Design in Munich

If you think back, it was a time when the world was first being introduced to the Mac, and I clearly remember the days of cut and paste – the repro house and the in-house repro camera we had. That time gave me a thorough understanding of typography and proportions, varied and creative use of colour when we relied on little more than the cmyk swatches and colour books, trusting our instincts. We didn’t have the immediate visual we have today on our computer screens and at the click of a button. When the age of the Apple finally came around, we couldn’t believe our good fortune, and Adobe Freehand was our saviour and baby, Quark Xpress coming in a close second.

Editorial for Rolling Stone by Manfred Brey, Brey Graphic Arts, Munich.

The studio was a combination of the talents of two very different characters who were friends from their college days, Franz Baumgartner whose impeccable typographic skills I admire to this day, and Manfred Brey, hands-down the most creative person I have ever known. The space was shared with a resident photographer who hailed from Bremen, Fred Stichnoth, equally as talented as the other two, in his own field. The studio was often a mix of beautiful models, visiting artists, cigarette smoke, piles upon piles of drafts, visuals, finished art and more. Lived-in, welcoming, chaotic, inspirational, and much more I suppose.

The mainstay of our work centred around the music industry. Two labels had headquarters at the time in Munich. BMG Ariola in the east of Munich and Virgin Records in trendy Schwabing in the north city. A constant flow of LP designs for the two labels included work for artists like Herbert Grönemeyer, Haindling, Heavy Rock and Jazz compilations –  the brief would come in and off we’d go.  We worked a lot on what we used to call Artist Biographies – simple booklets of Artists, everyone acroos a wide musical spectrum from Phil Collins’ Genesis to Bavarian stars of the time like Nikki.

Design & Illustration by Manfred Brey, Brey Graphic Arts, Munich.

When we think about German Design today, we think ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’.  German Design has always combined innovation with quality to impressive effect across the board.

It has had a huge influence on modern day graphic design worldwide. Flicking through the pages of ‘Pioneers of German Graphic Design’, a 400-page tome by Jens Müller, we see how German art, minimalism and commerce spawned a new form of visual communication. This book, which is true coffee-table eye-candy, explores how the cultural highs and ultimate societal lows in 20th century Germany bled into every aspect of life, including the field of graphic design. The book focuses on the work of 14 innovate German desingers who introduced new approaches to the field.

My own design likes and influences are modern day designers like Erik Spiekermann who specializes in typography and Otl Aicher in iconography. Spierkermann is quoted as saying “I have been suffering from Typomania all my life, a sickness that is incurable but not lethal”, he is also an honorary professor at the University of the Arts Bremen and Art Center College of Design. In 1989, he and his then-wife started the FontShop (the first mail-order distributor for digital fonts). FontShop International followed and now publishes the FontFont range of typefaces.

Typography by Erik Spiekermann.

Aicher’s work was based in part on iconography for the ’64 Games. He created a set of pictograms meant to provide a visual interpretation of the sport they featured so that athletes and visitors to the Olympic village and stadium could find their way around. Aicher created pictograms using a series of grid systems and a specific bright colour palette that he chose for these Games.

Aicher’s iconography

Other influences have been the females of German graphic design like Kathe Kollwitz who worked in an era in Germany when women weren’t afforded the opportunities to work in the industry. And of course who could write about German design without mentioning the Bauhaus movement in particular the work of Herbert Beyer.

Kathe Kollwitz’s 1924 poster “Never again war”

The work of Herbert Bayer.

It is my pleasure on almost a yearly basis to return to Munich and hook up with my two ‘old bosses’ who in fact, have not aged at all. They are both as creative now, as they were back in the day – Franz running a successful commercial art business and Manfred specializing in design of magazine editorial and illustration as well as music graphics.

Pictured l-r Caroline Nesbitt, Manfred Brey and F.X. Baumgartner, Munich 2018.

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