DC-based contemporary design practice Spaeth Hill is about to put out the first volume of äntrepō, a dreamy new publication featuring interviews with national and international designers, original essays and expressive artwork. To find out more, we recently caught up with partner and design lead Nathan Hill about the inaugural installment, which is titled Revelations; the 215-page labor of love has been in development for five years now, and the boundary-pushing, fully-immersive result (featuring contributions from Benoît Bodhuin, Symrin Chawla, Perrin Drumm, Kristine Kawakubo, Ellen Lupton, Kristen Mallia, Ralph Nauta, Michael O’Neal, Kevin Perry and Nejc Prah) is a perfect gift idea for design enthusiasts and creatives alike. Snag a limited edition collector’s piece (printed on a curated combination of fine papers with a gold-foil embossed cover, each hand-labeled out of 100) right here.
So first off, how long has this project been in development?
Yeah, that’s when the whole thing conceptualized. The project really came about as a way to do some self-exploration, some soul-searching and self-care in terms of honing my own design skills, pushing boundaries and making myself feel uncomfortable. Just kind of staying in that zone, which, as a designer, I feel like we kind of miss; you get downtrodden, beat up by the clients and everybody.
Absolutely. And are you eventually planning to open this up to submissions, or how does the curation process work?
Right now we’re curating it, because we’re looking for designers that are practicing graphic design work that feels experimental in some way. We’re really looking for people who are pushing boundaries, not just creating a lot of what you see on Instagram, not trending so much; it’s more about if the designer can really explain how they’re pushing boundaries and how they’re continuously trying to reinvent who they are and what they’re doing, not only for themselves, but for their clients. I think those are the people we’re looking for.
It’s really about looking through a portfolio and seeing someone describe it in a certain way, and then we’ll reach out and see if they’re even interested. Most of the time people are, and we’ll send them some interview questions, but for this first issue we have four graphic designers that tip into other areas; one tips into more sculptural performance art, one is more of a typographer, one does branding work…we try to include a little bit of a different point of view from the designers that we’re interviewing.
We also have people that I’ve interviewed on my podcast, and those are also studio owners or graphic designers or artists. (That goes a little bit beyond graphic design; for example, we’ve had people on that do lighting, that are industrial designers, etc.) We’re including two interviews that are a selection of the transcribed interviews to promote the podcast, and then there’s a section of the publication that’s purely just mood, so there are images curated not just by us, but by some of the designers we’ve invited to take part. We’ve also worked on a soundtrack that goes with each volume, so there will be an hour or so of music that goes with this. It’s a fully immersive experience. We’re trying to hit a lot of different notes.
Tell me a little bit more about the podcast as well; it’s interesting to me when people who primarily work in the visual space actually start to converse about their craft, and try to break down certain concepts verbally.
The translation is interesting, and putting it to print is interesting, but what I really like about it is that you understand (at least the way we’ve played it out) that this is a conversation, and it’s candid. It’s not scripted. I think with the podcast I wanted to stay true to how we talk, to how friends speak, so it’s less formal, and the idea is that you are (hopefully) uncovering some interesting tidbits of knowledge from people in different industries and how they experiment.
One of the questions I always ask is how (within their given field) they experiment and try something new. I ask that because I feel like we forget sometimes that experimentation is part of the process. It’s about trying something new and being uncomfortable. I think as we progress in whatever our given field is, we start to lean on our expertise and what is comfortable to us, instead of also realizing that if we take a step back and remain a little vulnerable, that’s kind of where the surprises are.
I think some of the best designers and creative people are coming up with really great things because they remain in this place of play, this place of curiosity that’s not always comfortable. We’re hoping this publication speaks to that. It’s about trying things out, making mistakes, putting it out there and then reworking it, revisiting it. It’s not about always putting your best foot forward, it’s about being vulnerable.
Pre-order a copy of äntrepō here.
All images via Spaeth Hill