Life after Ello: Boulder design firm Berger & Föhr returns to its roots

Exploring the interplay of art + design

By Tatyana Sharpton Jan 9 2020

Boulder, with its world-class mountain lifestyle and abundant natural beauty, attracts creatives and designers of all persuasions. This natural pull helps make the city one of the nation’s notable design hubs, even given its relatively small size.

Todd Berger and Lucian Föhr run decade-old local design shop Berger & Fohr, with headquarters just a block east of the Pearl Street Mall’s west end at 1100 South Spruce Street.

And they’re nearly two years in getting back to design + art after a five-year sojourn developing social media platform Ello, an ad-free social space for creatives, artists and designers they launched in 2013. Ello met immediate attention with users and investors, gathering so much traction that others in the company sought to make it more mainstream.

Suddenly, Berger and Föhr were spending all their time maintaining the platform and dealing with boards and funds in lieu of art and design work. So they sold Ello in 2018 to art networking firm Talenthouse.

(You have seen Berger and Föhr’s work in BMoCA’s branding redesign and popular boutique farm-to-table company Blackbelly).

Some of Berger and Föhr’s local work.

Art + Design

Föhr and Berger with latest material experiments on the table. Image: Tatyana Sharpton.

Many designers see themselves as artists and hire their talents out as designers. It’s a common tension in the design world, and one Berger & Föhr feel acutely.

The friends established the design firm with the goal of providing high-level brand consulting and identity work to businesses and individuals while also facilitating the exploration of their joint artistic ventures. As designers, the duo focuses on clean, aesthetic systems to communicate clear messaging for its clients.

Berger & Föhr’s downtown office presents a compelling intro to the firm. You can see in, but the glass doors only have handles on the inside. Clean white walls and light wood floors offer openness and clarity, with large framed posters showcasing primary hues and simple shapes.

They bake a deep art ethos into their commercial design work. As part of their refocus from Ello, the duo recently opened a new art studio in Lyons to focus on creating art, and for bigger experiments and projects. The art side of their business practice allows the two to dive deeper into the nature of visual communication, a space to ask open-ended questions and evolve as makers.

Good design involves clear problem-solving, finding space for creativity within boundaries and constraints to achieve very specific client goals. Fine art allows for an open-ended exploration of concepts and materiality. Their art and design interplays seamlessly, as systems and structures (from materials to proportions, textures and colors) bleed over and blur the lines constantly.

In one series, they built elaborate stretchers and rather than paint on the front as with traditional paintings, they specially mixed and poured paint into the canvas’s backside, installing the piece on the wall with its back facing out. “Convergence – Divided.” Image: Berger & Fohr

“Our philosophy is moving, morphing constantly… It’s not right for any philosophy of art and design to be fixed. Only constant is rapid change,” Todd says. “We pride ourselves on the ability to adapt, spot trends, embrace technology in design and work. Often our artwork is in rebellion against technology.”

Recent projects have included branding for clients such as Atlas, Hampton Architecture, Offline, Onda, Tres Birds.

The two designers also recently launched a fine art website,, which houses their recent art projects and collections which viewers can view and purchase.

Along with continuing their identity work and consultation for brands and individuals, Berger & Föhr sell art every week online and steadily receive commissions and show opportunities, such as a group exhibit titled “Crossing Borders” the firm will partake in on February 6th at Boulder Commons in tandem with local nonprofit There With Care.

Berger & Föhr’s identity overlay for ATLAS. Image: Berger & Föhr

Header Image: Todd Berger and Lucian Föhr at their Spruce Street studio. Image: Tatyana Sharpton.