Our monthly round up of the best new poster designs and the stories behind them.
In many ways, Berlin really is a city made for posters. With its long streets of endless, blank walls and round poster boards conveniently positioned in the center of pathways, the way Berlin is laid out practically begs to be papered over; it makes sense that the city has such a vibrant approach to poster design. As a local, I love admiring bold and fantastic compositions both online and on the street. Yet rarely do I hear much about the ideas and concepts behind the posters from the designers who created them. Oftentimes, they’re simply celebrated as gorgeous explosions of graphic design at its best.
That’s why each month at Eye on Design we’re rounding up of the best new posters spotted online and off, and speaking to the graphic designers behind them about their concept.
Recently in Berlin, Fons Hickmann, the award-winning graphic designer and founder of design agency m23, presented an exhibition along with fellow designer Sven Lindhorst-Emme that celebrated contemporary posters from the German capitol. The exhibition, called Anschlag (Stop, in English), sought to explore and define what Hickmann and Lindhorst-Emme see as a distinct “Berlin School” of poster design.
What typifies a poster from this school? According to Hickmann and Lindhorst-Emme, the city’s diversity—the result of young talent pouring in from all around the world—is both what sets the Berlin style apart and what makes it so varied and difficult to define. For me, there’s also a wild rejection of norms that underpins many of the approaches. Case in point:
Fons Hickmann, War is Stupid
This emphatic poster was made as a comment on the Iraq War for an exhibition at the Design Museum Zeche Zollverin. “In the 21st century, we still seem incapable of breaking the vicious circle of violence, terror, and war. History has taught us, but it didn’t make us any wiser. We’re running around in circles and are drawn into war again,” says Hickmann. The swelling, splintering star that grows outwards from the poster’s centre seems to evocatively reflect the repetitive, vicious pattern that Hickmann describes.
Daniel Wiesmann, Berlin Coffee Festival
“There’s a typical visual language around coffee, and I didn’t necessarily want to climb on that bandwagon,” says graphic designer Daniel Wiesmann, who created this fiery poster for the central market hall of Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood. In an effort to sidestep that, Wiesmann researched the history of the bean and found a diagram of a coffee cherry he found particularly enticing, which he then referenced for his smiling cherry illustration. “I asked myself, what would people recognize in the picture? The smiley or the coffee cherry? Coffee experts would see the latter at once. I like that it’s communicating in different ways to different people. It contains a little secret, or reveals it, and at best it can educate too.”
Studio Laucke Siebein, RijksakademieOPEN
In 2015, the Berlin- and Amsterdam-based Studio Laucke Siebein was asked by Amsterdam’s Rijksakademie to design the identity for its residency program’s open day. “The Rijksakademie asked us to make sure lots of people would take notice of the day, so the whole concept was based on the idea of propaganda and advertisement. Why not scream as loudly as possible, ‘We are Open!’ The screaming mouth in the shape of an ‘O’ is like a yelling merchant, but it’s also a typographic element. It’s eye-grabbing, bright, slightly aggressive, and even a bit kinky. The poster is almost an ironic comment on commercial advertising messages in the public space. At the same time, this scream for Art (Aaah!) is also about evoking the regained confidence of the Dutch art and culture scene after years of massive cut-backs.”
Henning Wagenbreth, Kosmostage
Graphic artist, illustrator, and educator Henning Wagenbreth is an important figure in the world of Berlin poster design. His fascinating, meticulous scenes dominate the streets magnificently wherever they’re hung. Kosmostage was designed for a festival of contemporary classical and experimental music. “The festival turns the usual way of listening to things upside down. In space there is no up side or down side and the normal scales don’t count, so I brought this idea to life in the illustration. I used big figures to make them legible from a distance, and to give the expression of the poster a personal character.”
Denis Yilmaz, University of the Arts’ ‘Rundgang’
Young graphic designer and recent Berlin University of the Art’s graduate Denis Yilmaz created this poster for the school’s open day and student exhibition. “Because of the university’s size, it’s impossible to see all its different places in one day, so the poster’s letters are based on the shapes of M. C. Escher. They represent the infinite ways of experiencing the exhibition.”