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DesignTalks 2017 Spotlight

Studio Folder

In our DesignTalks Spotlights, we’re going into the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of what you should know about each of our DesignTalks speakers and why we are so excited about their work.

We covered Christien Meindertsma in our first post, Alexander Taylor in our second post, Ersin Han Ersin in our third, and most recently Michèle Degen. Next is the formidable work of Studio Folder.


Cerebral and daring, Studio Folder is a design and research agency founded by Marco Ferrari and Elisa Pasqual. The studio was established in 2011 and is based in Milan, Italy. The agency works “both in the cultural and commercial domains and through the investigation of autonomous research paths.” Studio Folder focuses on the visualization of ideas and concepts through a diverse range of work in Italy and abroad, including editorial, art direction, exhibition design, brand identities, data visualization, web platforms and curatorial projects.

An architect and designer, Ferrari’s main research interests hinge upon the understanding of contemporary technology and its effects on society, and the relationship between cartography and politics. He works across a diverse range of outcomes and methodologies, from data visualisation to the design of interactive installations, editorial products, digital platforms and teaching. He has held creative leadership roles at the architecture collective Salottobuono, Domus magazine, and Abitare magazine.


Pasqual is a visual designer and currently a PhD researcher at IUAV University of Venice. She investigates the intersection of design, politics and identity – analyzing the visual language of artifacts, media and communication strategies – along with the evolution of the modern State concept, borders, globalization and new technologies. Between 2007 and 2011, she worked in editorial design, corporate identity, exhibition design and art direction for clients as Pitti Uomo–Florence, Euroluce–Milan and artist Yoko Ono.

What have they done? What are they doing now?

Studio Folder sports an impressive portfolio that does not shy away from dense geopolitical issues. From topics such as dystopic urbanization and the abstract nature of borders, to questioning the ways societies and people claim ownership of place through data and cartography, Studio Folder elegantly lays out complex concepts in cleanly executed projects.

The concerns of Studio Folder regarding cartography, borders, and politics are best exemplified by their projects Dystopic Town-Lines and Italian Limes (limes is the Latin word for ‘borders’).

An investigation into the geography of public space, Dystopic Town-Lines is an app that “foreshadows the possibility of a new ‘digitally driven’ urban dystopia similar to the one described in Blade Runner and Brazil” through original comparisons, photo galleries and videos. It describes the process of dystopic urbanization and how it might be ‘tamed’ through selective demolition to make clear that “just as limitless amounts of data can be used for distorted ends, the wild process of urbanization might create an environment that is anything but human-friendly.”

Italian Limes is an ongoing research project and an interactive installation that explores the most remote Alpine regions, where national borders are “movable” due to drift caused by global warming and shrinking glaciers. Last year, the Italian Limes team successfully installed a series of autonomous devices on the melting ice sheet at the foot of Mt. Similaun, 3,300 meters above sea level. The new measurement units will help to track the change in the tridimensional geometry of the glacier throughout Spring and Summer 2016.

Why is their work important?

Through Italian Limes, Studio Folder researches “the effects of climate change on shrinking glaciers and the consequent shifts of the watershed that defines the national borders of Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France. Investigating the fragile balance of the Alpine ecosystem, Italian Limes shows how natural frontiers are subject to the complexity of continuous ecological processes, depending on the technologies and norms we use to represent it.” And concretely, the data and measurements collected throughout Italian Limes assists in understanding climate change dynamics on the Alps.

The project intersects markers of culture, technology, and national power to examine the process and implications of delineating geopolitical territory on national scales. In doing so, it wields design as a tool for tracking the evolution of national borders with time and in the context of climate change as an unavoidable reality. By taking such huge concepts and global concerns that are often invisible to the individual, Studio Folder encourages cultural discourse about the future of our geopolitical world and our responsibility to be informed world citizens within it.

Studio Folder writes articulately and thoroughly about their projects on their website. To learn more visit Studio Folder.

Text by Michelle Site. Images and quotes courtesy of Studio Folder.

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