We sat down with Michelle Phillips and Johannes Conrad of studio Yukiko to talk about their recent work for Sofa magazine. When faced with the daunting task of realising Generation Z in print, the Berlin-based duo looked to the digital landscape as a source of inspiration. The result is a magazine with a truly eclectic feel; a mix of high and low brow content jumps out at the reader in a vibrant, pop style that takes the trashy teen magazine aesthetic into cyber-space. By looking at their own pasts and delving into the mind-set of Gen Z, Yukiko have captured a rebellious teen spirit with plenty of attitude. It’s loud, it’s unapologetic and it doesn’t care about labels.  
First of all, can you tell our readers a bit about yourselves and your artistic backgrounds? How did you come to be as a design duo?
We were both born in Hamburg and we both lived in England for a long time. We both also went to Brighton University (Michelle, to study Graphic Design and Johannes, Fine Art with Music) but we didn’t actually meet until a few years later. Naturally we clicked right away and we started making silly experimental things, mainly dealing with clouds. We were dreamers really. Anyway, we both had solid jobs in agencies but we felt like we should give cloud-related, visual experimentation a go so we moved to Berlin. At the time Berlin was notorious for its creatives that were doing equally non-commercial, viable projects and so we got into making music videos and album artwork together. One thing lead to another and now it’s six years later and we mostly do art direction and design for editorials, catalogues, art books and so on.
And how does your dynamic work as a duo? Would you say that you share similar approaches when it comes to projects or do you each take on specific roles?
We each have our own role but sometimes we turn into one person.
What drew you to the Sofa zine project? I’m sure that the task of having to visualise an entire generation must not have been an easy one!
It wasn’t easy, especially as the editors wanted the magazine to be read by not only Generation Z but also the two generations that came before it. Being inclusive is one of Sofa’s mottos, so getting back into the mind set of a teenager and finding out what they’re into nowadays was definitely a fun challenge. We were also really into Ricarda and Caia’s idea of giving Gen Z a voice. It’s hard enough for teenagers of any generation to get taken seriously, but now a lot of older people think Gen Z are lost digital addicts who are just brainlessly sending selfies to one another… no fingers pointed! It may be that they’re intimidated by how confidently and easily this new generation uses technology, they know how to make it work for them. Anyway, when Ricarda and Caia told us they were going to investigate, we were definitely up for finding out what today’s kids were really all about.
So how did you get into the mind-set of gen-Z? Did you draw on any of your own experiences as teens?
Yes absolutely. I guess we just made the kind of thing we would have liked to have had when we were teenagers!
In your opinion, what influence does this generation have on your work as a whole? Do you always take into consideration the tastes and styles of today’s youth when conducting your work?
I think the tastes and styles of today’s youth are more diverse than ever! We try to go about our work with a youthful energy and attitude and we can always look to Gen Z to show us how it’s done. They also seem to have a remarkable bullshit filter, we’re quite amazed at what they do and don’t like. They can be very discerning, it’s inspiring. A lot of the people we work with work closely with youth culture, like Ewen Spencer and Matt Lambert so this generation informs a lot of our work one way or another.
Berlin has garnered quite the reputation as the go-to city for global artists and designers. As a design studio that has been based in Berlin for many years, how would you say the creative circles have evolved over the past few years and do you see them changing again in the near future?
Our creative circles are mainly made up of our really good friends. I’m not sure which usually comes first, working together or hanging out. Maybe it’s not that Berlin-specific, but I do think that Berliners have a good way of blurring the line between work and play. Obviously we meet new people all the time and our network is constantly growing but most of our closest collaborators and creative friends have been around us for a while. Generally-speaking, Berlin is definitely changing and becoming more of a global player and this is evident in the creative scene too.
Lastly, what does Studio Yukiko have in store for 2017?
We’ve just moved to Hamburg for six months to art direct the children’s magazine Zeit Leo for the newspaper Die Zeit and we’ll be heading to Sao Paolo in spring for the next issue of Flaneur magazine. We’re also planning on working with Ewen Spencer’s new issue of Guapamente — other than that it’s near impossible to think about 2017 when there’s still so much left to do in 2016!
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