Art director and graphic designer Marius Jopen’s work first came weo me in the form of a quote from H. G. Wells, written in an off-kilter, cursive style with thick black Sharpie. It was hung on the door of my co-working studio, where he was set up for a brief stint. “More than machinery, we need humanity, more than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness,” it read.
This hand-written style is a signature of his, appearing across the board on identities and posters that he penned throughout his time working for Mirko Borsche and Stefan Sagmeister. It continues to be a staple, featuring throughout the continual scroll of the young designer’s website and on his work for cultural clients in Berlin and Amsterdam. Having worked for two of Germany’s most in-demand designers and having recently garnered attention as a finalist for the Dutch Design Awards’ young designer category, starting his own studio is the logical next step for the 2014 Rietveld Academy graduate.
I’m not one for inspirational design quotes by any means, but this wasn’t what his Welles poster was; the scruffiness of Jopen’s style makes it seem punk, not twee. It has the same effect on client work. For a recent campaign and identity system for the Rotterdam museum Het Nieuwe Institute’s The Body exhibition, Jopen, in collaboration with Berlin-based designer Max Kuwertz, created a system in which clean grids collide with scrawled felt-tip pen.
While studying in Amsterdam, Jopen began a project akin to the Daily Drop Cap or poster-a-day craze that has become an almost compulsory exercise for students. For almost two years he created a poster reflecting on the news headlines, printing out a grid he’d put together on InDesign and scrawling across it in felt-tip pen, collaging and illustrating to articulate complex issues with striking simplicity. Eventually he found the routine frustrating, feeling as if he was participating in a merry-go-round of negative news.
Perhaps as an antidote to submerging himself in daily disasters, around the same time Jopen co-founded The Love Foundation. The open network of students and artists raises money by putting on music nights, using the profits to provide clean drinking water for people in the Busia region of Kenya. Instead of invoking guilt through distressing imagery, Jopen—in line with the sweeping positive news movement—believes design with an optimistic message creates a conducive atmosphere for social causes. In order to connect all members of the foundation together (which now has branches in Amsterdam, Berlin, Dresden, Perth, and Santa Cruz, California), he designed a “Love Logo” of two interlocking rings that have become the only recurring motif for the posters promoting events.
This is what Jopen’s work does—it elevates—but its aesthetic is wild, quick, and cut-and-paste enough, so that there’s nothing too sentimental about it. It’s vital to consider the role of ethics for contemporary graphic designers, an area often over looked, and to highlight who is using their skills for ideological or political purposes. Jopen’s approach—as symbolized in that small act of tacking a Charlie Chaplin quote to a door—is one that communicates heart and heft.