As is befitting a proper wunderkind, sorry wunderkinder, the outside world’s discovery of the Brothers was a matter of happenstance. Martha Stewart was working to develop its first digital issue as part of the early development group for Adobe’s new InDesign for the iPad software, and Ms. Towey contacted RISD president John Maeda.
“The director of the program calls us and says you should probably come down here since they’re looking for iPad people and you’re probably the best iPad people here,” Kirk recalled. The Muellers went to lunch with Ms. Towey and her husband, a fellow designer named Stephen Doyle. “We had a great time and then we looked them up and we were so glad that we didn’t know exactly how big of design powerhouses they are because we would have been nervous wrecks,” Nate said.
“When the brothers walked into the room, I was immediately smitten,” Ms. Towey remembered. “They handed me one résumé, and that did it for me—one résumé. They were clearly smart at marketing themselves. I thought of the Starn twins, and figured that these guys were on their way to stardom.”
Not only did the brothers prove adept at the technical side—finding bugs in the software before developers at Adobe even knew they were there, Ms. Towey said—they made a number of critical design suggestions. Along with other team members, they insisted the peony should be shuffled to the front of the issue.
“They were going to put it in one of the stories and we said, It should go on the cover,” whispered Nate.
“We should be the first to have an animated cover,” concurred Kirk, adding, “The tools were still being developed. The cover almost didn’t go out the door because of some technical difficulties. But we finally got it out.”
After the success of Boundless Beauty, Condé tapped the brothers to make their e-book process more efficient and keep the branding more in line with their individual titles. “They always try and get us full-time,” said Kirk, who also mentioned helping Mr. Dadich with the beta version of Adobe’s software. The Brothers, however, prefer working under the Studio Mercury umbrella, where they also dabble in work for the Guggenheim and the industrial design magazine Core 77.
After setting up e-book production workflows at Conde, “once a title wanted to launch a book, instead of taking a matter of weeks, it took a matter of a week,” said Kirk.
With the New Yorker political website, which is slated to launch this week, the Brothers are employing a Studio Mercury specialty called a “liquid layout,” which easily adjusts from “very large monitors all the way down to the iPad, so it scales seamlessly,” as Nate put it.
It’s easy to see how duo’s cooperative spirit is embraced by publishing design teams, but the world isn’t really built for two separate bodies who want to perceived as one unit. “Our accountant hates us,” Nate admitted.
“If we could, we would get one tax ID number,” Kirk added, wistfully. “And one Social Security number.”
Then he volunteered a mid-century cautionary tale of parents who bucked the standard practice of separating twins to foster individual growth. “The story was that because these twins weren’t separated, they didn’t develop separate identities so they became murderers … and gay,” Kirk said. “Society was saying if you don’t have separate identities—”
“—all this bad stuff can happen,” said Nate.
Although the Brothers have shared a wardrobe since high school, they didn’t start dressing alike until grad school, when, they explained, “we merged our working identity under one name.” That meant a combined Facebook profile and Twitter account, in addition to the email. In their old apartment in Park Slope, they had to institute a morning check-in about what they’d be wearing, to avoid showing up in the exact same ensemble instead of slight variations. The problem was solved with a shared “dressing area” in their Prospect Heights brownstone.
“We often wonder if throughout the majority of the day we think the exact same thoughts,” said Kirk. Or maybe it was Nate.