Fun and games

Liz Farelly meets up with Swiss graphics player Büro Destruct to look through its latest tome

With its second book just hitting the shelves, and some of the gang currently touring the globe (launch parties and exhibitions scheduled for Japan, London – at Magma – and the US), Büro Destruct is on a roll.

Big, colourful, fun and full of attitude, Büro Destruct II will no doubt join the ranks of influential graphic design books to be found dog-eared and well-thumbed in art school libraries and trendy bookstores worldwide. Its first installment, four years back, went down a storm within a certain subculture of techno-obsessed, vector-visionary practitioners. This sequel affords a catch up, with ‘the best of’ eight years of BD design activity now available in print.

In 1992 HGB Fideljus created the Destruct Agentur. He teamed up with Lopetz in 1994, and although they still talked in terms of making ‘art’, the group became a bureau and graphics took over as the output. The five team members, who go by surname-based pseudonyms, are MBrunner, H1reber, Heiwid, Moritz and Lopetz.

Safe to say, the individuals who make up this Swiss-based multi-faceted ‘office’ rank among the design (and music) industry’s most influential and prolific image-makers, with thousands of record sleeve and flyer designs, hundreds of logos and a library of typefaces produced for clients in the US, Japan, Germany, Austria, Australia, Italy and beyond.

BD also sells collections of its illustrations through the London gallery Digital Vision, and distributes its type designs internationally via its webshop, And, if you find yourself in Zurich look out for Büro Discount, BD’s very own shop, featuring ‘graphics, gallery, gimmicks and gadgets’, displayed within a suitably Swiss red, white and blond wood interior.

Laid back in a way that only those who live and work in smaller, provincial locations are able to be, BD’s workers have pursued their own interests, and found a willing audience for their varied, but collective vision.

In the introduction to Büro Destruct II, the quiet and tranquility of Switzerland are advocated as advantageous to design: ‘giving us the chance to work precisely and assiduously – like a bee’. Reading between the lines of both books, this part-isolation seems crucial to its dedication and attendant success.

It may praise the simplicity and control of Modernist-inspired Swiss Graphics, but the group’s work exploded in a riot of colour and humour to the extent BD could be credited with redefining that most refined of design classifications. The ‘office/Büro’ of ‘destruction/destruct’ perfectly describes its blend of focused anarchy.

Loving what they do, obsessively, these BD fan-boys from Bern are unapologetic enthusiasts; of beats-based music, old-school logos, all things cute, animated and Japanese; of having fun with typography and technology; of quirky toys and games and anything else that reminds them of childhood times and presents an opportunity for play.

In the nicest possible way, they’re away with the fairies, and proud of it; to quote from the introduction of Büro Destruct II: ‘Especially in connection with our work, we feel deeply related to the people of the forests and the fairies of the meadows’. Need I say more.

Printed next to this introduction is a set of baby-pictures featuring team-members as happy, smiling pre-teens, lolling with siblings on golden beaches, atop deserted mountains and in neat suburban gardens.

This succinctly places the BD workers in their geographical and cultural context – freewheeling Europeans from enlightened backgrounds moderated by a touch of Swiss order. What a perfect recipe for a team that creates house-style posters and flyers for local venue Reitschule, which are flexible enough to represent various visiting artistes; or for researching, compiling and designing visual books for Berlin’s Die Gestalten Verlag, as well as contributing wacky articles to Swiss graphics magazine Soda.

Undoubtedly, computer technology has helped BD produce a rich and varied body of work; individual BD workers refine their own skills and choose to explore favourite programs, but when a job comes in a team is assembled to cover all aspects of the brief, run by one member. Look through the next book and you’ll find hand-drawn illustrations, 3D character design, interactive Shockwave animations (the Typotown project on its website is mesmerising), photography, super graphic line-drawings, and very expressive type.

Technology has helped the group stay put too. For example, it doesn’t need to be at the epicentre of commercial action, it can communicate with international clients and runs an in-demand type foundry on-line. But when pressed, Lopetz says, ‘We do not try to catch the actual tech-train; we focus on beautiful design with whatever tool is necessary to achieve it.’

Good advice for all designers; and useful to remember when devouring this book – not a ‘how-to manual’, just a record of fun.

Büro Destruct II is published by Die Gestalten Verlag, priced £26.99. The Stopover London exhibition is at Magma, 117-119 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1 until 24 October

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