Interview with Hvass & Hannibal

I recently discovered the exciting, multi disciplinary duo Hvass & Hannibal. Nan Na Hvass and Sofie Hannibal run their art and design studio in their native Copenhagen and are masters of illustration, art direction, set design and much more for a huge and varied range of clients. I love the vibrant colours they use and the way that they retain a strong visual identity in whatever different form their creative output takes. Sofie and Nan Na were kind enough to tell me a bit about their work, world and inspirations…

Can you tell me how Hvass & Hannibal came about and how you ended up working together?
We met when we were about 17 years old in high school and quickly became friends when we found out we had a mutual interest in arts and design. During the next couple of years we made a few small projects together, just for fun, like videotapes of ourselves dancing in funny homemade outfits that were shown at a venue in Copenhagen. Later we both attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ School of Design and after screen printing a school party poster together (a very fun and good process for both of us,) we decided to form a duo because we thought it’s more fun to be two than one!

I am so impressed by your multi disciplinary approach. Are there any particular mediums or approaches that you prefer to work in or with?
Ha ha, we were just discussing the other day how we have to stop this multi-disciplinary talk, and start focussing on one thing! We try not to limit ourselves too much when it comes to media or approaches. We recently took up animation which is really difficult and we need to practice a lot to get better at that!! It’s always fun to try new things, even though it’s also difficult and you want to give up when you see how good everyone else is.

I’m very intrigued by the house on the Morten Mosgaard’s album artwork. Can you tell me more about how this came about and a bit about your process for creating album artwork?
Morten approached us and asked if we could design the identity for his music label called Jævn. He told us that his idea was to create playhouses for his artists, so the basic components of the identity are some colourful building blocks that resemble houses. For his album artwork we elaborated on that idea, creating a bigger ‘playhouse’ with an imaginative landscape inside.

I love your Marimekko textiles. Can you tell me a bit more about the inspiration for them?
We were inspired by the traditional Marimekko prints, which are often strong colours and geometric prints with dots or stripes. Our design is kind of like a new take on the traditional dotted patterns from the 60s and 70s but with a new dimension. We’ve hidden a landscape behind the dots, which can be seen either as raindrops, snowflakes or just a kind of grid.

What contemporary artists, illustrators and designers do you really admire?
Our good friend Jody Barton, who’s also kind of like a mentor for us, and likes to give us good advice. And another friend Daniel Frost, who’s extremely skillful. He makes the most wonderful pencil drawings. Of people we don’t personally know there are so many we can’t mention them all… Olaf Hajek, Santu Mustonen, Micah Lidberg, Eva Berendes, Malene Landgren and many more!

What would be your ideal commission?
An ideal commission would be to do artwork for one of our favourite bands. Or decorate a hotel lobby in a warm exotic country, with 3 weeks’ free room and board, and unlimited access to drinks served in pineapples. We would also love to make a mural (a gable painting it’s called in Denmark) on one of the old buildings here in Copenhagen.

What project that you guy’s have done together is the most memorable?
That is probably the most recent, which was stage design and projections for Efterklangs show in Sydney Opera House. It was also our final Masters project and we worked on it intensly for over 4 months. It was really a great experience to visit Australia and such an honour to work at the Sydney Opera House!

You are based in Copenhagen. How does the city influence your work?
Hmmm, difficult question! Life here probably influences our work one way or the other, but we’ve always worked here so it’s pretty hard to say how or why! We are taken care of very well here in Denmark, lots of freedom and opportunity, which is both comforting and scary at times.

Thanks guys!


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