introducing martin pyper
martin pyper from me studio is a designer with a drive and a very nice design blog. he has built up a lot of design and art directing experience over the years at agencies like vbat, cccp media collective, bbdo and ppgh/jwt. now he works mainly solo creating designs in diverse styles and doing all the tasks and chores that make a design agency run. from building identities to making coffee. he considers himself lucky. because he still loves his job as much as he did 20 years ago.
jarr geerligs: what made you start as a designer?
i lived in france for 4 years as a child and felt quite isolated from other kids my age so i decided to research, write illustrate and design two books on the history of the second world war (strange choice for a 10 year old i know). that’s when i knew what i wanted to do and those two volumes are still in my bookshelf to remind me.
what do you like about designing posters?
the poster is a highly analogue, old school medium and yet it convenes very neatly to the norms of the digital ‘thumbnail’ visual culture we now live in, it a very direct communicative piece of design and everything about a poster is there on the surface in one viewing, this makes it unique and very challenging for me as a designer and probably stilll the ultimate form of graphic design that i love to make, my work often ends up at a0 size and i love the process of organising and visualising in my mind the way all of the elements will come together on that large expanse of paper… and how it will function out on the street…
where do you get your inspiration from? do you get it from other posters, books, films, nature, fashion or from any other places or particular people?
yes all of those things you mention and photography, music, pornography, other graphic designers, artists, mistakes, bad television shows etc. etc. in fact anything and everything can be inspirational, even shit stuff, what makes something inspiring is yourself and how you look at a thing, not the thing in itself. music is definitely my greatest source of inspiration as a person.
what makes a poster a good poster?
it’s funny i regularly sit in design juries and look at a great deal of work all the time but find it very hard to answer that one, in theory a good poster has a strong focal point, a singular image or strong piece of type and yet there are so many examples of posters that do none of that but are still amazing… originality is important, but even that is debatable. look for example at the work of michiel schuurman, he uses type as image/image as type, he constructs patterns and builds confusing multi-layered pieces that have no real focal point or singular image in a conventional manner but still work amazingly well, in fact they perhaps work because of the fact they look so unusual… so i suppose the answer is there is no real formula for making a great poster, which is to me a fortunate state of affairs, anything is possible.
what are your three favourite (series of) posters - done by someone else?
the classic ‘staged photography’ series made by studio dumbar in the late eighties for holland festival are still a real benchmark for me, the same background image was used over and over again with different colour typography screenprinted on top for differnet productions, way ahead of their time… those posters were probably partly the reason i came to live and work in the netherlands even. a lot of anton beeke’s old work still appeals to me for his sheer design ‘flair’, the striking use of imagery and uncoventional choice of styles, currently the ‘mahler’ series (concertgebouworkest) by rené knip for impact and confident use of type and the ‘matter of monument’ series recently made by michiel schuurman, these are some the freshest posters i’ve seen around for ages… weird colours, unexpected approach etc etc.
which designer do you admire and why?
i admire most designers to be honest, there is so much talent around, especially in a country with such a rich graphic tradition and pool of skill as the netherlands. someone who really inspired me at a young age was british designer ‘peter saville’, his approach was more that of an art director than a traditional graphic designer, in the late 90’s i was fortunate enough to be able to invite him over to amsterdam to talk at a design event i organised with friends (mind the gap) we got the chance to spend a couple of evenings with him, peter is a bright, uncoventional, well-read, intelligent person who has the enviable quality of being curious and interested in everything.
what's the most exciting design project you ever worked on?
i’m not sure i’ve ever felt that any project was ’exciting’ really, the dutch national ballet which i’ve now worked on for ten years has been a good source of experience in all kinds of ways over the years, i designed their new identity back in 2003 and was then able to implement my own design for the following decade, which is quite rare i think. i learned a lot about dealing with clients, managing expectations, handling disagreements and learning how to convince a client about your ideas. in the past year i have been approached with some very interesting jobs by all kinds of new clients and this is certainly an ’exciting’ development, seeing where my profession wil lead me next… never a dull moment.
what design project are you currently working on?
i just finished a poster for ’cinéma arabe’ a small film festival, which i’m really pleased with. two new posters for the dutch national ballet (the first in ten years without a dancer pictured). a whole new series of posters for amsterdam nightclub ’the sugar factory’ and i’ve just been approached to make a poster for the ’picnic’ media event in amsterdam
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