My mother was a kindergarten teacher and therefore she always thought it was important for children to draw and tinker. This of course had nothing to do with art but with pedagogy. I learned early that I had much attention and praise from my mother when I showed her drawings that I had made. So I drew a lot. A foreshadow that I could possibly make money with this, I got on an album by Bob Dylan. I found Dylan incredibly cool and wanted to be like him, but I realised that this was too high. I could not play guitar and I was not an American. But the album—Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits—was equipped with a poster made by Milton Glaser. This poster is, in my opinion, still one of the best works graphic-design has to offer. The black silhouette of Bob Dylan on white background with just his hair in colour. Coarse and brisk drawn. Today I know how difficult it is to make a poster that looks so simple, at the time I thought: if I can not be Bob Dylan, I will try to be Milton Glaser.
I studied at the University of the Arts (UdK) in Berlin. Once a year there was a competition among the students for a poster and campaign of the largest Berlin art exhibition back then. This apparent implicitness, this simpleness of the Dylan poster by Milton Glaser was and still is a guide for me, I want my work to look simple. The viewer should always have the feeling: I can do that too. In any case, computers were still relatively new at the time, and my fellow students put themselves into the test, creating the most irrational and complex forms. I took a counter position by writing the name of the exhibition on the paper with a thick black pen. This simplicity in terms of concept and execution was likely a thing for the commission in any case, I had won the competition, resulting in my first customer who was loyal to me for many years.
The intellectual and technical mastery of our discipline is, of course, a prerequisite. In addition, I look whether the portfolio shows something mind-boggling. I am not interested in the skilful handling of contemporary fonts, packaged in the spirit of time. That looks too good to me. I prefer work that dares to be slightly ugly. Something a bit off. Where the stereotypes about what is good and what does not look good is put to the test.
I have been teaching at different art schools for many years. Apart from the fact that I have so much fun teaching, it is also important for my own work. First and foremost, I have the opportunity to share my knowledge to the students, as a side effect, I get a deep insight into the way of thinking of another generation. I am 50 years old and have to position myself in our company in an ever-changing industry. The biggest mistake a designer can make when he gets older, is to ridicule the ideas of the younger and take a 'Everything was better before' position. These young people will be my competitors in a very short time. I must know exactly what is going on.
This is a wide field. A lot is going to change, we've been aware of it for quite a while. The biggest problem seems to me the increasing economic marginalisation of graphic design. Graphic design will probably continue as an artistic, autonomous discipline with very small sales. I am afraid that within the next five years the offices with a too much of a narrow service will disappear. Therefore, it may be interesting to embed graphic design into much broader strategies. Advice that goes beyond problem solving.
Probably this is very important. I know, however, very few people who are really good at networking. I’m certainly not one of those. It is also so difficult to be a good designer and a good networker at the same time. Both require so many different skills that often stand in the way of each other. A successful career starts with outstanding work. Based on this, a strong network is important. Just because someone is doing outstanding work, doesn't mean clients will suddenly appear. You constantly have to tell them that you are there.