Thomas & Jurgen

Visual and graphic designers Thomas Bevelander & Jurgen Wiegeraad, owners of the eponymous Thomas & Jurgen, recently chatted with us about how they're working on their creative process with visual jam sessions, and the benefits of getting out of the studio.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

We've known each other since high school. We were both into skateboarding and graffiti, so we got along easily. After high school, we both went to Het Grafisch Lyceum in Rotterdam. Here, we already started to fantasise about running our own design practice. After graduation, we continued our education at AKV St.Joost in Breda where we studied Graphic Design. In our last year there, we started to work on some small design jobs on the side. That’s when we decided to start our own design studio after graduation. In our first year we were able to work on a wide range of projects. This was very useful because it allowed us to discover what kind of assignments suited us best. One of the coolest projects we did that year was designing the campaign for the Graduation Show at AKV St.Joost.

How did you name your practice and what does the name represent to you?

We've taken a very long time to come up with a suitable name. At first, we came up with a list of cool names, which didn’t feel appropriate for us and the work we did. We also considered using the names of our fathers as our studio name (Nol & Pierre). In the end, we went for simplicity by using our first names: Thomas & Jurgen.

Design work by Thomas & Jurgen The Design Kids interviews Thomas & Jurgen work-2

What are your three must-read design books, blogs or podcasts and why?

We only have one book that we would really like to give the title must-read: Nea Machina. We opened this book for the first time at the end of our studies, and it gave us a perfect insight into the process of visual creation. Freeing themselves from the oppressive cage of 'service-minded design practice', the German designers Thomas and Martin Poschauko decided to go into hiding for a few months in 'Der Kreativraum', a mental space for free creation. With only two concrete sources (a portrait and a title), the brothers stepped into this space, and walked out of it four months later with a thousand new works. The brothers introduce the reader to tools such as abstraction, fragmentation, reconstruction, copying and all sorts of other techniques as part of visual making process. As far as we are concerned, this book reflects what graphic design is. It’s not so much about the end product, but focuses on the process that has led to it. A process we highly care about.

Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

We are great music lovers — jazz improvisation fascinates us enormously. We find it enchanting to hear and see how a group of musicians can create something spontaneously. As designers, we were looking for a way to break away from conventions in a similar way, and translated the core values of jazz improvisation into a design methodology. By means of so-called 'visual jam sessions', we look for ways to keep pushing the course of our process in an unknown direction, in order to create images that are not conceived, but created.

To develop this method, we decided to work outside of the studio for a few days. We rented a small house in a nature reserve, where we had 50 visual jam sessions, which led to a visual database. Back at the studio, we designed an exhibition that was dedicated to our fifth anniversary, making use of that database. Instead of looking back at the past five years, we looked ahead and only presented new work that was created by this improvisation-based design method.

Design work by Thomas & Jurgen The Design Kids interviews Thomas & Jurgen work-4
Design work by Thomas & Jurgen The Design Kids interviews Thomas & Jurgen work-4

In a design process, we create visual work as soon as possible in order to think.

What's the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The title of our exhibition was 'I'll play it first and tell you what it is later', after a well-known statement by jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. This statement symbolises our philosophy and approach. In a design process, we create visual work as soon as possible in order to think.

What's on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

With the visual jam sessions, we have found a way to systematise our way of working. In the near future, we want to explore the possibilities of our method in other contexts. We’re also on the look out for a suitable Artist in Residency. This would be a great opportunity to work outside of our studio again, and to develop the method even further.

Design work by Thomas & Jurgen The Design Kids interviews Thomas & Jurgen work-6
Design work by Thomas & Jurgen The Design Kids interviews Thomas & Jurgen work-6

Where to find Thomas & Jurgen online.

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