dn&co. is a brand and design studio based in London. We recently caught up with Founder, Joy Nazzari.
Having just turned 10, how has dn&co. evolved since the beginning?
We have always focused on place, but the variety and types of places has evolved and become broader – we’re now working across restaurants, residential, retail, offices and, significantly, the placemaking of entire neighbourhoods. We won’t stray from that base. Most exciting is our work is expanding to include collaborations with art and cultural institutions. Ultimately if it’s a place, we’re interested in the conversation.
Over the last 10 years, projects have become larger, multi-faceted, with more meaningful and lasting impact, and wide, wide production remits. If when we started you would have told me that we would start a newspaper, name London roads, commission history books and launch our own gallery, I wouldn’t have believed you. However, our ambition was there.
How would you summarise your approach to placemaking?
It doesn’t start with design. It starts with research – what is this place about? How can we build on what’s good, improve on what isn’t? Then it’s about mobilising change through real acts and deeds. The right words and beautiful design are half the job. The rest is convincing the client about how to apply the thinking to their actual behaviour on the ground.
“It's important to be relevant and genuine, reflect some of the real things found there, find a good seam and build on it.”
Do you believe great design can completely change the perception of an area?
We believe great ideas communicated through great design can completely change perceptions, yes – but on their own, they cannot change the actual area.
It’s important to be relevant and genuine, reflect some of the real things found there, find a good seam and build on it.
We talk to our clients a lot about acts and deeds. It’s not enough to ‘look and sound’ like something, to assume a personality. You have to be, behave and do things on the ground that are real. ‘I love that place, it has a great logo’ – said no one, ever. The picture is broader, creating a reality is more complex, and we have to think that way.
So, beyond design, we’ve found ourselves advising in new areas, like publication, events and PR. Places are complex entities and collaboration with other companies, experts in their fields, has been a huge part of our most successful projects, and the most rewarding. It requires a lot of trust, and clients who can see there is more to gain from collaboration than silo-ing their agencies and suppliers.
“The pelican motif is modern, but is rooted in the history that pelicans have existed in St James's Park since the 1600s.”
How did you approach giving St James’s an identity to match its rich history and beautiful architecture?
With St James’s it was always about balancing the mind-blowing history of the place with a commercial need to keep up with the times. Our aim was to create a modern-heritage fashion brand, to behave and act fashionably but celebrate what is great about the history of the area – craftsmanship and premium one-off nature of what you buy there. The pelican motif is modern, but is rooted in the history that pelicans have existed in St James’s Park since the 1600s, and are shown on the altar of the Wren church. Pelicans nurture, guard and protect – the perfect metaphor for what The Crown Estate does in St James’s.
What’s the process like of creating a new issue of The Correspondent?
Exciting. Stressful! And amazing fun. The client gives us huge editorial freedom, which we repay by working really hard to make sure every issue is of superlative quality across content, writing and art direction. Everything is made from scratch.
How do you make sure it feels like a part of St James’s, but a stand-alone publication at the same time?
The masthead and much of the typography reflects the St James’s guidelines, but the content is what makes the publication work. Every issue gets braver, and that gives us the freedom to keep it current.
Why the blue for Fathom Architects?
With Fathom, it’s all about depth of thinking, hence the name idea. That bright Klein blue is a twist on depth of the sea and good old fashioned architects blue-prints. Blue was a real gift to the concept.
“Blue was a real gift to the concept.”
How important do you consider restraint to be in the design process?
Eventually, it’s essential. But I would urge designers not to edit themselves too early. Get all the ghastly clichéd stuff out. In the end though, one singular idea should be executed clearly, beautifully and consistently.
What is the inspiration behind the Vinoteca wordmark?
The ironwork welding of vineyard signage. The typography reflects the way the nooks and crannies fill in at the corners when you weld pieces together.
“We are a team of culture vultures, so you are likely to find us gorging on inspiration at art museums and galleries.”
If you could redesign any place, what would it be?
We are currently ambitiously playing with The City (London’s financial district). It’s desperately uncool, and we want to change that. Stay tuned.
What are dn&co’s favourite spots in London outside the studio?
We are a team of culture vultures, so you are likely to find us gorging on inspiration at art museums and galleries – from studio favourite the Barbican to White Cube in Bermondsey, a stone’s throw from our front door.