photo of Remai Modern Museum

Creative Voices

Designing Modern: karlssonwilker and the Remai Modern Museum

By Dan Cowles

In case you missed it, a huge world-class modern art museum just opened in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. We went behind the scenes to see how New York design studio karlssonwilker helped the Remai Modern brand and design this beautiful new space.

Exterior signage and identity designs by karlssonwilker.  

There was some initial discontent around Saskatoon when the Remai chose a New York firm to design their new museum’s branding, signage, wayfinding, and other elements. Locals were concerned that some monolithic and expensive big city design firm with no connection to the local community had been picked to design what will be a very important Saskatoon institution. But anyone who knows anything about karlssonwilker and how its founders work knows that those concerns were unfounded, since karlssonwilker is anything but a stuffy, expensive, “city slicker” design firm.

The founders of karlssonwilker, German-born Jan Wilker and Icelander Hjalti Karlsson, met while working for Stefan Sagmeister and joined forces in 2001 (after Stefan had left for one of his “yearlong sabbaticals”). Since then, they have intentionally kept karlssonwilker small, and they continue to work the same way: they approach projects as outsiders, starting from scratch with no assumptions, and through exhaustive research, discovery, and exploration they land on their best possible solution. It’s a technique honed through past projects such as 12 Days in Serbia and their work for the Museum of the Moving Image, among many others.

The Remai project took longer and was far more involved than most projects they’ve done. But it was a truly rewarding experience, and they enjoyed working with the Remai’s executive director, Gregory Burke, and his team, helping to create a world-class museum experience.

Learn more about the project in our video—click on the image to watch:

photo of Hjalti Karlsson and Jan Wilker