Meanwhile, Nicole studied graphic design and illustration at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart where a major influence was her tutor Heinz Edelmann (creator of the Yellow Submarine illustrations). After that eye-opening visit to London, Nicole followed her sister across the channel to study as an exchange student at Camberwell, which, she says, gave her a completely new set of influences. By now she was also inspired by working digitally. “We were [both] always really interested in digital,” she says, “even when I studied illustration I did a picture font. The course wasn’t teaching that at all, we did nothing whatsoever on the computer, it was all handmade but friends of mine who were typographers started doing fonts and I thought that was amazing. So at college even, I did a picture font”.
That early example of a picture font was prescient for the work that would follow when the sisters joined forces and opened the doors of their own studio in 2004. After their studies in London Petra and Nicole had jobs at various studios in Germany and the UK, including a formative stint for both sisters at Pixelpark in Berlin, the international company that was, in those early ‘new media’ days, a pioneer in creative digital media. “It was all pre-websites,” says Nicole, “all CD-Roms. We found that really exciting. After I finished my course I read an article about them so we both applied and worked there. With that experience it was easy to find work in London.” They also worked variously at MTV, SYZYGY and the BBC (where Petra was part of the team that launched BBC News Online).