Authencity and Conciseness

The following text is from an interview with German website Codingpeople.

Hugo, can you give us an overview on your creative path until now?

I was born in Cologne in 1988 and I always enjoyed to draw, paint, create. As a child I had a whole lot of different hobbies (same thing today) and at around 15 I got the first computer and I started to get massively interested in Photoshop, Illustrator, Fontlab etc. — after a bunch of bumpy experiments and long afternoons on tutorial websites I gradually developed a deep love to graphic design which also covered many other areas such as — obviously — typography and photography, but also architecture, fashion, film …

In the following years regularly all my savings went into books and magazines, as I was constantly on the search for new sources of inspiration and motivation, intriguing works and exciting people to look up to. Because I think I was on the search for a certain “lifestyle” too … I daydreamed a lot … I always wanted to be a designer and to be able to realise my visions one day.

In the beginning of 2005 I found myself with a pool of many different ideas and drafts and so I decided to launch my own t-shirt label named PIQTO. I was simply a bit fed-up with my designs being only on harddrives and various internet platforms and wanted to expose my work to the “real” world and give them a new purpose. The label progressed and quickly and soon comprehended much more than only t-shirts. I produced stickers, posters, catalogues, websites and lots of photo shoots — everything in a naïvely autodidactic manner and with a relentless hunger for new ways of expression.

After the highschool diploma and during Zivildienst (civil service — which was then still mandatory in Germany) I finally decided to try studying in Switzerland — an idea that had bred over the years. I loved the “Swiss style” and admired many of the contemporary but also the classic Swiss designers such as the great Adrian Frutiger, who I visited back then in his house close to Bern together with my mother and my grandfather. Back in Cologne while being on one of my expeditions to Buchhandlung Walther König I stumbled across a heavy black book of the ECAL (University of Art and Design Lausanne) which I was very fascinated by. And because I liked the work of the teachers at ECAL and the ex-students (and because I prefered the chance to learn French over Swiss-German) I gave it a try — this was in early summer 2008.

During my studies in Switzerland I made two internships …

… these two internships at Mirko Borsche and Mike Meiré brought you to two stars of the design scene — can you tell us about this experience?

The first internship I did was at Bureau Mikro Borsche in Munich during the summer holidays in 2009. Back then I applied pretty spontaneously and was very happy for having the chance to work with one of my idols.

The time in the Bureau was wonderful. On the first day I already got to work “from scratch” on a new project for a new client, the redesign of the independent Munich city magazine Super Paper. We experimented a lot and finally decided to use my freshly-designed Grace Jones Typeface for the logo and all the headlines on the inside. In the following weeks I then worked closely together with the team: the then-intern Timm Häneke and the employees Johannes von Gross and David Henne — but I was also lucky to be able to also help out a little on other projects such as the redesign of “Weltkunst” together wie Alexis Zurflüh. Mirko of course was always very present in every project and for me it was amazing to experience working with the master himself!

But it was not only the designing and artistic skills of the people but also the professional and at the same time amazingly familiar atmosphere in the team — but also towards clients and other visitors of the bureau. This left a great impression on me and I often think back about that time and this certain spirit.

I’m glad to have kept the contact to the crew alive and I’m always up-to-date on what is happening in Munich. Later I once again interviewed Mirko for an ECAL project …

After the time Munich I began my third and fourth semester during which I worked simultaneously in Berlin for the website of the 032c magazine. Previously I made an interview with Jörg Koch (founder and editor-in-chief of 032c) in Lausanne when he stayed there for giving a workshop at our school.

In summer 2010 I was offered an internship at Meiré und Meiré. I was immediately on fire, because not only were they doing great projects since a long time (and I always wanted to work and get to know the people there) but also because the “factory” — as the building of the agency is called — was in my hometown by chance. I had a unforgetable time in Cologne and could collect many important impressions. But besides that I had the plan to not only “just” work there, but to interview the employees and above all Mike, who I could convince to record an extensive conversation with me …

On which specific projects could you work on?

In Munich — as stated above — mainly on the Super Paper redesign. In Cologne on everything that was pending at that time: brandeins, 032c, Mini, NZZ, …

It surprised me and obviously made me satisfied that I was indeed useful and that even as an intern one you were directly accepted as a helping had. Because I think that initially I imagined everything to be slightly more elitist somehow — but this is also something such experiences teach you: when you are right in the middle of the action such “institutions” are being demystified — in a positive sense.

What was the most exciting thing you for you during that time?

Obviously everything was very new and very exciting for me; all the processes, the conversations, the communication to clients and other visitors … also simply the “everyday live” was pretty cool to experience, because it was the first time that I was right in the middle of the action … that I only knew from books and the internet before …

Such an internship certainly means lots of work and I guess a good amount of stress — was there something that really got on your nerves sometimes?

Probably some people hate me for my relentless positivity but I really can’t think of something negative! And why should I? I’m in this thing with such a passion — it’s as if you would ask a young football fan if it was getting on his nerves to practice with the pro’s!

Of course it became a bit stressful and exhausting at times but if you are so committed to the thing you’re doing — then everything becomes a postive experience somehow …

Has your work changed you? You already have “airs and graces”?

It would a pity if I would have to negate the first question! Of course the work in both studios had a great impact on me, all the different impressions were very valuable for my further path as a graphic designer and for my studies at that time — but also for my personal projects.

Having “airs and graces” would be unprofessional and inappropriate. In my profession I try to perform as professional as possible and I simply want to do great work. On paper Mirko and Mike are two pretty reknowned graphic designer of their generation and of course I appreciate and respect both of them a lot. However, they are only humans too which was also an important lesson for me as I tended to put people like that too much on a pedestal in the past. With all due respect you have for your idols you should not be dazzled or blocked about it!

What advice can you give to the next generations of interns?

Apart from the things I mentioned before, I think that when it comes to “official” matters in an application, authencity and conciseness have more impact than formal perfection. And the classic advice is probably really the most important: Don’t fear to make mistakes. It’s better to fail than not trying at all. American writer Seth Godin once said this very cleverly:

“The only thing worse than starting something and failing … is not starting something.”

What are your next plans? What are your aims for the future?

After graduating last summer I’m back in Cologne to work (apart from my personal projects) full-time as a graphic designer and art director for Meiré und Meiré. I’m just feeling very fine here and at the moment I don’t know why I should leave so fast … the projects are fun and very instructive so the work feels like second studies, as I can still learn so much every day.

But even if I’m pretty happy at the moment, I still aim to explore so much of the world in the next decades and I also want to experience how it feels on other continents to work, live and love.