You've made several efforts in the past to share your creative process openly to students & young designers in particular. Did you make an effort to document the year as a whole?
Stefan: Yes, I kept a diary during the entire year. It even got published as a little for free paper promo by Appleton. A heavily edited version appeared in Communication Arts.
Are there ‘first principles’ that have guided your design approach from the beginning?
Stefan: Or has this changed this over time? If so, what guided the change?
Stefan: I remember looking through graphic design books as a student and being aware that most of the work in there was interesting to graphic designers but might leave a general audience, the one for which most of the pieces were designed for, cold. When I worked for a large ad agency in Asia I learned in a very compressed time about all the tings I never wanted to do again.
Tibor Kalman proofed a big influence and turning point, I learned about the importance of intelligent clients (they often produce intelligent services and products). The most surprising insight I learned at M&CO was that their superior work was as much influenced by Tibor's amazing ability to sell an idea intact to a client as it was by their design abilities.
If a young designer, just starting out after college, asks for advice, what might you say?
Stefan: Look for a design company that does the kind of work you want to do. Try really hard to get a job with them. Work your ass off. Then start your own place. Its a great job.
What is the best advice you received that you would like to share with aspiring designers?
Stefan: When I was moving to Hong Kong and was about to make a lot of money Tibor Kalman told me: And dont you go and spend the money they pay you or you're going to be the whore of the ad agencies for the rest of your life. I didn't and got easily out of it again. Most of my collegues did not get that great advice and are still stuck in the agencies.
How important is formal design education?
Stefan: I myself loved design school a lot, extended it for as long as I possibly could (I also have a masters in communications) and probably would still be in art school if I could have found a way to make it happen. Having said that, many of my favorite designers (Tibor Kalman, James Victore) have never been to art school at all.
Have you ever had doubts about what you wanted to do, or about whether or not you were good at it?
Stefan: Yes. Especially during school. I knew I wanted to become a designer (not many doubts there) but very much doubted the quality of the work. Had constant doubts in Hong Kong. Wanted to quit every week.
You started the career as a designer early, with just 15. Your style was already like what you produce today or you've been slowly evolving and working on your ideas?
Stefan: I was writing here and there for a small local magazine and then discovered that I like doing the layout better, but I'm not sure if I'd really call that activity "working as a designer". We were setting headlines with Letraset sheets donated by friendly design studios, and as they invariably had all the "e's" missing, it was easier to write that headline by hand than reconstructing the missing "e". That's where my love for hand writing stems from.
If you could give one piece of advice to a young creative starting out, what would you say?
Jessica: Figure out what you are really passionate about and what you love to do. If something feels like work to you, you probably don't want to spend the majority of your adult life doing it. So when your young, seek out creatives or studios you want to work for where you can make the work you love. Work your ass off, be persistent, stay curious and challenge yourself. And most importantly, have fun. If you really enjoy your work, generally other people will see that and enjoy it too.
What are the qualities you look for in design graduates and why?
1. Great concepts, well executed.
2. A nice person.
ad 1. All you need.
ad 2. The days are too precious, I dont want to spend
them with a talented asshole.
What do you think design students should be focused on?
Stefan: They should concentrate to try out as many directions, possibilities and techniques as possible. Even though this can be frustrating in the short term (as few masterpieces will be developed), the freedom to be able to utilize a whole array of strategies will be incredibly helpful as a professional. While in school, I dont think its helpful to use ones time to develop an original formal language, this can all be done later on.
If we take the Bauhaus as an example, its teaching was largely skills based with little or no focus on qualifications. Do you think the contemporary trend towards Degrees runs the risk of diluting what design students should be thinking about?
Stefan: I do think that many elite art schools around the world focus too little on crafts, - digital or analog. When I was in school I always felt it was my own duty to learn how to think, and I wanted my schooling to concentrate to teach me how to make things.