Interview with : Johannes Breyer

Johannes Breyer is a promising graphic designer who focuses mainly on printed matter, book and typedesign. He started an interview magazine called ‘Better Mjstakes‘ together with Hugo Hoppmann, studies Graphic Design at the University of  Arts, Zurich and at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam.

Reason enough to ask him some questions. The entire interview and a selection of his work at read more…

Let us start from the top. Where did your first interest in graphic design come from? How did it all start?

Well, I’m sorry for not coming up with that nice “I used to do graffiti back then”-story 🙂 The opposite: I was quite an excessive online gamer, going to LAN-parties, tuning my PC and such things. And since the Internet was the main communication tool between us gamers, we all started building our own websites, using game-inspired graphic material and pictures. Somehow that caught my interest even more, I finally turned my back on online-gaming and focused on web-design only (and started going to the gym).


Is there something like a general design process? What is your approach?

More than in a certain style I am interested in creating and deducing the best system for each project, which causes and justifies the resulting form. I know, that sounds like straight out of an old schoolbook, but for me this process-focused way to work started to make sense. A beautifully elaborated system provides you a beautiful output anyway. To move within a tightly tied corset of rules can let you feel incredibly free – the rules once being set, you don’t have to deal with the same questions again and again.

Then, of course you are always carrying a certain idea of the final form with you, a personal preference, something you might have recently seen and liked. But you mostly do better when holding this back. It’s easy to spot if content is just forced into a form without any relation or cause – sad stuff, and not of long lasting quality.


What can we expect from you in the future?

At the moment I’m doing an internship at the Zurich based graphic design studio NORM. They are really great people and have quite an influence on how to approach projects both regarding the theory/attitude and the craftsmanship-part of graphic design.

After that time I would like to continue with book and type related projects, push my magazine “better mjstakes” (together with Hugo Hoppmann) and publish some more typefaces. At the moment my font “Heureka!” is the only one you can buy and that has to change 🙂 Most probably in January 2012, I will continue my studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.


What’s the most enjoyable project you’ve worked on?

Some time ago I collaborated with Dafi Kühne on a letterpress printed poster.

We tried to interpret a text passage by german philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In „Loss of dignity“ he deplores the decline of serious thinking in times when everybody is stressed and in endless hurry. With this change in front of the course of time we worked in different ways.

For this poster I designed a hairline font that combines both grotesque and fracture characteristics – a mix of old and new so to say. For the letterpress printing blocks we laser-cut the hairline type into a woodblock, placing each block contra-wise aslope into the laser-cuter. This little trick causes that the laser loses focus from a certain inclination on – and the mono-line font shape gets more and more blurry. Finally one printing block is sharp on top and blurry at the bottom; the second one the other way round.

With both woodblocks printed one upon the other, two contra-wise sharpness-gradients appear, reaching their only congruence in the most important word of the quote: „silence“. Printing the poster on a lovely old Schneider Proof Press (year 1960, 50x70cm) was also a funny experience for me.


How important do you think formal training, passion and experience are in being a good designer ?

I think whether you’re a lawyer, a butcher, a photographer or a graphic designer, it`s passion and a general curiosity for things that lead to both success and happiness. Doing good work means besides being talented and smart simply just endless hours of work that you won`t be willing and able to invest if you`re not really into the thing!

You won`t understand why any random thing/object looked and worked some way decades or even thousand years ago if you don`t mind the context in which it was created. Design never “happens” detached and isolated, it’s heavily motivated, influenced and corresponding to – for example – cultural and political matters/movements.


What influence does your location and surroundings have on your work?

I think every place you live in adds it’s own to your development as a person. In my opinion, one has to distinguish different kinds of influence that each are important and help developing your attitude. My times (2006, 2008) in Berlin taught me more general stuff about life: they opened my eyes for new, unusual things and let me feel the enriching effect of different people and backgrounds living together. That`s for example something I don’t see that much in the clean and well-working Zurich (what without doubt has other advantages).