Interview with Malwin Béla Hürkey
Who gave you the commission for the corporate design for the European Southern Observatory (ESO)?
I commissioned it myself. I was looking for an organisation that I could use as the basis for my undergraduate project. I was convinced it must be possible to create an aesthetic and tangible corporate design for an organisation that didn’t have the usual “lifestyle” attributes of a brand. In ESO’s case, this was technical expertise and their impressive qualities, which have made modern astronomy and astrophysics possible. In the first place, ESO provides state-of-the-art telescopes and instruments that enable researchers to undertake scientific research under optimal conditions. I wanted to give this special and exceptional brand essence an explicit visual identity. I wanted the focus to be clearly on the technology and less on the usual images of galaxies and star nebulae that are common in popular science media.
Why have you chosen to cover so many different areas of design?
Customised corporate design is usually primarily visual. If we then add to it the right paper and materials, for example, for packaging, we can also create a subtle, palpable level. Go a step further and add sound and we go from learning about a world, to experiencing that world. In this case, experiencing the ESO brand. The use of multimedia graphics, light, material and sound was especially important here, because using any available means helps to make the core brand more accessible and memorable. For example, we used a phosphorescent afterglow pigment for the visual level, and for sound recordings of the actual radio waves emitted by Saturn. This opened up a whole new perspective on the work of ESO. The corporate design has many “aha moments”, taking the viewer into the world of ESO step by step, and ultimately leaving them with a lasting and individual impression of the brand.
Tell us about your career so far.
My training started with failure. After graduating from highschool, I put together my first portfolio and applied for a course in communication design. My portfolio was, however, a bit of a dog’s dinner, and was, quite rightly, rejected. That experience dented my youthful optimism of course, and I then tried the Bauhaus-University in Weimar and studied media informatics there. After two semesters I drew in the reins and reapplied to study communication design –this time in a more systematic way and with success. I studied at the Rhein Main University of Applied Sciences in Wiesbaden, but did a two-track course for two semesters and also studied visual communication at Offenbach University of Art and Design. I have been benefitting from having studied these two different approaches to communication design ever since. I got my Bachelor’s degree in the summer of 2016, and have been working as an art director for brand development at Heine Lenz Zizka in Berlin since then. I also work as a freelance designer on corporate, editorial and graphic projects, under my own name.
What design tools do you prefer to use for your work?
That depends on the project or concept. Even though it’s essential to use professional tools to undertake professional work, and they undoubtedly facilitate the process in many ways, they are after all, only a means to an end. In our industry, we often like to perfect a work tool and then look for a corresponding project. This can create communication problems and misunderstandings. That’s why I prefer to do things the other way around and to find the right tool for a particular project. However, my projects always have two common denominators for tools: pen and paper.
Are there any techniques you would like to acquire?
Any that I can get my hands on. It’s great to try out new techniques for the first time and discover their potential bit by bit. Unfortunately, I often just don’t have the time to get deeper into something new. Fortunately, for almost every technique, it’s usually possible to find and bring on board the right person.
Would you describe the poster as your favourite medium?
That’s a decisive Yes and No. Posters are a wonderful format if you need to reduce and distil a message into a concise visual. I like distilling. Nevertheless, I also find the task of developing a visual identity, say for a company, equally interesting. So reducing and distilling on the one hand, and differentiating on the other, I find both things exciting.
Is there a poster you designed that you like best?
“Small Cause” is my current favourite. It’s clear and at the same time leaves room for interpretation. Each viewer can look for a different meaning in it.
Which fields other than design fascinate you and what do you feel you learn from them professionally?
In principle any discipline that works with visual coding. Industrial design and architecture are very far ahead in some respects. I am very impressed with objects whose function has been developed solely through shape, colour and material. Just as a building can direct a visitor through its space or create quite specific spatial perceptions. Ideally, communication design should also work in this way – with shape, colour and type communicating the function. However, I’m not only very interested in illustrating function, but also in conveying impressions or subtle perceptions. I see this in the fine arts where impressions are created that cannot be achieved with design. Art affects. Design works – I try to do both.
What is the idea behind the Eins und Null magazine?
In its German version alone, Wikipedia comprises nearly two million articles. There are innumerable definitions, diagrams and explanations scattered all over the site. The idea was to put the articles together into a new narrative context and present them graphically. The intention was to create a popular science and art magazine using articles generated exclusively from Wikipedia. Each issue uses two opposing elements, which are defined, visualised, and explained through actual use. The first issue represents physical reflection and absorption. Each phenomenon is complemented by a corresponding refinement in the paper used in the magazine. Thus, for the optical phenomenon of iridescence we use an iridescent hot foil impression. Communication is taken to a new level through experiencing an effect.
Tell us about the context of its creation and your own role.
The magazine is a self-initiated project that has taken shape self-sufficiently from concept to implementation. It’s been developed for similar reasons as the ESO project: to experiment with different forms of visual communication in order to convey abstract facts and messages in a unique way.