Twoo’s Carlos Kun on starting a studio, tackling creative block and the rise of remote working
Twoo is the two-man practice of experienced design and development duo Carlos Kun and Danilo Campos. Based in Barcelona but working worldwide with clients in the United States as well as their native Brazil, their work brings together technology, functionality and aesthetics to result in a holistic approach to design for the digital realm. We had a conversation with Carlos to find out more about the studio.
EM How did you guys come together to form Twoo?
CK Although we are originally both from Sao Paulo, Brazil, we met while working together in Barcelona, side by side, and we discovered that we had a lot in common, such as not only our interest in graphic design but also the way we think and wanted to practice design.
At that time, coming from a digital work experience, we were at a point in our careers where we were wondering if the direction we were taking was the right one. We both understood that, in order to explore the full potential of a project, design should not be thought of in isolation, but as part of a greater whole; this was the main motivation for us to create Twoo, to go beyond websites and practice a more comprehensive design approach.
EM To make that new approach work, did you have to learn anything new or change the way you were used to working?
CK This way of working forces us to have a 360 view of the project, so more than learning something new, we had to go deeper into other disciplines that before weren’t necessarily our responsibility, such as project management, strategy, and development. On the other hand, having control of all aspects of a project makes our delivery more consistent. In general, more than thinking about a website or a logo, we now think about a visual system that serves to unify the communication, with the objective of creating a common identity on any surface.
We were wondering if the direction we were taking was the right one.
EM What is the studio’s DNA?
CK We believe useful things could be well made and look good as well. Twoo’s DNA is a result of its conceptual strength, smart implementation, and careful execution. Additionally, we are hands-on designers/developers, we are designing with building in mind, this characteristic plays an important role in the way we practice design. We have an attitude of extreme attention to the craft but, at the same time, a comprehensive and systematic assessment of the project.
And in terms of references, even though we are very present following what is happening today in contemporary culture, we also have a special predilection for the arts and graphic design history, with our inspiration ranging from Russian avant-garde movements from the beginning of the last century to Brazilian modernist architecture, arts and graphics from the 50s.
EM Do you have a project you consider to be your best work?
CK As Brazilian architect, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, winner of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture said: “I am not proud of any project I did. I don’t work to be proud, I never think I did the best. I did the best I could.” We kind of follow the same attitude, the best project is the one yet to come.
That said, a good example of a project that represents what we have to offer as a studio is Galeria Index, not only for the final visuals, but for the thought involved, we created everything, from the visual identity to all printed and digital collaterals, including even web development.
Also as it is an art gallery, in some way, it gave us a little more room to dare in this mixture of graphic and interaction design that we propose. And on top of everything, the fact that we could help to leverage an independent initiative in Brazil, working together with local actors, such as Plau Type Foundry and Manufatura made us doubly happy.
We kind of follow the same attitude, the best project is the one yet to come.
EM How did you find the experience of not being able to present concepts to clients in person as a result of the pandemic?
CK As a matter of fact, we were born remote, so it hasn’t changed much the way we work. Before the pandemic, we were already doing remote projects for Brazil or the USA, for example. Actually, we have noticed that the demand for projects from different parts of the world has increased, it seems that clients are less afraid of working with a team that is not in person or even in the same time zone.
EM What do you do to stay organised and make sure you meet deadlines?
CK Twoo is actually just two people, and this setup makes us fully aware of our capability and constantly warns us not to bite off more than we can chew, so this is rule number one. At the same time, the fact that we have a small structure allows us to offer a lean and straightforward process, with well-demarcated steps and deliverables, and a clear vision of when and how the project will move forward. Furthermore, our process is focused on allowing us to draw continuously, generating tangible results at each stage, and making the evolution of the project visible for the client over time. As we say: there is no magic trick! We think, do, try and repeat, until we reach it.
EM Being just two people, how do you handle it if you get creative block or can’t quite get the design to feel right, but have a deadline approaching?
CK We work simultaneously on each project, taking each other’s idea and turning it around. Even when we don’t know exactly where to go or what to do, we encourage ourselves to keep exploring different paths. Interestingly, there are times when we notice something in the other’s design, that even whoever did it didn’t. This mutual support in itself helps a lot to avoid creative blocks in general.
But when we happen to get stuck, we try to get off the computer and look for inspiration outside the digital world, review some design books, read about architecture or art, or just take a walk around town to clear our heads.
EM Do you have any advice for those looking to start a studio?
CK To begin with, as a studio we are very young, we are two years old, and we consider that we are still in the challenge of creating a studio. We have discovered a lot in this short experience and we continue to learn every day.
But if we could give a tip it would be ‘do it.’ There is a lot of bureaucratic work, meetings, etc. But it is worth the feeling of being able to put your ideas out there and make a project your way.
Barcelona is a city that breathes design.
EM How do you manage your time to make sure those things like meetings and admin get done while still finding time to design?
CK We try to be very organised and we have systematised all the material we can into templates to save ourselves some time. We also take turns in the more bureaucratic functions, we define one of us as the point of contact for the project, giving the other more freedom, and so we alternate.
EM What do you enjoy about Barcelona as a city to work in?
CK It is a cliché to say, but Barcelona is a city that breathes design, from its various studios, designers, photographers, architects, and creatives in general to the architecture of everyday life, it is always an inspiring atmosphere.
Also, everyone loves to come to Barcelona, there are always events that bring people from all over the world here. During the summer and festivals season, the city is booming and there is a good mix between mainstream and independent events, offering a diverse set of things to watch.
We also strongly believe that the future is increasingly collaborative.
EM Do you manage to find a good balance between work and life?
CK Considering the current situation, I think we are all struggling a little more to find the right balance. With the pandemic, it sometimes seemed difficult to define the boundaries between professional and personal, but overall we feel very grateful and privileged that we have continued working, and on the personal side family is all good.
Another advantage of living in Barcelona is that the city makes it easier to have a better balance between work and life, compared to big cities like São Paulo, London, or New York, Barcelona is small and has a relaxed atmosphere in general, we usually move around the city by bike, we can have lunch on the beach, there is always a way to make the day a little more pleasant.
EM Who would you love to work with, moving forward?
CK We want to work with people, not for people. Although we want to practice a more comprehensive design approach, we are still very versatile and we can continue to work in collaboration with other studios, something we love! For example when we were invited by PORTO ROCHA to create a website based on the visual identity they did for the Museu Nacional da República.
We also strongly believe that the future is increasingly collaborative, with leaner structures and collaborative networks. In addition to that, we love the opportunity of partnering with other studios to bring these highly creative visual identities to the web, this is the challenge we seek, we want to bring graphics into the web looking to expand the boundaries of what is currently being done in digital.
Looking to the future, it would be a mind-blowing experience to work with studios like Studio Dumbar, Rejane dal Bello, Pentagram, Experimental Jetset, and many more. We also teach at Aprender.design in Brazil, and it has proved to be a very enriching experience where we learn a lot with the students, it’s definitely something we’re also planning to continue doing.