The art of making two into one
Sometimes a partnership between two can create something far beyond the simple sum of one plus one. The combination produces something completely different from what the individuals involved would create as individuals. Think Laurel and Hardy, Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, Scorsese and De Niro. It can even add magic when the couple are creating separate works, like Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, or one half is providing inspiration, guidance or criticism, as was the case with Francis Bacon and George Dyer.
We decided to explore the subject by talking to creative couples who we know personally or have admired from afar. We were curious about how they sparked one another’s creativity, whether their relationship predated their work. And whether they believed that the whole is always greater than the sum of its two parts, or just something different.
Britt Iversen and Anna Gerber are storytellers and, as Visual Editions, they tell those stories in any number of ways, from a twist on old-school book publishing to pushing the boundaries of the latest technology to see what happens. What’s important is that genuinely human stories are told. In practice, this can mean coming up with the concept for Jonathan Safran Foer’s D&AD award-winning Tree of Codes, a book painstakingly made by die-cutting the words from an existing book. Or crafting bedtime stories for adults, to be listened to in hotel rooms with Ace Hotel Group. And working with Mercedes-Benz in using adaptive technology to tell a story by mobile that changes according to the environment the car is driving through. Recently, they responded to the lockdown by creating Stories of Splendid Isolation with the help of Google Assistant – writers sharing recordings of short stories, thoughts, reflections for people to listen to each day. We caught up with them to find out about why two is better than one for them.
How did the two of you meet?
At our kids’ nursery, if you can believe it. (Kids are now 16 and 17!). We were the only parents wearing a lot of colour. And we bonded over a similar pink scarf.
How quickly did you find yourselves working together?
A few years after our first pink scarf moment and a couple kids’ birthday parties later, the two of us went out to dinner in the Southbank. And we found ourselves talking about ‘what ifs’ and ‘wouldn’t it be great’ and the idea of Visual Editions kicked off from there. Initially, it was something for us to do alongside our day jobs (Anna was teaching at LCC and Britt was a strategist at Mother).
Did you produce work as individuals before you met?
We did a lot of great work before we met. But the work we do together is so much better.
Do you still work as individuals now as well as your collaborative work?
Everything we do now is under the Visual Editions/A+B banner.
How long have you worked together?
Do you work together physically in the same space?
We have a gorgeous studio space tucked under the Westway and overlooking an oasis of a courtyard. But lockdown has moved us from our studio space into working from home. We miss sharing the same physical space for sure but we’re fiendish when it comes to working in Google Slides. So, while less fun, the work is still very fertile.
What’s your day-to-day working process?
We start every day, whether face-to-face or now in our Covid bedrooms, with what we call our 10am granny coffee. It’s about carving out space to catch up with each other, hear how we are as people and if we’ve had any overnight thoughts. Or shower thoughts. There are always plenty of both. From there, we prioritise the week and the day. This tends to change every day, pending so many different variables.
What’s the division of labour between the two of you?
Anna is the Creative Director and Britt is the Strategic Director. You could say that Anna is the strategic creative and Britt is the creative strategist. In reality, Anna has a better understanding of design vernacular, and Britt a better handle on insights, but really, we share one brain and pull different levers depending on what the project needs.
Do you have distinctly defined roles when working?
It’s funny because we have distinctly defined roles but they change depending on the project and the phase of the project. Anna can be super detailed and Britt can be very big picture. But this can also be inverted and Anna is all about broad concepts and Britt is more pragmatic and logistic. We’ve worked together for so long now and weathered so many personal and professional storms together that our distinctly defined roles are intuitively fluid in the best possible way.
Do you always see eye-to-eye on everything or does work come from more of a sense of competitiveness or argument?
It would be kind of weird if we never argued or disagreed. Sometimes we find that we’re saying exactly the same thing but in a different way. Which is nice because it shows the other person that there’s another angle or a corner that one of us hadn’t thought about or seen. Which makes for better work, for sure.
Do you have a strong personal relationship outside of your professional one?
Yes! Running a business is an intimate affair. Beyond our business partnership we connect as friends, mothers, pretend-sisters and each others’ biggest fans.
Could you imagine working any other way now?
We can imagine working away from Visual Editions one day. But still working together.
Images provided by Visual Editions.