in the Category: art

From Studio Fluit to Vrints-Kolsteren

What was supposed to be a cozy conversation over a cup of coffee, resulted in a struggle to connect through the computer screen during governmentally mandated social distancing. In front of me I have Naomi Kolsteren and Vincent Vrints — both in pixels — luckily quarantined together as graphic design duo Vrints-Kolsteren and longtime partners. Together, they discuss the perks of the size of Antwerp, Japanese toilet paper, going abroad… And coming back.

Interview by Louise Souvagie
Photos by Vrints-Kolsteren


the visual identity which you agreed upon in the beginning can continue growing

Hello Naomi, hello Vincent. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview virtually. How are you experiencing these times under lockdown?

VV: It’s strange, especially since no one knows how long it will last.

NK: Exactly. We have no idea how we are supposed to bridge this time gap, since a lot of assignments were cancelled or postponed. 

VV: All of our clients are in the cultural field so they have been hit pretty hard. Luckily, there are still some assignments coming in because many of our clients are forced to go digital. 

How long have you been working together?

VV: We studied illustration together and started a collective with several classmates called Studio Fluit. It was very different compared to what we do now. We published zines and organized exhibitions. It was all self-initiated and very playful. It helped us gain some attention outside of school.

NK: After graduating, we started working for different bureaus abroad.

VV: We all scattered for five years. In the meantime, there were still assignments coming in back in Antwerp where Naomi and I would collaborate on. After those five years of exploration, we decided collaborating actually worked very well for us. In the beginning we doubted stepping into the business as a couple, but eventually it turned out to be the right decision.

You are based in Antwerp and very intertwined with local projects such as Antwerp Art Weekend. What attracts you to the city? 

VV: Having both lived abroad, we realized there are many advantages to Antwerp. It is a huge benefit to be around other working fields which are so strongly developed, such as fashion and visual arts. The scale suits us very well, too. We don’t want to be a huge studio and the size of Antwerp allows us to work in the way we want. 


What differentiates your approach to graphic design from other bureaus? 

NK: I think you can recognize in our work that we strive for a certain simplicity, combined with our background which is more illustrative and our approach of typography.

VV: We really develop a system so the visual image of a client is recognizable through every medium: print, website… It’s something we learned abroad which isn’t typical for Belgian graphic design, which tends to be more chaotic. 

What project was up until now your favorite, or the most challenging? 

NK: Antwerp Art, definitely. The best thing about it is that it’s a recurring event so we get to revise our original design each year.

VV: This way, the visual identity which you agreed upon in the beginning can continue growing. It’s like you have a set of rules and can start playing a game with them — switch things up. It allows us to prove that the system we originally set up keeps working over time. These infinite projects are the best ones. 

Where do you get your ideas from? Are there any other designers you look up to? 

NK: When we went to Japan, we discovered a very different kind of design and use of colour. Even in Germany, we were amazed by all kinds of typography. We are so accustomed to our direct surroundings, so we think it’s a good thing to distance ourselves from that occasionally. Once you come back, you rediscover the small things. Suddenly, you can get excited about the packaging of toilet paper. We collect all of that, too.

VV: This is both the advantage and disadvantage of working as a couple: work never stops. Even while traveling, we’re constantly busy with the design of things. But those our the most inspirational moments, after all. 

What does the future hold for Vrints-Kolsteren?

VV: We have been working on the visual identity of a new museum in Brussels. It just opened but then immediately had to close again due to Covid-19. But it seems that it will remain an ongoing project - so we are hoping they will be a new kind of Antwerp Art to this studio. The launch of a new identity was so much fun. The fact that it’s not in Antwerp, is an asset, too. 

NK: We are expanding our horizons. (laughs)

VV: We also started Vrints Kolsteren Editions, which is a way to publish self-initiated works. Our first book was called Kado, which we released a couple of months ago. Right now, we are working on the next book.We are hoping to invest more in these kinds of autonomous works.

Subbacultcha and This Is Antwerp are teaming up for a series of portraits, featuring some of the most interesting profiles of the city of Antwerp.