Keep it clever. Keep it clear. Creating a sustainable brand identity is the secret behind Swedish design agency Acid and Marble’s fresh approach. Their ten years in the business are testimony to the business idea that has brought about collaborations with world famous DJs, renowned restaurants and exciting and up-and-coming brands.

Chances are you’ve already seen the duo’s work. If you haven’t, you may have come across it while listening to a dance track by former Swedish House Mafia DJs Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello, or Alesso, to name a few. For Askerstam Nee and Vergara Alvarez, the creative masterminds behind Stockholm-based design agency Acid and Marble, it’s all about amplifying a client’s voice by strengthening their business benefits.

“We are a small design agency in big packaging,” says Askerstam Nee. “We are conceptual in everything we take on. A project or a job is never better than the idea behind it, regardless of how well the execution might have been. We always strive to work sustainably, with a long-term view so that it won’t feel out-dated after a few years.”

Even the company name has a deeper and more sustainable backstory than at first glance. Two minds means bigger ideas – Acid and Marble represents the balance between the two. “Acid is for Antonio, who usually takes the creative and conceptual process a few steps further,” explains Askerstam Nee. “He doesn’t seem to have a creative limit. He’s experimental and as much an art director as a designer.”

That leaves us with the other half, Marble, or Askerstam Nee. She ties the knots together. “She’ll gather and concretise ideas, and put together a guideline,” adds Vergara Alvarez. “She has a huge interest in conceptualisation and typography, and perfection. She makes sure the projects have a persistent quality from idea to execution. We are both creators and designers, which means we have two different expressions and backgrounds. We wanted our company name to capture our personal expressions.”

Acid and Marble: Sustainable and conceptual design

Left: Brand identity for record label Size Records. The project included conceptual single release design, using liquids to achieve a variety of images within the same style. Right: Packaging and brand identity for the sustainable luxury shoe brand Sweyd Footwear. The shoes are handmade in Italy and the box is produced using 100 per cent green energy recycled materials.

Baby steps

Acid and Marble took its first steps in 2011. The arrival of their first child meant they had to put the firm temporarily on hold, before bringing it back full steam in 2014. “When our working day starts, we disconnect our relationship,” says Askerstam Nee. “Even if we are in the middle of an argument!”

Their approach and unique touch on everything they put their hands on have led to commissions from all over the globe. They describe their style as modern, high-end, minimalistic. “That is probably a result of the clients we have,” explains Vergara Alvarez. “We always try to look at the business benefit for our client. We aim to land in something that feels new, but still sustainable. We try to find a nerve and still be as clean as possible in our ideas and expression, without any clutter.”

“We see our projects as collaborations,” continues Askerstam Nee. “We want our clients to be part of the whole process and be able to influence along the way. Insight is the key to success. We enjoy working on projects that tickle several senses: conceptualising a club, a dish or a menu, or staging an entire restaurant, a fashion runway, or creating a scent with a specific identity. In a previous project, a collaboration with the fashion brand Concepts d’Oeur and the music producer and artist Steve Angello, we created a graphic concept based on music. We found that very exciting. We’d love to do more projects like that, which cross the border, no matter the product or business.”

When they aren’t busy creating visual concepts for some of the biggest DJs and artists on the planet, they’re working with brands in fashion, tech, marine technology and the restaurant industry, and that’s only scratching the surface of their broad palette.

Picking up the Swedish design award, Svenska Designpriset, in 2020, for their striking work with the bar and restaurant Oxid Bar, was one recent highlight. “They are one of our later and braver clients,” says Askerstam Nee. “We created a playful logotype. More of a symbol actually. It was daring and not very traditional, especially for a bar only 20 years old.”

Acid and Marble: Sustainable and conceptual design

Brand identity for OXID Bar x Mat, a gold medalist at the Swedish Design Awards 2020.

“What inspired us here was the heritage of the venue,” adds Vergara Alvarez. “When the locals think of the nightlife in Stockholm, and Stureplan in particular, it often brings a smile to their face, a smile that feels like home, followed by a wink.”

The future is an exciting place for Acid and Marble. Plans for their own brands and projects are currently in the making – but they are still a secret at this point. If you happen to be in Stockholm in the near future, perhaps staying at Lydmar Hotel, you’ll be able to experience Acid and Marble a little bit closer. They developed a cocktail together with an in-house bartender, based on the design agency’s brand philosophy. What does it taste like? Give it a try – there’s definitely a refreshing edge of chilli and acidic lemon in there.

Acid and Marble: Sustainable and conceptual design

Left: Graphics concept for the capsule collection O-S-A, a collaboration between the fashion brand Concepts d’Odeur and artist Steve Angello, released during New York Fashion Week at the Art Director Club Gallery in Manhattan 2016. Photo: Simon Larsson. Right: Antonio Vergara Alvarez and Mia Askerstam Nee, the creative duo behind Acid and Marble.

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