We've fallen in love with Lauren Grusenmeyer of Bureau Grusenmeyer, playfulness with typography and colour. Lauren keeps her mind busy by experimenting with self-initiated projects—pushing her to work/think differently. A little bit of silliness can go a long way ?
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?
As a child I was always drawing and making things with my hands. I come from an artistic family where creativity was always nurtured. However, it was not until I was 16 that I understood what I wanted to do. In that time I studied languages. We had an extremely severe teacher for which we had to write a thesis in french. I wrote mine on pop art. When finishing the project my thesis had to be printed and out of nowhere I started marking it up extensively. I added in between coloured pages for the chapters, printed out all the headings and set it in a Bauhaus font (omg), glued it all in, bought a nice cover, set the type in various sizes, tested it all out etc… I realised I had spent a lot of time on something which could also be set in a word document. I thought: is that not what a graphic designer does? Maybe I should do that? From that moment I decided that’s what I wanted to do and did not change my mind anymore.
After school I engaged in a short modelling career. Although I had the time of my life there I could not help but always think that I would much rather be a graphic designer. Everytime I was on a set I realised I wanted to co-produce with the team behind the scenes and work on the creative part of the art-direction. Eventually I quit and went studying design in Ghent – a great decision!
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
After my studies in Ghent, I studied an additional masters in Amsterdam at the Sandberg Institute. In those times I collaborated with a fellow student Ines Cox—which I had met in Ghent. Together we set up Cox & Grusenmeyer and we operated as a design team. As we did't have many jobs yet we combined our own projects with some of our first freelance jobs. Under the hidden motto “fake it until you make it” we invented a lot work in the form of self-initiated projects. This gave us a lot of stuff to work on and ensured we were in a good drive for other projects.
At one point we invented an imaginary advertising company that recycled existing advertising material into new work which we called ‘ad-art’. We designed a business plan with bold statements which we used to convince clients to work with us. In order to further propagate ourselves we designed a sales pitch in which we performed as business women. This project for sure gave us a lot of work! We did various performance selling ourselves, exposed our ad-art in multiple venues and published a book which got nominated for the Best Designed Dutch Books.
Until today I consider self-initiated projects —the ones where you engage in whatever you want, the way you want —very important for my design practice. I use it as a means to research new design strategies and play around with things that interest me. Doing something silly graphic design-ish every day gets the energy going and inspires me to find new ways of working.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.
My work has a very diverse nature. However ultimately I always think I design an identity which I then apply to diverse media such as printed matter, books, websites, exhibition design… Everything I design is a custom tailored solution to a specific design problem.
Any passion projects you would like to share?
As I mentioned earlier self-initiated projects and mindless graphic wandering are crucial to keeping my practice alive and enjoyable. I always have one self-imposed assignment on the side where I engage with a particular subject for a while. This could be really anything—from daily drawings, to collages, to a series of images I am collecting. In order to keep the experiment alive it is important that the project does not serve a certain outcome—but instead can grow freely. Sometimes it is really not clear to me for a long time why I am doing things. But I always know that if it sparkles my interests me in some way it will be of value.
Currently I am working with the wastepaper basket from my studio. As I print many things out and make a lot of collages I have a lot of waste paper that is often still of aesthetic value. I am now combining these waste pieces in random orderings in plastic folders. They are becoming one big and beautiful archive which one day I will exhibit in one form or another.
What are your highlights / biggest disasters and how have you learnt from it?
One of the jobs I enjoyed working on the most was simultaneously the biggest disaster I ever worked on. With Cox & Grusenmeyer we were hired by Murielle Scherre to rework the whole identity of the Belgian lingerie brand la fille d’O. This included redoing the logo, general typography, packaging, stylesheets, art-direction for shoots, window designs etc… They had us working on every small bit of their brand. At a certain point we even designed custom fabrics for their bikini collection.
To a large extent I still believe this was one of my dream jobs as we were very closely engaged in the working of their brand. A good design needs dialogues with the clients and from that respect this collaboration was great.
However it is also good to keep safe distances to clients, something that we did not manage so well at that time. We got overrun almost completely by this job and had very little time left to work on other things. Next to that working with a visionary fashion designer—miss Scherre—was quiet a challenge. We ended stopping the collaboration after we finished the design of their book l’amateur which celebrated their 10 years anniversary. We were really happy with the book and so was the publisher but the ending had much of an acrid after taste. Eventually she had her identity redesigned again and did not use our design. Nevertheless all this drama, I look back on this period with really good memories and loved what we made for her.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? What advice would you give students starting out?
Talent is overestimated
—working hard and diligently will get you very far.
Trust your gut
—use your intuition to your best and don’t bother too much
how it should be done.
Dream bigger than your clients
—take every assignment and use it to your advantage.
—design as you are, don’t be somebody else.
—find pleasure in doing your work.
Do one seemingly silly thing daily for a longer period of time
—enjoy the process of just doing and not knowing where you will end.
Website: bureaugrusenmeyer.comInstagram: @laurengrusenmeyer
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