Unobvious Creative Studio: ‘we are not afraid to try something new’


Chances are high that you have visited the inspiring Unobvious Creative Studio when stopping by at De Hallen in Amsterdam. Offering a combination of accessible prints and design objects, partners Suzan Krabben, Edwin Hanssen and Mark van Hooff balance their branding agency upstairs with curating an inspiring space downstairs. They recently completed their bold and graphic mural at Hutspot Rozengracht in collaboration with sustainable paint by fairf. We paid them a visit to discuss the design process, how the studio was founded and current projects.

How did you guys start Unobvious?
Suzan and Mark had their eye on a studio atelier at De Hallen in Amsterdam. Part of the deal was to come up with a concept that would contribute to the creative surrounding. Together with Edwin Pelser, we decided to launch a pop-up shop that focussed on removing the exclusive stigma of design. We presented Edwin’s accessible objects and prints like a mini market, resulting in a fun and inspiring space that was open to everyone.

At some point, we noticed that we wanted to connect the commissioned work that we did upstairs with the curation we did downstairs. Sometime later, we founded Unobvious Creative Studio to focus more on combining our own work with designs from others, building forward on the same principles of accessibility.


Unobvious Creative Studio Hutspot

Accessibility is very important in design, isn’t it?
We think it is. People can experience a high bar when walking into an art gallery because of prices or the way the work is presented. This works for some people, but we want to do it differently. At Unobvious, we notice that the people who stop by are surprised and engaged, regardless of their knowledge of design. Unobvious has become a fun playground for us and others.

Let’s talk about your own graphic work. Could you explain the process and what your specific roles are?
Mark and Edwin have a background in graphic design and art direction. Suzan has a background in concept design and product development. This makes our way of working different, but ultimately has a positive effect on the outcome because of our different perspectives. Although we all have unique traits and interests, we do not have fixed roles. Thinking outside of the box is key in everything we do and we allow each other to make ‘mistakes’ or to work further on someone else’s design. In this sense, the development of risographs is interesting because experimentation continues during printing.


Unobvious Creative Studio Hutspot

How would you describe the style of Unobvious?
We would say playful, colorful and quirky. Furthermore, making a bold statement or choosing the ‘unobvious’ is also very much part of our approach to design. When it comes to commissioned work at our creative studio, we are not afraid to try something new. For example, we have organized Festival Designkwartier in the Hague (2018, with Edwin Pelser) and created identities and interiors for shops. Doing branding activities, you want to be able to work all-round and we love the variation that comes with it. We meet a lot of people, have a huge network and can successfully combine different disciplines. We are all about connecting; in our shop, in our work for clients and also within our own team.

Speaking about connecting: Unobvious also invites others to exhibit in the shop. Any highlights?
It is hard to name just one since everyone is so different. Artist Tim Mastik is currently on display in-store with a selection of artworks. What is important to highlight is that we invite every artist to, not only bring a selection of work, but also make one item exclusively for our shop. The only thing all the works have in common is their fixed format; the rest is up to them. We love how this series shows the diversity of talent and we cannot wait to see the collection grow.

Unobvious Creative Studio Hutspot

How did the mural at Hutspot Rozengracht come to be? What were the challenges?
We were asked by Hutspot to do the mural in their Rozengracht store. We proposed two colorful options: one very graphic and one more illustrative. The graphic variation proved to be more suiting since the wall covers a big part of the store. By working with large surfaces of color, this design will not be lost when furniture is placed before parts of the mural. 

We sketched the design and started measuring and taping before applying the first sets of sustainable paint by fairf. What was interesting to notice is that the design turned out a bit different in big, so we decided to change some colors last minute. Luckily, we had enough paint!

You guys then translated the mural into a series of risographs that will be available to purchase.
Indeed! We took the design of the mural as inspiration and made a series of risographs. Again, it is important to look at how the design will be used. The mural its main purpose is to inspire and to decorate a space. Contrary, the risographs will probably be on display at home. Therefore, we made the aesthetic of the risograph more compact and calm using white space and a centered design. Funny detail: when you place the risograph on certain points of the wall, their lines will still communicate. Come check it out at Hutspot Rozengracht.

Unobvious Creative Studio Hutspot

What are you working on at the moment?
We are working on a lot of different things. One of our latest projects was for Balacron, who sell a lot of different cover materials for notebooks and other booklets. They had a huge collection of over 40 years gathered materials that they wanted us to organize, re-brand and present in a well-put-together collection book. We had a lot of fun and got to combine our expertise in branding, graphic design and collectioning. We love to work all-round and can’t wait for the next big challenge. And then, world domination!

Shop Unobvious risographs at Hutspot Van Woustraat and Rozengracht.
Check out their mural at Hutspot Rozengracht.

Visit Unobvious Creative Studio for more inspiration.

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