Modernism defined by openness, publicness
Who are they?
Thonik is an Amsterdam-based design duo, led by Nikki Gonnissen and Thomas Widdershoven. They specialize in visual communication, graphic identity, interaction and motion design. The company recently ventured into architecture creating a self-designed building, studio thonik.
Tell us some of your works, and the one you are most proud of?
The work we did for the Power Station of Art (PSA) Shanghai was a milestone in our career because it was our first project in China. We were honored to be invited by PSA’s director Gong Yan to design a new logotype, which fused Western and Chinese characters, reflecting the international outlook of the institution.
We are also very proud of our exhibition “Why We Design,” which took place at PSA last year and attracted more than 150,000 visitors. The display showcased 11 key thonik projects outlining a quarter of a decade of graphic design changes.
Another highlight was our collaboration with the Urbanism\Architecture Bi-city Biennale in Shenzhen.
For its 6th edition, we explored the theme “Re-living the City” by designing a woven bag and photographing it in informal unfinished places carried by different city dwellers to create the event’s visual identity.
Are you currently involved with any project?
We are currently developing a visual identity for M+ Hong Kong, a new museum for visual culture, which was designed by Herzog & de Meuron and is due to open in 2021. We are also continuing our work for the Hyundai Department Store in Seoul, where we are creating a fun graphic language for this new destination in the city.
What’s your design style?
We are socially engaged and culturally oriented. Our style can be seen as a playful take on modernism, characterized by two key principles: openness and publicness.
Openness can be seen in the way we are structured and how we work with our clients while publicness is visible in the multiple examples of our work situated in public spaces.
Where are you most creative?
In our new studio, which is located in our first architectural work. The building, which features a striking monochrome facade is, in a sense, a spatial manifesto of our design philosophy. It is such a rewarding feeling to be working in a space that we have designed.
What does your home mean to you?
Amsterdam is our home. It is a friendly, fairly small city but with a vibrant, multicultural scene — we constantly feel inspired here.
What do you collect?
We collect Asmat art, a passion that was triggered when we traveled to Papoea, Indonesia in 1996 and were fortunate enough to visit the Asmat. Spending time with the tribe completely changed our perspective on life. The Asmat have such an incredible culture: they are hunters and gatherers, very much connected with the nature and spiritual world that surround them. This experience made us realize that the most enriching thing in life is to learn from other cultures.
It is fascinating to be surrounded by ancestral objects, which have influenced many Western artists including Chagall, Picasso and Matisse, and which continue to inspire us today!
Where would you like to go most in Shanghai?
We are looking forward to visiting the West Bund Art & Design fair and Art 021. It is such a great platform to discover new artists and meet old and new friends from the region.
What will be the next big design trend?
Cross-media design: visual storytelling that works online, offline and onsite. This has become our focus in the last couple of years and this is something we like to experiment with.