Museum of Brisbane

Q&A: Craig & Karl

  • Learn more about the genre-hoppers Craig & Karl

Craig & Karl

Craig Redman and Karl Maier are the ultimate genre-hoppers. The duo have designed everything from album covers, typefaces and animations, to set designs, art installations and product packaging. Best known for their colourpop aesthetic, Craig & Karl teamed up in 2011 to form their namesake firm after meeting each other while studying at Queensland College of Art. Their artwork soon caught the attention of influential Paris store Colette, which paved the way for the designers to work with leading global clients, including Vogue, Google, Apple, Chanel, and Vanity Fair.

Working across a range of design elements, Craig & Karl approach their work in a highly collaborative fashion. One of their most beloved works, featured in BRISBANE ART DESIGN: OPEN SOURCE, is a large-scale portrait series of their friends, which the designers treat as a timestamp to capture moments with the people who were present during certain periods of their lives.

Although the pair are based in different parts of the world—Craig is based in New York, while Karl lives in London—they often collaborate via Skype to brew up concepts and projects that carry their signature message of humour and optimism. Craig & Karl have exhibited around the world, including the Musée de la Publicité in Paris, Athens’ Onassis Cultural Centre, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico. Their eye-catching designs have also graced the pages of top fashion and design publications, including Designboom, The Business of Fashion, AnOther Magazine, and The Design Files.

For BRISBANE ART DESIGN (BAD) 2019, the designers also created the brand identity that highlights a playful take on the word BAD. Through this idiosyncratic design aesthetic the pair have captured an essential part of the Brisbane spirit.

Images: Karl Maier and Craig Redman (left to right) 2019, photo: Lyn + Tony.
BRISBANE ART DESIGN Brand by Craig & Karl.
Banner Image: Craig & KarlIndividual 1-6 2019, digital print on adhesive film. Photo: Toby Scott, courtesy the artists.

Q&A: Craig & Karl

Can you tell me about the faces behind your large-scale portraits for BRISBANE ART DESIGN: OPEN SOURCE?

Our first portrait subjects were often of our friends from Brisbane, where we previously studied. Consequently, our new portraits for OPEN SOURCE are a homage to the city that helped start it all. The works are essentially composites and memories of people and experiences from our time living in Brisbane. By creating historical portraits, so to speak, we want them to be of-the-moment, whether it’s via signifiers, like a specific hairstyle or accessory that anchors it in a particular era. As a result, the portraits are always evolving to mirror the passing of time. If we’d been drawing these in 1690, the sitters would have wigs and ruffles for sure.

You both went to art school in Brisbane. What are the commonalities between Brisbane and your current bases of New York and London?

We feel lucky to be living in New York and London, and to be experiencing those cities from an Australian point of view. Culturally, all three are quite different, but we see that as a positive. It means we bring different experiences to our work, which creates a unique perspective, and we definitely feed off that. In today’s world—thanks to your phone—New York, London and Brisbane can tap into the same sort of experiences: being influenced and connected by the same cultural movements and trends.

How do you keep the collaborative energy going while working together across oceans and time zones?

We speak on messaging, video and file-sharing apps every day, passing projects and ideas back and forth until we’re both happy with the results. Although we live in different cities, we’ve known each other for a long time and worked side-by-side for years, and this allows us to trust each other implicitly.

Do you see a distinction between art and design? Your practice seems to cross them seamlessly.

There’s a practical distinction between the two, but our creative approach is exactly the same. Whether we’re creating a small work or a large-scale installation, it’s always the concept and staying true to our visual values that is most important. Design usually involves the consideration of other people’s input. Within art, we’re free to express ourselves in whatever manner we see fit, and that allows a certain flexibility in what we produce.

Why is it important for you to maintain optimism and humour across your practice?

It comes from our Australian background. We grew up in the 1980s, at a time and place of ultimate kitsch, and it’s something we aren’t afraid to embrace in our work. We were exposed to the colourful, humorous and accessible work of people like Ken Done, and it shaped who we are and our practice today. Also, to put it simply, we like to have fun with our work and not take ourselves too seriously. It’s the Australian way, after all.

As a design duo, what does an open source ethos mean to you?

We started our careers in Brisbane as part of a collective called Rinzen. Collaborating with others in that context, all with different skills, opened our eyes to a new way of working, and it has shaped how we work to this day. Sharing ideas and experiences between the two of us means we can create a more diverse set of concepts. It has brought new perspectives and pushed us into new and exciting directions. Being open to input from diverse people helps us develop ideas and go off on tangents that perhaps would otherwise have never occurred.

Image: Craig & Karl, Individual 4 2019, digital print on adhesive film. Photo: Toby Scott, courtesy the artists.

Image: Craig & KarlIndividual 1-6 2019, digital print on adhesive film. Photo: Toby Scott, courtesy the artists.

Image: Craig & KarlIndividual 1-6 2019, digital print on adhesive film. Photo: Toby Scott, courtesy the artists.

MoB Kids: Colour in with Craig & Karl

Working across a range of design elements, Craig & Karl approach their work in a highly collaborative fashion. One of their most beloved works, featured in BRISBANE ART DESIGN: OPEN SOURCE, is a large-scale portrait series of their friends, which the designers treat as a timestamp to capture moments with the people who were present during certain periods of their lives.

In this MoB Kids activity you will get a chance to ‘colour in’ with Craig & Karl. You could even try drawing a portrait of one of your friends in Craig and Karl style!

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