interview for www.designboom.com
andy butler, 2013
andy butler, 2013
andy butler: please could you tell us how you came to start your own graphic design studio?
andreas uebele: I studied architecture and urban planning at the university of stuttgart and art at the stuttgart state academy of art and design. after my diploma, I worked as an architect in the office of günter behnisch, who built the great tent stadiums for the 1972 olympic games in munich and the german parliament in bonn. during my studies and the five years in the office of behnisch & partners, where I realized books and a huge exhibition about the work of behnisch among architectural projects, I did many small, self-employed graphic design jobs like stationary and posters. after being an employee, I tried to run my own office as an architect, but after some weeks I found out that architecture is not my business. I threw away all my business cards reading 'andreas uebele architekt' and had new ones printed, reading 'büro uebele visuelle kommunikation' set in rotis.
what were some of your first projects?
the first years of self-employment were very hard. in the first months I did not know how to pay the rent. so I took the telephone book, starting with 'A', and called all 7000 architects in stuttgart, asking if they needed any stationary or a book. it took some weeks until I reached 'F' and was lucky. it was a friday afternoon and the architect I called had just realized, that he had to present a signage proposal for the building he was working on the following week and hired me.
my first significant projects after that were a catalogue for VS-möbel (a manufacturer of school-furniture), the corporate design for 'night on earth' a film by jim jarmusch, and, a few years later, the signage system for the parseval school in bitterfeld.
the catalogue for VS was very systematic, the logo for jim jarmusch was boring and generic, but the process was a funny story with a little dog. the signage system for the parseval school was important, as it was the first time we left the wayfinding display level and added an additional layer of identity and atmosphere to the place.
several years later, how has the experience of having your own studio been?
work is an important part of life and with designing things you can express thoughts about life. to decide what is right or wrong can be a playful way to develop your own world and a certain attitude. I like to create – even if that means to give a special mood to the office where the employees and I feel comfortable: the office space, the light, the furniture, the way we work. you can only realize that if you have the possibility to make decisions. when I worked as an employee, even when I appreciated my boss, I always felt like a stranger.
what is the attraction of designing identities for you?
it's a resolution. to find a simple, visual translation for the complex identity of a client or a company is a purifying process. it is like zen meditation – if the visual identity suits to the object, all persons involved are happy. by the way: the process of finding an identity does uncover all conflicts between partners or weaknesses of a company. in order to develop an identity, you need sensibility: a suitable logo needs to have the right amount of power, a bit of silence, the right balance between striking and timeless.
given your experience, are you able to design a logo or identity much quicker than before?
it remains a matter of trial and error. maybe this is an advantage – designing should always be a process. it protects you from walking into the style-trap. being able to finalize things much quicker will lead into the dangerous temptation of repetition.
what mistakes or 'traps' should a young designer avoid when working on an identity system?
do not execute the exact brief of the client. as a designer, you need distance. don't research too much, it makes you prejudiced.
what drew you to wayfinding projects and what do you enjoy most about this line of work?
it was one of my first jobs and it came by coincidence. if you have done it once then everybody wants you to do it again … signage systems can be among the most complex communication design projects. you have the opportunity to work with architects, artists, interior designers and many other disciplines. with every project you will find new circumstances, architecture, landscapes and the field of activity of the company you are working for will be different every time.
do you think it’s important for a graphic designer to be able to draw?
yes. drawing by hand is like a daily workout: the hand, holding a pencil, reacts to the eye, which gives a feedback to the brain, telling that the line you have just drawn is not nice. the muscle of your hand contracts while your eye judges the result again. it is a closed circuit that allows you to form an opinion if things are good or not, trained by your own system of values.
what are your thoughts on specialization vs generalization?
if you are too specialized, you will get problems if the market changes. if you are too generalized, you will it hard to do one thing extremely well. identity and signage projects make the biggest part of our gross income. but we try to do books, websites etc. too, even if the job is not paid very well just to avoid too much specialization. trying your hand at different things can help you find new approaches to the type of work you do most often.
besides design, what are you passionate about and why?
reading books, it's education and culture.
what is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
tell the truth.
what is the worst piece of advice you have ever been given?
tell the truth.