Studying the ins and outs of album covers as a young one, Claus Due of Studio Claus Due, was determined to become a graphic designer, getting hooked on design—possibly even addicted to it! (we feel the same at times 😜) Hear about how he started out and some solid words of advice.
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started? I was born on the countryside of Denmark—no brothers or sisters and no internet, so I spent endless time by myself drawing and listening to music. Music has always been a big part of my life—then and now. The first time I came across graphic design was by looking at album sleeves for the vinyls I bought… I could look at these for hours… the front, back – the spine – the way the lyrics would be designed on the inner sleeves. I had no idea what graphic design was—did not know anybody doing design or caring about design for that matter. But I loved looking at album covers and knew that this is what I wanted to do one day. One of the first design jobs I did was actually an album cover for a Danish band called Nephew who later would play the Roskilde Festival for around 80,000 people.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs? I am more or less self taught. The only time I have studied design (in school) was a brief semester at the School of Visual Arts in New York. But that was all it took to get me started—I was so hooked on design, art, illustrations that I just couldn’t stop doing design… got a computer and went crazy. I love working—love designing—if I haven’t done any design for a few days I get in a bad mood.
My first jobs as a designer was doing artwork for the local record label, smaller publications for the local museum and look books for different fashion brands.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.
From an early stage on I decided that I wanted to work with art, music and fashion and that is more or less what I have been doing for 15 years now.The music scene has changed drastically and so has the fashion industry. Nowadays 90% of what I do is related to art. I work for museums, galleries and artists directly. Doing publications, posters, exhibition designs and occasionally identity work for museums.
What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate? I have tried out different sizes of the studio… at one point we were 5 people which made me super stressed out… to much administration. The perfect size for me is 3 people—2 designers (myself included) and an intern.
When I hire in younger designers—naturally I look for an interesting portfolio. Work that is new to me, contemporary looking but also good craftsmanship. I like students to have a humble attitude towards the industry—willing to learn and students who are curious by nature.
The way a graduate approaches a studio is very important to me—do they approach your studio because they really want to work with you—or are you just 1 out of 100 studios to receive their application. Most of the young designers who have been working for me have started out as an intern and ended up staying a few years. This is the best way to get your foot in the door in the design world I would say.
What has been your highlights since you started out? It is hard to pin down one or two projects. Often when I am done with a project I have a hard time looking at the result. I only see things I would have done differently. I am never 100% satisfied with my own work (and this is not false modesty). The highlights have always something to do with the process. Meeting interesting people, getting their input on your work – seeing and experiencing their way of working is a great gift to me every time.
What advice would you give students starting out? Leave your ego behind and be open for whats about to happen. Clients are not your enemies—some of the smartest people I have worked with are my clients.