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Meet Berger & Föhr in Boulder

Today we’d like to introduce you to Berger & Föhr.

Before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about your story.
We were both very free-spirited, independent, artistic kids, compelled to build things, and make art. And we’re still that way. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense that we went on to create a studio supporting dual art and design practices.

We’re both self-taught artist/designers. Neither of us has any formal training in our chosen fields. Todd has a BA in Environmental Science. Lucian dropped out of the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design after one semester. Subsequently, we’ve always operated our studio as a sort of research laboratory, focused proportionately on professional creative output, learning and experimentation, and personal growth.

Our eighteen year-long art and design partnership came about coincidentally through a fortuitous meeting in the middle of a downtown Boulder street. Todd was running his first design office, Dogtail Design, and Lucian was beginning his design career. Our connection was evident immediately, and within some days, we were working together. We quickly transitioned Dogtail into a boutique identity, brand, and digital product shop, ultimately repositioning and rebranding in 2004 as Cypher13.

From Cypher13, JoyEngine was born. JoyEngine was Cypher13’s art gallery and design boutique concept conceived as an artist and brand collaboration platform. The two sister entities shared a space in Downtown Boulder on 13th street. Over five hustle-heavy years at C13 & JoyEngine, we established a reputation for creating contemporary identity, brand, and digital work. We earned the opportunity to work with some of the largest brands and organizations in the world, brands like Adidas, Denver Art Museum, Ford, Herman Miller, Intel, Sony, Timberland, Toyota, Yahoo, among others. As we grew, so did the creative and professional challenges.

When there’s growth in creative businesses, much like many other businesses, the founder or founders tend to find themselves growing further from the things they love (in our case, art and design) and closer to the things they don’t (business development, accounting, legal, HR, etc.) And so it went with Cypher13. So, at the end of 2009, after five pretty successful years, we chose to scale down, put our names on the door, and open Berger & Föhr. With B&F we sought a smaller, more focused, more creative studio, centered explicitly on bringing our collaborative art and design practice to likeminded clients and partners. With the help of one assistant, we’ve chosen to operate in this manner since 2010.

Historically, we’ve managed to balance our creative practice roughly 50:50 between personal/studio art/design projects and commissioned client projects. But, in 2013, we blew-up that balance and half-intentionally/half-accidentally created a startup called Ello. Ello is an online destination for artists and designers to connect, collaborate, and find new projects and opportunities. In 2018, after another five hectic years, void of any artmaking, we sold Ello and returned to studio life at Berger & Föhr. We spent the past year-plus reestablishing our graphic design and brand practice and reigniting our art practice. And it’s been gratifying.

Nowadays, we split our time between helping startups and small to medium-sized brands improve their identities and brand positions – and making and showing art.

Has it been a smooth road?
No, not really. The road hasn’t been all that smooth. But that’s mostly because of the choices we’ve made, and we’ve come to realize it’s the way we like it. For things to be real —some pain is necessary.

We always sought to run our studio by our own rules, to seek out and work with like-minded clients on inspiring projects, and to make high-quality, high-impact, high-integrity work. Sounds status quo, right? Turns out it’s harder than it sounds. Similarly, we chose to pursue our passions, often over more traditionally-safe, clearly financially-sound paths. This approach occasionally pulls us “off-course,” eventually and always bringing us back truer, more experienced, and better prepared for our next adventure.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Berger & Föhr – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
While we founded in Berger & Föhr in 2010, we’ve been working side by side for nearly eighteen years. The thing we’re most proud of is our partnership. It’s central to our practice and brings us much joy. While it’s super cool that the studio has gone on to become an award-winning independent graphic design and communication consultancy, awards and accolades pale in comparison to quality relationships.

As a creative studio, we focus predominantly on the development of brand identity for purpose-driven brands. We most typically work on the strategy behind a brand or business in tandem with the design of either a new identity system or redesign/rebrand. We like to think we specialize in advancing meaningful, enduring ideas and experiences for the people who engage with them.

Located in Boulder, Colorado, we produce and provide a broad range of brand-based strategy and design work spanning brand identity, art direction, book and publication design, environmental graphics, illustration, and website and app design. Our refined and carefully considered international aesthetic has enabled us to create work for a wide array of clients around the globe ranging from small, scrappy startups to world-renown brands.

As a studio, we’re on a quest for meaning. When it comes to client work, we have a deep desire for consistency and a somewhat lofty concern for appropriateness. Creatively speaking, we’re on a never-ending pursuit of beauty and clarity. We often like to provoke, ask questions, and ponder our collective interpretations of reality. We like to think that it’s some intuitive understanding of the power of simplicity that compels us to create work that resonates, and hopefully stands the test of time.

We make a lot of contemporary, often conceptual art too. We believe our design practice informs our art practice and vice versa. And that each is invaluable to the other.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about your city – what do you like the most and least?
We love Boulder’s easy access to wild places and our communities’ collective commitment to nature. There’s an arty, anyting’s possible, kind of hippie-spirit that still exists here. Boulder’s a vibey place, and if you get the chance to experience it, it can be truly magical. We feel uniquely fortunate to have the opportunity to live, work, and play where we do. But, Boulder’s changing fast, like many places. Rising costs, competing values, and the quickening pace of cultural change are being felt in some less than desirable ways. We’re in for the long haul, and we aim to do our best to keep Boulder weird. So, while there are all sorts of dark forces at play in the world today, we remain hopeful — the future’s bright.

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