Jonas Bergstrand crafts beautiful 'vintage' posters for Soho Beach House

Soho Beach House is the latest private member's club, hotel and spa from the group behind Soho House and Shoreditch House, eschewing rain-flecked London for the glossy sunshine of Miami. For its launch, BBH commissioned Swedish illustrator Jonas Bergstrand to create a series of three posters that evoke the sophistication of the Côte d'Azur in the first half of the 20th Century and the feeling of simple luxury that the club aspires to.

Though beautifully reminscent of posters of that era, each was created entirely digitally in Illustrator and Photoshop. We caught up with Jonas to find out how he created them.

DA: What's your background?

JB: "I was born in Stockholm and still live here. In my mid twenties, I went to an art school here in Stockholm named Forsbergs Skola. Since Forsbergs only provided 2 years of education I was very lucky to start working as an assistant to my teacher Anders Lindholm after graduation. Under his wings I got further education and tons of support. Without him I would have been completely lost.

"My luck continued as a friend introduced my images to Central Illustration Agency in London and they took me on board. I’ve been represented by CIA for about 10 years now. Time flies...."

DA: What was the brief?

JB: "The choice of going for an art deco feel is elementary in this case. Art deco architecture is a prominent feature in the Miami city landscape and traditional art deco design make use of bold perspectives and clean shapes which suited the posters need for graphic drama perfectly. The art director produced scribble sketches that outlined the content.

"The posters were all meant to promote a certain location in Miami not the city itself. Miami is an attractive destination that needs no reinforcement. Instead the goal was to create posters that would give the audience an idea of what it would be like to stay at the comfortable Soho Beach House.

"All the posters depict relaxed situations taking place in close proximity to the building itself. The depicted scenes are frankly quite mundane. The drama lies mainly in the compositions, not in the narrative."

"My aim, as well as the art director’s, was to create posters that feel homogenous in style but not too repetitive in layout. I felt the sketches in the brief were a bit too similar in perspective so I suggested alternative layouts and in the end I think we delivered decent quality."

DA: Please take us through the composition of the poster above.

JB: "Much of what’s in there was visible in the brief. This poster was always meant to focus on arrival and the beautiful building. I did some rearranging though and introduced a simpler and in my mind stronger graphic hierarchy.

"The brief outlined a street scene and the lady was supposed to step out of a car and head for the entrance. In the brief she was not a main ingredient, at least not in terms of size. The sketched layout presented me with several crucial problems to deal with and I knew early on that I would have to suggest simplifications.

"The first problem, an odd one, was that the view of the house that I was supposed to portray, the one seen on the poster, didn’t correspond to the actual location of the main entrance and I felt uneasy about creating 'false architecture. How could I stay true to the idea of arrival and not produce something that doesn’t exist on site? The other problems had more to do with the usual stuff -- sorting out the perspective and the hierarchy between different elements in the layout.

"The more I tried to show of the street the smaller the house, the car and the woman became. Getting it all in resulted in really poor, very scattered composition sketches. The key to all good posters is a clearly visible graphic structure. A few elements must be allowed to take charge and dominate the format. A poster design that’s too democratic collapses and I felt that was what I was facing.
"At the same time I thought the poster needed a stronger human presence than what was the case in the brief. I thought that would add warmth to the scene. The bold art deco building standing virtually alone would look a little cold in my mind. So I decided to move in close on the woman, making her the star of the composition and that stabilized the design.

"The new size of the woman effectively removed the problem of creating a false entrance as she obscures that part of the building. This scene is actually possible in real life on site. She’d be by the pool then. And that works well with the second poster...

"Once the main objects were in place I produced playful diagonal directions in the poster and explain the location further. The sun picks up on the lady’s round hat and the building and palm tree drives the eyes towards the distance where a paraglider, a reference to beach life, is seen."

DA: What creative techniques did you use to give each poster its 'look'?

JB: "Art Deco posters aim for geometrical precision and stringent flat colours but like all things handmade small imperfections made their way into the designs. Producing precise artwork is easy in the computer. The trick with Art Deco pastiches is to add the small flaws to make it look true and lively. Art Deco images produced solely with vectors graphics always looks dead to me.

"All lines and shapes must be slightly distorted and no colour should be allowed to be completely flat. All this is easy to sort out in Photoshop.

"In order to make the posters look old the ad agency multiplied a paper texture on top of the images. That’s cost-effective compared to printing on aged uncoated paper. The texture makes things look old of course but not only because of the stains and scratches.The colour of the multiplied texture drives all colours in the image closer together and that’s what happens to aging posters.

DA: Why did you use custom typography for your lettering?

JB: "I couldn’t find a fitting typeface so I constructed the letters myself. Art Deco type is not that hard to produce compared to more delicate shapes.

"Soho Beach House is a fairly long name and I wanted the letters to be big and strong enough to carry the image above so the type had to be condensed. In order to maximise the size and power of the type I took out the space between the words and isolated them through colour instead. This makes the type readable but at the same time the three words is very much one unit.

"The building itself is actually quite condensed so there’s a connection, at least in my mind, between the letter shapes and the architecture. I think the letter 'E' really picks up on the shape of the house.

It's possible that the posters will be made available for sale in the future. We hope so.

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