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How to build a brand around a smiley face: N&MS on their unmistakable
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How to build a brand around a smiley face: N&MS on their unmistakable practice

Article by Studio Ground Floor

Speaking with its founders, Mark Bohle and Nam Huynh, we discuss the ultimately unique, playful and unpredictable design philosophy of N&MS, and how their distinctive interplay between art and conversation led to Unlocked's remarkable brand identity.

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To talk of N&MS is ultimately to speak of conversation and play – a remarkable creative practice not only in a practical, cross-European dialogue between Barcelona and Stuttgart, where its founders Mark Bohle and Nam Huynh reside, but one founded on the fascinating interplay between art and design.

© N&MS, 2023
© N&MS, 2022
© Felix Wittich & N&MS, 2023

“We are influenced by what surrounds us,” Huynh and Bohle tell us, “our daily activity deals continuously with type and image,” translating these fascinations into equally fascinating works across digital and – excitingly – physical spaces. “We enjoy the moment when these two elements grow together,” they continue, “and unite in an unpredicted manner,” an adjective that profoundly describes what they do, forging their own unique design philosophy marked again by contrasts in creative conversation – delicate and heavy, tactile and ambient, witty and undeniably sincere.

Speaking of their discerning methodology, Huynh and Bohle respond, “those words describe very well what we try to achieve with our work,” adding, “we like to invent and dismiss rules while working,” however, restraining themselves from imposing any aesthetic or ideological limits. “We would not go as far as saying that there is a philosophy that we strictly follow,” Huynh and Bohle remark, instead relying on the expressive output of their collaborative, conversational instincts – often putting them on course for unexpected and, again, unpredictable directions. Notably, N&MS’ slick range of bespoke products.

“A well-designed object usually comes along with a strong graphic component,” Huynh and Bohle note, “just like the first stone tools or a Dieter Rams object,” made amongst the often opposing demands of needs and wants. “We are interested in this love affair, and sometimes we develop products with the help of friends who are product designers,” the pair add, “it’s fun to see when graphics become useful objects.”


© Sebastian König & N&MS, 2022

N&MS’ approach to creativity is no greater embodied than in their visual identity for Unlocked, a symposium that, as Huynh and Bohle describe, “offers a platform for actors in the cultural field to engage with professionals from the gaming industry” – a unique event that ultimately required an equally unparalleled brand. “Together with Jonas List we created a playable event program in first-person perspective,” the pair detail, “based on a screensaver from Windows 95,” led by Pangram Pangram’s own – and Studio Ground Floor’s personal fave – Pangram Sans Rounded as the champion typeface.

“We were looking for a rounded typeface with a smooth and friendly touch,” the duo suggest, due to the fundamental role it played in the visual identity. “There are only a few well-carved typefaces like this,” they add, “and surprisingly, it turned out that our friend Valerio Monopoli is one of the authors of the typeface,” making it a surprise to no one that the typeface was so expertly crafted. “The smiley glyph within the font was the base of an entire level design,” Huynh and Bohle continue, “thanks a lot to Valerio and Mat for creating the PP Sans Rounded,” a typeface that mirrors the conversation nature of N&MS’ practice – caught in an irresistible dialogue between fun and function.

On that note, when asked what question they wished we asked, Huynh and Bohle simply conclude, “what’s your favourite animal? 🦆” – a charming and unsurprisingly unexpected response that embodies the character and creativity of the cavalier couple.

© N&MS, 2022
© N&MS, 2023