We ask Eike König, world renowned graphic designer and founder/director of the leading Berlin-based creative studio HORT, some questions.
I am still running those workshops without a computer, as I still feel that it’s a good experience for everyone to do things by hand. Being involved in a physical moment that throws you back and gets you out of your comfort zone. Looking back at 2011, it is safe to say that my workshops are getting more and more diverse and currently I’m also engaging myself in one on visual research that actually includes a computer. I’m absolutely not against technology in any way, but I do feel it can be excluded if it fits the cause.
I can only recommend putting your computer aside every once in a while, as it will enhance your practice as a designer.
I just did a workshop —together with Anne, my girlfriend, who is a business designer at Fjord Berlin— at Strelka in Moscow and it was about service design – where strategy, methods and street interviews meet prototyping.
Well, missing… I don’t know if the computer free practice is something they explicitly need, but I do think that it definitely proves to be a valuable experience which gives you a different perspective on creating solutions as a designer. It is more complicated, but works highly refreshing for your brain. I see it as an alternative process that has a different, yet important, value opposed to the act of designing digitally. Therefore I can only recommend putting your computer aside every once in a while, as it will enhance your practice as a designer.
At the HfG I teach researching in the intersection of design and art. My students are a diverse group - painters, sculptors, photographers, illustrators and graphic designers. My role is not to tell them what is right or wrong, but to ask questions. Support the thoughts of a discourse on life, art and practice and therewith create a space where all this can happen and help them in finding their questions and route to develop themselves. This includes taking them to excursions, artist talks, gallery tours and feeding a deep interest in the history of their own and other artistic disciplines.
I grew up without computers and the internet. The only way to research anything was to ask the professor or go to a library. I am happy that nowadays there’s that incredible option to research anything via the internet, but as I mentioned before, I’m afraid that at one point all the information which is offered to us will be based on our personal profile, proven by earlier interests and our Google history. Therefore it is very important that we learn how to gain knowledge beyond the paradigms and our personal discours, based on those things most clicked or liked.
As our profile has changed over the years, from image-makers to identity creators, we are looking for people that are both strong in concept and form creation.
I organize this weekly lunch talk with my students about contemporary graphic design, where everyone present discusses the latest input, ideas and thoughts on issues like this. For me personally it also forms a good opportunity to get a different and critical point of view on things that actually happen in the discipline. At the same time I am coaching the people who participate on how to start their own practice, how to deal with clients and how to present their work, on- and offline.
Everything is in a constant change. I have to be open for this process and progress at all times, but I can’t deny that it’s a lot of work.
Two times a year there’s an one-month window to apply as an intern at HORT. A group of HORT members first goes over all the portfolios that come in and I get involved in the discussion about the final five to end up with two people. As our profile has changed over the years, from image-makers to identity creators, we are looking for people that are both strong in concept and form creation. Still, we always decide on two completely opposite interns, who will have to work together intensely over the course of the six month. I feel that it is a great chance for them to learn from each other and hopefully even become friends…
There’s no difference in how I speak to a student or to an intern, who might has finished his degree already, as I think that there’s no real difference between people who are still at the University or in the business world; ‘amateurs’ and ‘professionals’. I feel like everyone is a grownup and has a creative mindset.
Working with these young people is a good chance for us as the HORT team to get inspired by their new perspectives, which often reach beyond our own.
For sure, the experience in a design studio like HORT is different than still being in school as we are working in the context of earning money. Most of the work we are doing is commissioned and has to deal with budgets, timelines and the wonderful experience of working together with people that might not understand or like your ideas. What we try to do is to help them understand how this world works and how these young people can build an attitude and a willingness to fight for their idea.
We do support them in finding solutions that might not be sold instantly, but are intrinsically connected to their own thinking. That’s the big difference.
Working with these young people is also a good chance for us as the HORT team to get inspired by their new perspectives, which often reach beyond our own.
I believe that diversity is the key to growth. Both of these opposite talents will bring their own experiences, education, way of thinking and methods of doing to the studio. By putting them together, they both can learn from the other perspective of the other. I feel it is one of the essential things we can actually do to potentially create an interesting dynamic, don’t you think?
Honestly, I don’t have the feeling that it’s the case at the moment, but I am trying to trigger this in every encounter I have with these young people. I know there’s still a movement in design which aims to get deeper into philosophy, history and especially in our school system which enables young designers to get their practical diploma based on a good theoretical foundation, which will stimulate the right critical questions.
I believe that we all should try our best to continue hacking the system. By understanding it, we can actively change it the way we want it at any moment.
I feel that it’s very important that the dialogue between designers and those having the theoretical knowledge, like professors, for the younger generations continues to find the right sources and theoretical inspiration to question what came before them. Hopefully this doesn’t fade away.
The future will be confusing. We are facing big changes and movements. Everything happens simultaneously and it’s happening faster and faster. Despite this being the case, I don’t fear technology. What I fear is that we lose real understanding of the language of the technology we use. I believe that we all should try our best to continue hacking the system. By understanding it, we can actively change it the way we want it at any moment.
What has inspired me recently, basically from the moment of being together with Anne, is the idea of design thinking – design doing, design culture. It’s totally new for me to see how she works, but at the same time I also find a lot of things that match my creative process and thinking. I feel that we will need more of this particular mindset in all kinds of businesses and even government services.
But first: Do good and good will come.
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Daniël Sumarna is an art director that moves between advertising, fashion, strategy and product development.