Behind-the-Scenes with Our Head of Hardware Simon Merz

Dinamo Hardware Simon Merz Portrait 2023 Newsletter UNLOCKED Low Res

Dinamo Hardware — our serious effort to transform type thinking into silly, tangible goods — finally comes out of the dark today, courtesy of Head of Hardware Simon Merz. Below, our Head of Publishing Madeleine Morley caught up with him to talk about the making of our new UNLOCKED COLLECTION.

Simon in berlin
Dinamo Hardware Unlocked Ninja Turtles News Interview Simon Merz

Simon: Before you called I was just thinking about, like, how I got into everything. And it all makes so much sense.

Maddy: Ooh, what does?

Simon: Like, how I got into making objects. And how it really goes back to my earliest childhood memories. When I was a little kid, I was completely obsessed with toys and action figures. They were everything to me. I kept all the packages of my Ninja Turtles and could never throw them away.

I remember being in seventh grade and some people were already in puberty. I was such a late bloomer and still secretly playing with my action figures. I was honestly a little afraid that I would never be able to stop playing with them.

Maddy: And you haven’t been able to stop…

Simon: Exactly, I never did. Because then I got into skateboarding and it became about all the gadgets and gear. And now I’m making these products.

Dinamo Hardware Unlocked Simon Skateboard Kid

Maddy: What was it about the Ninja Turtles?

Simon: It was the physical form of them. And the Power Rangers. I had a Batman with a paraglider. I threw it from the balcony and he broke. Then I fixed him myself in my dad’s garage. I was always building things for my action figures in the garage.

Maddy: So how did you get into making actual products?

Simon: Skateboarding was another toy for me but also so much more than a toy, because it has all this culture around it and is completely identity building. I always thought about what stickers I had, how to put the grip tape to put on my board. I was very into the details. And this filtered into my career as a graphic designer. Towards the end of my BA, I realised that I was really into books. I wrote my masters thesis about publishing as an artwork and the book as object. And then I started my own little publishing platform, WTP—PP.

With WTP—PP, I was making publications, but I’d also be printing a T-shirt, making this very specific label for it, bringing it to the sewer and instructing them how to cut it. And through T-shirts, I wondered, could I make a fully metal keychain? Product design was another way to create something physical. To take an object from my mind and make it a reality.

Dinamo Hardware Unlocked Mood Candle Multi 1
Dinamo Hardware Unlocked Mood Pencil 1
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Keychain: “This keychain is kind of the perfect embodiment of what we want Dinamo Hardware 2.0 to be. It’s literally transforming software into hardware, with the Maxi typeface logo turned into a metal object. I had this idea after one of the first conversations with Johannes, where he handed me the metaphorical key to the hardware warehouse. We also used this idea for our introduction animation (created with Michi Schmidl) where the key unlocks the new collection. It was produced in a small town in Austria and was the first one of the new products to be ready. Therefore it became some kind of north star for the other products to follow.”

Bodysoap: “We pressed the stamp into the soap ourselves, which (according to multiple YouTube channels) should have a been an easy thing but turned out to be quite a struggle. We purposely chose a charcoal soap since it creates quite a mess while showering but rewards you with the softest skin you’ve ever had. The soap itself is made in the alps. Shout out to SORRY Press for the plug and SOBEDO for the production.”

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Maddy: Why are details important?

Simon: I think magic happens in the details. These days, we’re surrounded by so much content and stuff that what’s meaningful is nuance and reference points. Quality and thought is meaningful, because everything is so easy to make and produce today. The challenge is to make something that’s good.

Maddy: You talked about the book as object. For me, it can sometimes feel like you’re turning objects into books… Or rather, these things with stories and meaning contained in the details.

Simon: Absolutely. And I think people can feel when you put that extra 2% in.

Maddy: How did you start working with us at Dinamo?

Simon: I met Johannes in Vienna. I shot him a message on Instagram when I saw he was in town and met him and Elias in a bar. It was very late at night, we were about to go home. And we just clicked. The next thing you know, I’m in Berlin, and he’s asking me if I wanted to do what I do with WTP—PP, but for Dinamo. And the crazy thing about that was because only a few days before, I had decided to stop WTP—PP.

Johannes and Simon

Simon + JB

Simon and Elias

Simon + Elias

Maddy: Crazy how things can align like that sometimes…

Simon: I’d just had this long conversation with my girlfriend and was like, I can’t do this anymore. Shipping the products, distributing them. It was a one man show and it became too much. I have a graphic design studio that I run on the side. And this stuff was costing me too much money and time. I love creating the objects but all those other elements can overshadow the joy.

Maddy: And we’ve got our own shipping and distribution already built in.

Simon: Exactly. It’s weird retrospectively looking at all the years I did that thing, and on social media it can look like it was very fun — and it was fun — but there was also a lot of hardship. A lot of: Oh god, how do I ever make this sustainable?

Maddy: What’s it like creating objects for a type foundry?

Simon: You have this slogan on the website’s Hardware page, about “transforming type thinking into tangible objects.” I love that. As a fan, as an outsider, of Dinamo, I always thought about it as so much more than a type foundry — it’s a way of thinking. The challenge became: To apply that way of thinking to objects.

For me, a lot of this comes down to authenticity. So I always thought about bringing that feeling to the objects I created. It’s not just slapping your logo onto a T-shirt, it’s about creating something weird, original, and real. That comes through in the details, nuances, and thinking around an object.

Maddy: So you created this collection of objects for us — a season which we’ve been talking about internally as Hardware 2.0. A serious relaunch. How did you think about curating what the final line-up would be?

Simon: We tried to create a mix of home goods and office goods, and also a bit of apparel. To create a real sense of range. We want people to see that, okay, this is something new. A whole new world.

Dinamo Hardware Candle Digital BTS News Simon Unlocked
Candles Hardware Truck Simon
Dinamo Hardware Unlocked Packaging Emboss Candle AB Candle
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ABCandle: “My friend Julian Paula from Vienna produced these with us. It was complicated because we needed to use a three-casting technique to create the three color effect. It took us a while to figure it out. Julian produced everything on an island in Denmark. And he had to pick up the raw beeswax from the one tiny post office by the port.”

Pencil (3-Pack): “I sketch a lot in my process, so I’ve always loved a good pencil. And this one is a good one. It’s wooden, six-sided. and black through-dyed with a satin black polish, so it stays black even when sharpened. The eraser comes in a nice off-white attached to an aluminium ferrule. It’s produced by a small family business in Switzerland.”

Maddy: There is a real allergic reaction that people feel to some brand’s leaning into the word “authentic” in inauthentic ways right now, and how merch can turn people into walking billboards for a company. So can you tell me a little bit more about the intricacy of navigating creating what is essentially merch for a brand, but also something that isn’t really merch at all? You’re making merch that’s not merch?

Simon: I think that comes down to what we talked about earlier. The nuances or the details. For example, we created the beeswax candle in the three colors of the ABC logo of Dinamo, because I thought the simplicity of it is amazing. Then we combined three forms that are also in the logo: A triangle, circle and square. Dinamo is engraved on one side of the candle. It’s a very special thing. A special object where the intrinsic value of it is clear. It’s special — and not only because its related to say, your favorite type foundry.

Maddy: There’s both an absurdity and beauty in it. It’s this beautiful, carefully crafted object. But then you can melt it away. You can burn it. I find that combination quite interesting.

Simon: Oh, that’s a good point. But also, it’s a candle and you could burn it if you want, but you hopefully like it so much that you can never burn it. It’s like owning a beautiful art book that you rarely look at but having it makes you feel connected to the artist. It’s about the aura an object gives you.

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Office Mug: “These are produced in Japan by a small family business, and this is the first time they’ve produced the mug in pink. It’s stackable so if you get more than one, you can stack them together on a shelf. The design plays with this idea of not taking things too seriously — even though it’s something for the office. You can tell with how the Dinamo caterpillar destroys the type lock up on the back.”

Different Times T-Shirt: “When creating and curating a line-up for this new season, it was important to me to have something in the mix that people are already familiar with. So we all agreed that there needs to be another version of the “Different Times” shirt. It’s an absolute classic, a Dinamo Hardware™ staple. I had the honor to chose this years print-color for it. I went with purple in the end since it matches nicely with the other products and fits right into the zeitgeist (BAM forever!). The shirt is produced in Portugal by Assembly, and got silkscreened in Berlin by the lovely people at Strict Textildruck.”

Maddy: What is it about creating something with an aura? Why do you enjoy it?

Simon: For me personally, a lot it has to do with the process of creating something and how it sparks my curiosity. And then owning nice things also gives you a certain feeling. When I go to Johannes’ house, I come in and I feel home, because there’s so much stuff everywhere. It’s like a museum where I can see what he’s all about. At home, I have a lot of things standing around, books and figurines. I feel like I’m creating my own world through putting them all together. That is what I’ve always been about.

Maddy: What world do the objects you’ve created for our new Hardware season live in?

Simon: They’re all, in the own way, a little bit cute. The color palette we chose brings this out (I’m thinking about the light pink). They’re a bit cute and not too serious. They’re all very well and locally produced.

Maddy: How do you want people to feel when they use them?

Simon: I want them to feel a little inspired maybe. For example, ever since my milk glass mug arrived, I drink every morning from it and it makes me feel a bit lighter. It chills me down the 2% that I need to be chilled down. I love how I can faintly see the coffee in the slightly transparent glass and its cozy color. So yeah, it calms me down.

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Apple Big Cap: “I’ve had a screenshot of the NYC New York City baseball cap on my Desktop for over two years. I always wanted to do something with it. I immediately connected the dots for Dinamo Hardware and sort of bootlegged the design, having it read ABC Dinamo Typefaces. I designed it with typefaces from Dinamo that look a bit like the original, so ABC Synt and ABC Diatype.”

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Dinamo Hardware Unlocked Mug 2 3 Michelle Mantel 2023 Web

Maddy: This calm vibe also comes through the embossed packaging. It’s quiet but impactful.

Simon: I had this idea very early on, of showing on the front of the package what’s inside. It’s very straight forward and very Dinamo. This idea that the object inside is pressing out against the cardboard. So we embossed instead of printing. It references the physicality of the object. It’s like, hey, we’re a type foundry, but these are physical objects. And then the packaging becomes an object itself. Something that people will have a very hard time throwing away.

Maddy: Like your Ninja Turtles.

Simon: I was going to say them same. When I couldn’t throw the packaging away.

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