the idea

The onlab summer school is an initiative of the Swiss graphic design studio onlab in Berlin. It was launched in 2011.

In design, the ability to familiarize oneself with new specialist themes in a short period of time is very important. This is why an interdisciplinary team, the integration of diverse competencies, a persistent willingness to continue further training and project-relevant collaboration with experts are all fundamental prerequisites. Only then can a designer develop an understanding of complex social, economic and political issues—without losing sight of its own expertise and focus. The summer school sets out to practice these “fundamentals” in an international, interdiciplinary context.

the concept

onlab’s Nicolas Bourquin and Thibaud Tissot regurlarly carry out teaching assignments in universities and art schools all over Europe and the US. Based on their teaching experience, the summer school is set out to provide concrete knowledge on the actual production process including editing, layout, typography, illustration, data visualization, photography, paper, print, and distribution. In a production chain with different fields of activity, the designer takes on a specific area of operations. In principle, the development and implementation of a single publication involves many players, from journalists to editors, illustrators and producers. Work on a publication is always a collaborative process, so the exchange of ideas and expertise, collective responsibility and trust, and above all the ability to reach decisions collectively are all inherent features.

Supervised by Nicolas Bourquin and Thibaud Tissot and with further guidance by experts from other disciplines, the participants are guided through the entire production chain within 10 intensive workshop days. At the end of the workshop, the participants leave with copies of the summer school publication in their hands.

the content

“Content is King” at onlab. Therefore we invite an editor each year who provides content and overlooks the editorial aspects in the design process. The participants play the role of composers, optimally combining all the contributions and influences, and translating them into visual language by their own means and methods.

the context

The summer school consists of 21 participants which are divided into 7 groups. Each group works on one chapter/section of the publication.

Day one is reserved for meeting the editors and familiarization with the content. Days 2-4 are reserved for working sessions with editorial meetings in the mornings, where one representative from each group, Nicolas Bourquin, Thibaud  Tissot and the editor discuss the direction each chapter is taking as well as general topics like content, cover, back cover, imprint, etc. Additionally, there will be lectures by three experts each morning. Days 5-7 there are intensive work sessions, without any lectures, i.e. the final spurt towards day 8 which is reserved for print production. The files are prepared and sent to the printing house. At the printing house, our expert gives insights on the print production. While the publications are cut and binded on day 9, three more experts present their work and methods. The vernissage and party take place on the 10th day with the publication ready to take-off.