Craig Redman and Karl Maier were little boys when the International Specialised Expo opened in Brisbane in 1988, still following the TV series Golden Girls, American eccentricities and Japanese fashion. The logo of the Expo, designed by Ken Done with the word ‘Australia’ in joyful capital letters, was a coup de foudre: its simplicity, colour, brilliance, lightness and touch of irony were later to become characteristics of their prolific output of art and design, which today ranges from NFTs to urban public spaces. In between, illustrations, animations, graphics, painting, objects and temporary installations.
Craig & Karl – this is their brand name, under which they have signed collaboration agreements with Vogue, Adidas, Nike, Converse, Apple and Google among others – are a great team, in fact they almost look like one another. The partnership was born at college, where they studied graphic design, and survived even when, after their experiences of working together in Sydney as illustrators, they went their own ways: the first to leave Australia was Craig, who won a green card in the lottery and moved to New York in 2007; five years later Karl went to live in London. It is a separation that has proved useful in providing new stimuli for their joint work, which has in any case solid bases: designer minds, similar sensibilities.
Both have made an equal contribution to their works in an Aboriginal-pop style, taking advantage of the difference in time zones to exchange sketches and ideas and leaving the other time to intervene. The fronts they work on are many and varied. As are their current projects: a series of technological objects for the Casetify brand of Hong Kong, a line of streetwear for young South Koreans with a passion for golf commissioned by CDC Golf & Sports and then interventions in public spaces, including some in new built-up areas in South Korea, to a commission from the Bando company. Here, in addition to the settings, they will be responsible for the design of street furniture and iconic sculptures that will function as meeting points. An imposing exhibition in Shanghai was supposed to have celebrated the duo’s sparkling creativity at the beginning of 2022, but it ended up in limbo owing to the pandemic.
For Craig & Karl, who have made the surface of things their privileged field of expression (for the material dimension they prefer to rely on the local companies with which they work on each occasion), diversifying is a strategic priority, they explain, that obliges them to renew their language continually. The duo favour all-round commissions, like that of The Specs in 2014: in addition to the collection of sunglasses they were able to contribute to the packaging, the photographic feature and the advertising campaign.
In particular, dealing with three-dimensionality, like the free-access minigolf course recently opened in the London district of Canary Wharf, has meant working by reduction: “A square and a dot cannot turn into an illustration,” says Craig by way of example, “but they can become an object: once made it will be something experiential”. Next step, eliminating the details over which they racked their brains previously, identifying a few key elements, to be used if necessary in a modular and serial manner, playing with the emotions – and doing it, as Karl stresses, with simplicity and boldness. “All it takes is to replace a blue floor with a red one to drastically alter the perception of a setting,” adds Craig. Perhaps to suggest a committed message, always according to the imperative: stay fresh.
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