Pentagram’s newest partner adopts a spatial approach to graphic design and building brand identities that go way beyond logos.
Pentagram, the world’s largest independent design consultancy, applies the same unconventional thinking to its infrastructure as it does to its many client projects all over the globe. Natasha Jen, the firm’s newest hire (and first intern to return as a partner), explains that though partners do collaborate informally with one another, “it’s like running your own business.” Given that Jen only started her own practice, Njenworks, in 2010 following stints at Base, 2x4, and SYPartners, working with the “tremendous scale” of Pentagram is, she says, an “obvious” honor.
The self-described architecture enthusiast, who has worked with Rem Koolhaas’s venerated Office for Metropolitan Architec- ture, OMA offshoot REX, and experimental architecture firm SOFTlab, sees graphic design as complementary to the built world. Jen’s first order of business at Pentagram (carried over from Njenworks) is a commission from fashion company Kate Spade that reimagines the brand’s retail facade “over different spatial conditions” by developing a system of parts that can be deployed into different graphic and architectural configurations.
Jen is concerned with the interpretative quality of design, rather than adhering to a stylistic category, explaining, “My approach is more or less like a collagist, as I like to draw references from a diverse mixture of sources and create something new.” Regardless of media type—be it digital, print, or interface design for an Android smartphone, which she worked on at Njenworks—Jen sees the future of design as less compartmentalized. “I do enjoy working within these conventions,” she says, “but I think the boundary between the physical and digital world will soften.”