“onlab – specializes in graphic design with a compelling story to tell – is not an ordinary design studio. Based in Berlin, it both works with clients and creates its own books, and operates around a single philosophy: that design is a narrative that can change how people approach the world.”

The Wall Street Journal, A. Losowsky, 31.07.2009


The Swiss graphic design agency onlab – founded in 2001 and based in Berlin, Germany – works on commissioned, collaborative as well as self initiated design projects. The focus of the commissioned work lies in editorial design and visual communication projects.


The publication has seven chapters and is printed in the two colors blue and red, giving it a consistent look though every chapter follows a different design approach. Each chapter is a poster of 50 x 70 cm on one side and once folded it reveals the double spreads of the publication on the other side. The seven chapters are bound together with rubber bands.


With a photographic approach, the first chapter tells the story of the 50s optimism for and trust in big institutions like the World Bank to solve global problems.


A diagrammatic approach was chosen in the second chapter to visualize the chain reactions caused by the ‘Green Revolution’ – a structural aid programme that aimed at fighting famine by means of food modification, fertilisers and pesticides.


‘Development Vocabulary for Western Donors’ is the title of the third chapter that winkingly shows the use of language in fundraising. Drawings of typical fundraising images illustrate this chapter and confront the serious language definitions with irony.


Development aid as a new form of colonization that introduce free market economies is the topic of the forth chapter. Here it’s mainly typography that is used to express the structural adjustment policies at place.


In the fifth chapter participation is examined as a transitory strategy to improve human development – a transition from big organizations to grass-roots organizations representing the voice of the people is visualized by means of color gradients.


In the sixth chapter it was decided to superimpose front and back side with the second chapter. The second chapter tells the story of a large-scale strategy that went wrong. It is standing on the backdrop of this chapter that deals with the necessity to admit failure in order to stop it from repeating itself globally.


Finally, ‘Brand New Ways to Save the World’ are examined in the last chapter giving a positive outlook.