstverein St.Gallen?

We were commissioned to do a typographical redesign of the existing layout, which has been in use for quite a long time. Changing it from a rather impractical landscape format to handy A5 was the first decision we made. Unfortunately the photographic concept, mainly consisting of images of the past exhibitions, had already been fixed by the time we started with the project. 

Do you remember what sparked your interest in typography initially?

Thinking back, we've always been interested in written language and expression through letters and alphabets. It goes back to creating new fancy handwriting as kids on lazy Sunday afternoons, and downloading hundreds of crappy free fonts on our first computers. 

Can you tell us a bit about Eau de vie and the work you've done for it?

Together with three friends we started a new party series in a special location here in St.Gallen. It serves a variation of the finest brandies, so we decided to call it Eau de vie – the French expression for distilled liquors. Literally it means ‘water of life’.

Larissa and I have been responsible for the visual identity. We built the visual solution on a very linear setup, translating the literal term into a simple shape. This form of a wave built by lines and changing slightly every time gave us the possibility of playful use and continuity across the series. The new identity for 2013, which can be seen on our website, shows the form of water in a new way and is quite a lot bolder in its graphic language.

Have you been working on anything recently that's been exciting for you both?

Most of all, the redesign and art direction of the monthly cultural magazine Saiten, in collaboration with our studio mate Samuel Bänziger (of Bänziger Hug). 

What's next for Kasper-Florio?

Hopefully some exciting new projects and a beautiful, long summer in rainy Switzerland.