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“The whole process was full of mistakes and learnings!”
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“The whole process was full of mistakes and learnings!”

Article by Studio Ground Floor

An interview with Lena Manger and Kevin Moll of Collide24 on compromise, conversation and collaboration.

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An editorial platform celebrating collaboration, a striking design practice pushing graphic expectation, Berlin-based dynamic duo Lena Manger and Kevin Moll are many things, with each endeavour as insightful, energising and forward-thinking as the last.

Lena and Kevin’s thoughtful endeavours have already been blossoming, with their platform Collide24 (C24) taking the design world by storm. Having founded C24 whilst still studying, the pair sought to showcase the significance of collaboration, and have since interviewed a remarkable range of contemporary, progressive and ground-breaking creatives – ranging from typographic magazines to CGI explorations of the human form.

Alongside this, Lena and Kevin have their own individual and collective practices, the latter recently made official under their new studio, softcover. Both parties explore a tentative line between the past and the present, marking an exciting new distinction of design, art, discussion and creation. Perhaps above all, however, what Lena and Kevin typify is the future of design, the future of collaborative working, and the future of artistic alliance. A practice and partnership that is unafraid to have an emotive, questioning foundation, and is all the stronger for it.

Hey, you two! How are you doing?

Hey guys, we’re excited for this interview, so thanks again for having us!

You’ve worked together on a tremendous amount of projects, how did your working relationship start?

It all started when we both met in Mannheim at the Captcha Design Festival, where we participated in a super interesting workshop with the amazing Jonathan Castro. A few months after that, we both decided to move to Berlin, interning and freelancing at different places. As we have many overlapping interests, we started to collaborate on personal projects together, which led us to founding the platform C24 as a way to channel our ideas and visions. This year, we finally founded our own studio, softcover, and share a space together with our friend Florian from Present Books.

Top Logo by Florian Seidel, Middle Logo by C24, Bottom Logo by Paula de Álvaro

Why do you work so well together?

Above all, we share a mutual respect towards each other. Compromises and good communication are an important part of any relationship—work-wise or not—and can lead to better results in the long run. Looking back, we learnt a lot from each other, oftentimes from our disagreements. As we had both worked by ourselves for quite some time before we met, we now appreciate having someone around that shares the same interests and dreams, and always has your back.

C24 is an absolutely fascinating platform, did your collaboration inspire its creation? What motivated you to start it?

Aw, thank you for the kind words!

C24 was actually the first collaboration we have ever worked on. One day, we were sitting in the living room of my first apartment in Schöneberg (Berlin), which I shared with some friends at that time, and shared some conversations about our experiences with collaborations during our studies. At university, group projects often felt forced or competitive, but there were also those rare, but really fruitful ones, that allowed us to grow. Although collaboration is such an essential part of the creative industry, we felt like neither our educational system nor common design platforms put enough emphasis on this very intimate process behind collaborations. With C24, we wanted to create a platform that explores and highlights the collaborative practice of artists working across a wide range of media to discuss their diverse backgrounds and the meaning of collaboration to their daily practice.

Logos by Paula de Álvaro, Sophia Brinkgerd, Laura Csocsán, CESTAINSI, C24, Colin Doerffler, Virgile Flores and Florian Seidel
Contemporary Movement (Nomadic Design), written by Rory King

What have you learned since starting it? Was there anything you found surprising?

We learnt a lot! But if we would have to reduce it to one answer, it’s probably that ‘collaboration’ can mean something different to anyone. Creativity, in general, is such a subjective, personal process, that is not easy to define. Probably every piece of art has been touched by more than one person during the process of its creation. If you take a book, for example, there is not only the designer laying out the book, there are also the paper manufacturers, the bookbinders, the printers. All of them play an essential role in creating the final product.

As designers, we have to promote ourselves and our work all the time, so it was a really nice and fulfilling experience to take the backseat with this project and just listen to what other people have to say. It’s always really inspiring to hear more about their path into the design world, how they approach a new project or how they deal with conflicts. We really appreciate that so many people have taken the time to engage themselves in this project and allowed us to learn more about their practice.

Images by Typelab, in collaboration with Steffen Bewer

Your latest C24 project ‘C24 Archive One’ is incredible, what was it like getting everything together, and what was the thought process behind its design?

To be honest, it was a lot of work for a two-person team, but now, having the physical copy in our hands, we couldn’t be more proud. We’ve always dreamt of a physical, printed counterpart to our digital platform, as we wanted to give more appreciation to every artist featured on C24.

For its design, we wanted to create a system, that would give room to the various presented artworks, while still maintaining our visual language. Therefore we choose a clean, but flexible typographic system. As collaboration often includes the collusion, overlapping or blending of different styles, disciplines, and backgrounds, we let some of the images collide horizontally, and also chose a very thin paper, so that the contents on the back of the pages would shine through and overlap with the contents on the front.

Images by Robuche

What was it like to work on Mystica together?

It was our first typeface, so the whole process was full of mistakes and learnings! Looking back, we would probably do it differently now, but it was a lot of fun to dip our toes into the world of type design for a moment.

What were the beginnings of Mystica, and what was the concept behind it?

Mystica actually resulted from one of our first sketches for the C24 logo. While the logo ended up being more experimental, we decided to turn it into a full typeface, playing around with sharp serifs, extended letterforms, and spiky edges

Inner Cover Artwork by Friederike Hantel

You also work with Present Books!How did you first get involved with them, and how has that developed?

Florian founded Present Books four years ago, first as a project on the side next to his work as a graphic designer. He was one of the first people that we met when coming to Berlin, and became a close friend of ours. We share a studio space together and support each other, whenever and wherever we can, so we basically see ourselves as part of the team now. We had the chance to work on some amazing editorial projects so far and also learnt a bunch about publishing, distribution, and printing.

Running Collide24 and Present Books alongside your own individual practices must be quite a juggling act, how do you balance them all?

At some point, it became pretty challenging to juggle between our mutual commissioned work, our personal projects, like C24, and our individual practices. That’s why we founded our own studio this year, to fuse these different tasks together into one practice. While we’re still trying to figure out the key to this famous balance that everyone’s talking about (let us know when you find it!), it made communication and management a lot easier.

Photography by Yannic Pöpperling
Images by KD—Lounge, Photography by Yannic Pöpperling

You’re right at the creative heart of Germany being in Berlin, how does living there influence the work you do?

Berlin influenced our creative output in many ways, especially thanks to all the amazing people we met there. It was the first place we moved to after our studies—and therefore it’s the first place where we were able to dive into this unexplored — and very deep — water, formally known as the freelance design scene, and learn our lessons. There are so many different styles coming together in one place, it’s truly inspiring to live in this lively, buzzing city, and we don’t see ourselves going anywhere else right now.

Contemporary Movement (Nomadic Design) written by Rory King, Photography by Yannic Pöpperling
Artwork by Horah Inc., Photography by Yannic Pöpperling

Broad question, but where do you think design is heading? What trends and technologies do you think will become more common practice?

Gazing into our magic crystal ball, we believe that disciplines will become more and more intertwined. The shift towards the digital isn’t a secret anymore, leading to progressive fields and techniques, like digital fashion, CGI avatars, face filters, and more. On the other hand, genres and styles get more and more fluid and are therefore slowly dissolving, fighting against our tendency to categorize everything. Technology has had a stronghold on us for some time now—which is not necessarily a bad thing—but it has been gaining more and more influence on social aspects, like our identity, relationships, body perception, and behaviours. While we don’t know for sure what kind of new digitals assets are waiting out there, we feel like this influence will only intensify with time.

Artwork by Delphine Lejeune and Jonathan Castro, Photography by Yannic Pöpperling
Photography by Yannic Pöpperling
Images by Ada Sokół and Panama Papers Office, Photography by Yannic Pöpperling

What’s on the horizon for you both?

Alongside some exciting projects this year and some major updates on the C24 website, we’re still trying to figure out how to run this freshly founded studio of ours! We’re excited to see where this journey will take us and hope to work with many more collaborators, partners, and friends in the future!

Logos by Paula de Álvaro, Sophia Brinkgerd, Laura Csocsán, CESTAINSI, C24, Colin Doerffler, Virgile Flores and Florian Seidel