The Secrets to Good Design In the Print, Digital, and Physical Worlds

The founder of Hinterland design studio shares his secrets to a successful collaboration and brand identity.

Branding for artisanal bakery and cafe, Baked.

From the pages of printed tomes to journey maps for steamships, Hinterland charts new territory with every design project. The multidisciplinary studio specializes in branding for print, digital, and physical environments, as well as publication design for books and magazines. Founder Scott Buschkuhl is a School of Visual Arts alumnus and instructor who has collaborated with the likes of J. Abbott Miller and Woody Pirtle at the design consultancy Pentagram, and worked in editorial design for Time Inc. and The New York Times. When Buschkuhl struck out solo to launch his studio in 2008, he was facing the unknown—but ready to roll up his sleeves and don all the hats (he currently heads creative direction and project/account management, among other roles). A decade later, Hinterland has proven fertile ground for his creative vision, with a sterling list of clients that include The American Museum of Natural History, The Keith Haring Collection, Cannes Festival, and an array of notable awards (e.g., AIGA, Art Directors Club, Brand New). Surface talked to Buschkul about what inspires his nimble team to continue going above and beyond for their clients.

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Publication design for the School of Visual Arts' Senior Library portfolio.

Can you tell us a bit about Hinterland’s history?

The idea to open a design studio was driven by a mix of ego and naiveté. I felt comfortable with my design skills and handling of client relationships, but had no idea what it really meant to run a business. A lot of hard work, some trial and error, and the good fortune of gaining loyal clients has gotten us where we are today. We’re a small, multidisciplinary group, but that makes us flexible in our approach to both problem solving and team building. What we offer is the perfect balance between the personal touch you get with a “small agency” and a “boutique agency’s” scale and expertise.

What are the core values and driving force behind Hinterland’s work?

We are guided by the belief that the best design is the result of close collaboration with clients, as well as a genuine passion for solving design problems. We apply our deep understanding and distinct vision throughout the process—from the overall concept down to specific details—in order to present a cohesive, unified message. Our goal is to deliver work that is recognized both for its visual wit and clarity. In growing our practice, we love to keep expanding our limits. Whether it’s a new technology, market, product, or idea—we love when clients challenge us to explore new territories. We also believe in the importance of fostering long term relationships. Many who start off as clients become colleagues along the way, and often leave as friends.

Publication design for the relaunch of the Rotunda magazine for The American Museum of Natural History.

What does good design mean to you?

Good design is not predictable or complicated: It is the successful translation of complex messages into smart and friendly concepts that are delivered in iconic and memorable ways. Good design communicates an idea while sparking curiosity or igniting an emotional response.

What new projects do you currently have in the works?

We’re currently developing the digital and physical brand experience for a state-of-the-art mobile dental clinic that will be opening its first brick-and-mortar location. We were also brought on board by an organization that’s dedicated to restoring the oldest remaining excursion steamship in the United States to create an interactive map and travel guide, along with a full brand experience. Another project is a website that we’re designing for a creative strategy and film production company. We’re excited to launch all of this new work beginning in the fall.

A resonate brand identity for the audio design and manufacturing company, Well Rounded Sound.
Custom typography and brand identity for the interactive agency, Devona.
Print projects displayed in Hinterland's New York City studio.
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