Berlin profile Content is king at Nicolas Bourquin’s Onlab, but its
editorial focus incorporates a flair for visual delight
and conceptual ingenuity. By John L. Walters
Don’t tell Nicolas Bourquin that there’s no future weeks working with Erik Spiekermann (see
in editorial design. Framing content lies at the pp.42-47) and other designers in Berlin. This led
heart of Onlab, a studio much admired by his to an invitation, early in 2001, from Polyform,
fellow Berlin designer-residents. Onlab has been a small Berlin studio, to work on an international
going for less than a decade, with rarely more than competition for Berlin’s Museumsinsel [museum
six employees and interns, but it has the range, island], in the centre of the reunited city. Bourquin
depth and vision you might expect from a larger, spent three months there, working on the
more established practice. branding, orientation, website and other
Swiss-born Bourquin was recruited by design elements for the museum.
MetaDesign Suisse in July 2000, just a day after ‘I went out a lot, discovered the crazy nightlife
he graduated from the design school in Biel / of Berlin, and fell in love with the city,’ says
Bienne. This confidence was repaid when his first Bourquin. ‘We won the competition, and ever
project won Meta the pitch to design the identity since then I’ve lived in Berlin.’
for the Lucerne Festival. Around the same time, For six months, Bourquin divided his time
he began working ‘in parallel’ on projects for between the Museumsinsel project with
Swiss museums and exhibitions, using the studio Polyform, and new commissions for Onlab,
name Onlab. including a book, Los Logos, for Gestalten,
Bourquin quickly discovered that ‘the way the first of what was to become a trilogy under
MetaDesign deals with design was not my thing,’ his direction.
and quit after just nine months. However, the Meta Initially, Bourquin rented desk space from Sven
stint did give him the opportunity to spend a few Ehmann, a Berlin photographer and editor, who
1 (opposite) and 2. Italian Creative direction and
architecture and design concept: Nicolas Bourquin.
magazine Domus no. 926, Graphic design: Bourquin,
June 2009. Coverlines are Christoph Gabriel, Onlab.
printed on the outer plastic Photography: Piet Truhlar.
wrapper, which is torn away to Make-up: Anne Krarup.
reveal a largely text-free cover Models: Alexandra
image, a composite portrait. and Barbara.
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was also wo