We are standing here again, looking up at the old factory building in Berlin, in which we met the artist Clemens Behr only a couple of days ago, but the maze-like hallways and multiple floors have managed to set out our sense of direction.
Luckily our phone help us get in contact with Julio who guides us to the top floor; the empire of 44 Flavours. While climbing the stairs we pass by plenty of door signs stating names of several sound designers, architects and artists. Finally we reach our destination and are welcomed by Juilo who represents half of the multidiciplinary design studio. Unfortunatly Sebastian couldn’t join us today “but I will do an effort to tell some good stories and answer questions for the both of us.” Julio’s smile indicates that, besides being a great team, the two designers of 44 Flavours are also really good friends.
Inspired by an american ice cream van
Already while studying Sebastian Bagge and Julio Rölle started working together and for the last 10 years they have been doing creative and artistic projects, graphic design, illustrations and installations under the common name. “We stumbled upon this classic illustration of an american ice cream van, and on the side it said; 44 Flavours.” Julio tells us how the name came up and explains how it refers to the broad variety of different projects that the duo work with. Julio reflects upon the unusual name and gives us a clear sense of a thoughtful and detail oriented designer. “A logo or a name is a bit like an empty glass that you, over the years, fill up with different actions and associations. A good name steps in the background of the work.”
Humour and light-mindedness
Sebastian has always been the one interested in graphic design and typography, while Julio, with his background in graffiti, has emphasized the more free and artistic projects, but during the years their skills have merged more and now it’s hard to tell who does what. “We are getting more and more appreciated for what we do, and clients now come to us because they actually like what we do.” Julio explains how they now, because of their personal and passionated approach, are able to say no to “boring” projects and can focus exclusively on the more fun stuff; commissioned and selfinitiated. This is the perfect way of working.
44 Flavours have an easy recognizable style where colors, textures and some-what geometric shapes always play up against each other. An overshadowing love for print and craft is a continuous theme in their work, and twisted, quirky lettering reveals a playful and experimental approach to graphic design. The work of Sebastian and Julio’s hands expresses humour and light-mindedness while pushing the borders of how we experience art and design.
The perfect workspace
Six years ago when the old factory was just starting to take form as a creative hub, Julio and Sebastian had just finished school, were new in Berlin and on the look-out for the perfect workspace. Luckily they met the guy who was in charge of the factory and got offered the very last empty space on the top floor. Back then it was all one big industrial loft room, but after putting up some walls Julio and Sebastian managed to rearrange the space. They invited the german/norweigan design studio NODE and the german artist Eno Henze to join them. Both of them are still here today.
We enter the office, and a stuffed eagle looks down at us above our heads. One wall is packed with canvases, books, art supplies and a light blue track bike and at the other side of the room the two work tables are competeing to be the most messy; with a useful mess, of course. From the floor to the high ceilings the studio is filled up with stuff which all tells a story about Julio and Sebastian’s previous projects. Wierd print outs, colorful sketches, handmade skateboards, small figures, posters, plants and even illustrated oranges all seem to be in a perfect balance. Together it composes the wonderful atmosphere of 44 Flavours.
Make art not war
Julio walks to the bookshelf and grabs some old magazines that him and Sebastian did back in school. “This is actually the first project we did as 44 Flavours,” Julio says, when he hands us two copies of their magazine’s last issue (from 2006). Back then they used to collect different works from friends and gather it all in a magazine called (what else than) 44 Flavours.
While we are browsing through the coloful pages of the very nice and sympathetic publication, Julio jumps to some of the things that occupy his mind at the moment. Right now him and Sebastian are planning an exhibition in Hamburg, and Julio shows us a couple of video loops which are going to be shown in peepholes, working as infinite replays of fragments of their working process. “Like this, where you see me from behind, walking with all my equipment. A classic shot from a graffiti film, but here you never see the location or work, because of the short constant loop. It’s kind of awkward. I like to make a little fun of myself and the genre.”
The next clip that Julio shows us is just a couple of weeks old and is shot on a vacation to Bretagne, where he grew up and where his mother still lives. Bretagne is located in the north-east coner of France and is almost surrounded by the ocean. Pretty much each time Julio goes back to his hometown, he walks to the ocean where old, concrete bunkers still inhabits the beach working as a reminder of darker days. He brings some rollers and buckets of paint and decorates the heavy World War II remains with new variations of his signature style. While Julio is back in Berlin, the salty waters of the atlantic ocean washes off the paint and leaves an empty canvas for him when he returns. “Often when I’m doing this, people come to me and ask me what I’m up to. When I explain my project they tend to nod appreciatively. But you should see their faces when I tell them that I’m half german.” The last part is surely an interesting perspective which adds something special to this work.
We walk down to 44 Flavours’ workspace (the other half of Clemens Behr's studio) where the two guys are working on a small house which is going to be sent to the electronic music festival MELT in a couple of weeks. The conversation spins a bit around the subjects of working with major brands, the challenges of combining art with commercial marketing and how it is important to pass on the knowledge, you get from working in the intersection of art and design. Julio and Sebastian have really found an honest and recognizable way of expressing their creative minds, which we definitely look forward to follow for many years to come.
Rikke Luna (f. 1988) og Matias Albæk-Falk (f. 1988) er stiftere af idoart.dk, og driver derudover formidlingsbureauet I DO ART Agency samt forlaget I DO ART Books. Rikke og Matias bor og arbejder i København.