/

AHMED ALSOUDANI

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category: catalogue / 2017
client: Marlborough Contemporary
details: 290 × 360 mm, 60 pp.
awards: TDC New York 2018

BASIC RESEARCH – NOTES ON THE COLLECTION

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category: catalogue / 2014
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 218 × 305 mm, 64 pp.

BEVERLY PEPPER

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category: catalogue / 2019
client: Marlborough Gallery
details: 240 × 340 mm, 76 pp.

CARL ANDRE

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category: catalogue / 2011
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 216 × 270 mm, 152 pp.

DISHAMMONIA

+

category: book / 2019
client: Michaela Melián / Spector Books
details: 120 × 170 mm, 76 pp.

FRANZ GERTSCH

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category: catalogue / 2015
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 230 × 320 mm, 68 pp.

FRIEDRICH VON BORRIES. POLITICS OF DESIGN, DESIGN OF POLITICS

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category: magazine / 2018
client: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum
details: 232 × 328 mm, 160 pp.

FRIEDRICH VON BORRIES. POLITICS OF DESIGN, DESIGN OF POLITICS

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category: exhibition graphics / 2018
client: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum
Exhibition venue: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum
details: exhibition design by Friedrich von Borries

GIUSEPPE PENONE

+

category: catalogue / 2019
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 230 × 320 mm, 84 pp.

GOTTFRIED BENN. MORGUE UND ANDERE GEDICHTE

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category: book / 2012
client: Klett-Cotta
details: 162 × 182 mm, 32 pp.
in collaboration with: Michael Zöllner
awards: Schönste Deutsche Bücher 2012

GOVERT FLINCK. REFLECTING HISTORY

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category: catalogue / 2015
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 240 × 330 mm, 236 pp.
in collaboration with: Cyrill Kuhlmann

GREGOR HILDEBRANDT

+

category: catalogue / 2015
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 230 x 320 mm, 160 pp.

HANS-CHRISTIAN SCHINK. HIER UND DORT

+

category: catalogue / 2018
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 210 × 280 mm, 92 pp.

HEIKE MUTTER & ULRICH GENTH. METAREFLEKTOR LUFTOFFENSIVE

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category: catalogue / 2006
client: Heike Mutter und Ulrich Genth
details: 210 × 330 mm, 56 pp.

HENDRICK GOLTZIUS & PIA FRIES. PROTEUS & POLYMORPHIA

+

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 198 × 305 mm, 260 pp.
awards: TDC Tokyo Award Nominee 2019

HOCHSCHULE FÜR BILDENDE KÜNSTE HAMBURG

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category: book / 2017
client: Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg
details: 195 × 288 mm, 164 pp.

INSIDE INTENSITY

+

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 218 × 305 mm, 68 pp.

JAMES BISHOP. MALEREI AUF PAPIER / PAINTINGS ON PAPER

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category: catalogue / 2017
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop
details: 220 × 275 mm, 124 pp.

JERRY ZENIUK. HOW TO PAINT

+

category: book / 2017
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop
details: 144 × 236 mm, 144 pp.

JOSEF ALBERS MUSEUM QUADRAT BOTTROP

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category: visual identity / 2008 –
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop

JOSEPH BEUYS. WERKLINIEN / WORKLINES

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Gattung: Katalog / 2016
Auftraggeber: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
Details: 200 x 290 mm, 288 S.

JUDITH JOY ROSS. LIVING WITH WAR – PORTRAITS

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category: catalogue / 2008
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop, Steidl
details: 240 × 300 mm, 164 pp.

KAZUO KATASE. KATAZUKE

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category: book / 2018
client: Museum Wiesbaden
details: 164 × 230 mm, 124 pp.
awards: German Design Award 2019

KURT KOCHERSCHEIDT. MALEREI

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category: catalogue / 2013
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop
details: 240 × 300 mm, 144 pp.

MARTINA SALZBERBER. ARBEITEN / WORKS

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category: catalogue / 2005
client: Martina Salzberger
details: 116 × 160 mm, 248 pp.

MUSEUM KURHAUS KLEVE – EWALD MATARÉ-SAMMLUNG

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category: visual identity / 2012 –
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung

MUTTER/GENTH

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category: catalogue / 2015
client: Heike Mutter und Ulrich Genth
details: 230 x 295 mm, 200 pp.

PEPE DANQUART. LAUF, JUNGE, LAUF! FRAGMENTE EINES FILMS

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category: book / 2014
client: Pepe Danquart, Alexander Verlag Berlin
details: 165 × 240 mm, 120 pp.

PIA FRIES. MALEREI 1990 – 2007

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category: catalogue / 2007
client: Richter Verlag Düsseldorf
details: 235 × 285 mm, 192 pp.

R.B. KITAJ. THE EXILE AT HOME

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category: catalogue / 2017
client: Marlborough Contemporary
details: 240 × 340 mm, 92 pp.

STUDIO KATHARINA GROSSE

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category: visual identity / 2004
client: Studio Katharina Grosse

WER NICHT DENKEN WILL, FLIEGT RAUS

+

Gattung: Katalog / 2016
Auftraggeber: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
Details: 218 x 305 mm, 68 S.

WERNER BÜTTNER. DÜNGESCHLACHT ÜBER DEN FONTANELLEN

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category: book / 2014
client: Werner Büttner, Textem Verlag
details: 223 × 320 mm, 172 pp.

WERNER BÜTTNER. POOR SOULS

+

category: catalogue / 2016
client: Marlborough Contemporary
details: 228 × 326 mm, 96 pp.

WERNER BÜTTNER. SOMETHING VERY BLOND COMES TO TOWN

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category: catalogue / 2019
client: Marlborough Gallery
details: 240 × 340 mm, 92 pp.

AHMED ALSOUDANI

+

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Marlborough Contemporary
details: 290 × 360 mm, 60 pp.
awards: TDC New York 2018

BASIC RESEARCH – NOTES ON THE COLLECTION

+

category: catalogue / 2014
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 218 × 305 mm, 64 pp.

BEVERLY PEPPER

+

category: catalogue / 2019
client: Marlborough Gallery
details: 240 × 340 mm, 76 pp.

CARL ANDRE

+

category: catalogue / 2011
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 216 × 270 mm, 152 pp.

DISHAMMONIA

+

category: book / 2019
client: Michaela Melián / Spector Books
details: 120 × 170 mm, 76 pp.

FRANZ GERTSCH

+

category: catalogue / 2015
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 230 × 320 mm, 68 pp.

FRIEDRICH VON BORRIES. POLITICS OF DESIGN, DESIGN OF POLITICS

+

category: magazine / 2018
client: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum
details: 232 × 328 mm, 160 pp.

FRIEDRICH VON BORRIES. POLITICS OF DESIGN, DESIGN OF POLITICS

+

category: exhibition graphics / 2018
client: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum
Exhibition venue: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum
details: exhibition design by Friedrich von Borries

GIUSEPPE PENONE

+

category: catalogue / 2019
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 230 × 320 mm, 84 pp.

GOTTFRIED BENN. MORGUE UND ANDERE GEDICHTE

+

category: book / 2012
client: Klett-Cotta
details: 162 × 182 mm, 32 pp.
in collaboration with: Michael Zöllner
awards: Schönste Deutsche Bücher 2012

GOVERT FLINCK. REFLECTING HISTORY

+

category: catalogue / 2015
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 240 × 330 mm, 236 pp.
in collaboration with: Cyrill Kuhlmann

GREGOR HILDEBRANDT

+

category: catalogue / 2015
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 230 x 320 mm, 160 pp.

HANS-CHRISTIAN SCHINK. HIER UND DORT

+

category: catalogue / 2018
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 210 × 280 mm, 92 pp.

HEIKE MUTTER & ULRICH GENTH. METAREFLEKTOR LUFTOFFENSIVE

+

category: catalogue / 2006
client: Heike Mutter und Ulrich Genth
details: 210 × 330 mm, 56 pp.

HENDRICK GOLTZIUS & PIA FRIES. PROTEUS & POLYMORPHIA

+

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 198 × 305 mm, 260 pp.
awards: TDC Tokyo Award Nominee 2019

HOCHSCHULE FÜR BILDENDE KÜNSTE HAMBURG

+

category: book / 2017
client: Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg
details: 195 × 288 mm, 164 pp.

INSIDE INTENSITY

+

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 218 × 305 mm, 68 pp.

JAMES BISHOP. MALEREI AUF PAPIER / PAINTINGS ON PAPER

+

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop
details: 220 × 275 mm, 124 pp.

JERRY ZENIUK. HOW TO PAINT

+

category: book / 2017
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop
details: 144 × 236 mm, 144 pp.

JOSEF ALBERS MUSEUM QUADRAT BOTTROP

+

category: visual identity / 2008 –
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop

JOSEPH BEUYS. WERKLINIEN / WORKLINES

+

Gattung: Katalog / 2016
Auftraggeber: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
Details: 200 x 290 mm, 288 S.

JUDITH JOY ROSS. LIVING WITH WAR – PORTRAITS

+

category: catalogue / 2008
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop, Steidl
details: 240 × 300 mm, 164 pp.

KAZUO KATASE. KATAZUKE

+

category: book / 2018
client: Museum Wiesbaden
details: 164 × 230 mm, 124 pp.
awards: German Design Award 2019

KURT KOCHERSCHEIDT. MALEREI

+

category: catalogue / 2013
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop
details: 240 × 300 mm, 144 pp.

MARTINA SALZBERBER. ARBEITEN / WORKS

+

category: catalogue / 2005
client: Martina Salzberger
details: 116 × 160 mm, 248 pp.

MUSEUM KURHAUS KLEVE – EWALD MATARÉ-SAMMLUNG

+

category: visual identity / 2012 –
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung

MUTTER/GENTH

+

category: catalogue / 2015
client: Heike Mutter und Ulrich Genth
details: 230 x 295 mm, 200 pp.

PEPE DANQUART. LAUF, JUNGE, LAUF! FRAGMENTE EINES FILMS

+

category: book / 2014
client: Pepe Danquart, Alexander Verlag Berlin
details: 165 × 240 mm, 120 pp.

PIA FRIES. MALEREI 1990 – 2007

+

category: catalogue / 2007
client: Richter Verlag Düsseldorf
details: 235 × 285 mm, 192 pp.

R.B. KITAJ. THE EXILE AT HOME

+

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Marlborough Contemporary
details: 240 × 340 mm, 92 pp.

STUDIO KATHARINA GROSSE

+

category: visual identity / 2004
client: Studio Katharina Grosse

WER NICHT DENKEN WILL, FLIEGT RAUS

+

Gattung: Katalog / 2016
Auftraggeber: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
Details: 218 x 305 mm, 68 S.

WERNER BÜTTNER. DÜNGESCHLACHT ÜBER DEN FONTANELLEN

+

category: book / 2014
client: Werner Büttner, Textem Verlag
details: 223 × 320 mm, 172 pp.

WERNER BÜTTNER. POOR SOULS

+

category: catalogue / 2016
client: Marlborough Contemporary
details: 228 × 326 mm, 96 pp.

WERNER BÜTTNER. SOMETHING VERY BLOND COMES TO TOWN

+

category: catalogue / 2019
client: Marlborough Gallery
details: 240 × 340 mm, 92 pp.

Point of No Return: Point of Departure

+


“… All communication of the contents of the mind is
language (...) The existence of language, however,
is coextensive not only with all the areas of human mental
expression in which language is always in one sense or
another inherent, but with absolutely everything.”

Walter Benjamin

According to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington: “The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.” This shocking statement serves to emphasise the significance of language: not only does it trigger actions, but it is itself a powerful form of action. To look at speech critically and even in the light of moral philosophy is thus essential to any enlightened and just society!
Whilst this is true of language using words, it naturally also continues to be true of visual speech – which, today, is significantly guided by graphic designers. Unfortunately, we find that no broad-based public discourse on this subject exists.

Graphic design occupies a key position in the communication activities of diversified and transnationally active societies. It is the arena in which the interpretations and translations that take place both within and between societies are developed and implemented. The responsibility that results from this cannot be expressed within the logic of any standardised working process. Criteria such as readability, ability to hold attention, contemporary qualities, originality, and signature style do not provide a sufficient basis for a critical discourse on the discipline. What is called for is an intensified (culturally) critical and transdisciplinary process of engagement and reflective thought.

If one reads the First Things First manifestoes of 1964 and 2000 it becomes plain that a disquietude regarding the power of graphic language – and thus a consciousness of what constitutes responsible graphic design – came into being at the same time as the discipline itself. The idea is that designers should not be compliant implementers of questionable content directed by the hands of others, but should instead operate in a critical and opinionated manner. 20 or 50 years later respectively, pretty much every graphic design website states that the graphic designers who are advertising their services operate in a wide-ranging field of progressive publishing, and that they are interested in a maximally intensive collaboration with the clients (thus, with society).
Naturally, this person is principally interested in others in generalised way, regardless of whether – or precisely because – this other is new, old, and/or unconventional.
It is generally stated that this person is interested in a genuine exchange, in exploring the unknown, in diversity – and consequently interested only in design solutions that, regardless of personal style, are precisely tailored to the content for which the design is required.
Mission statements of this type make easy, palatable reading. They sound earnest, distinctive, sensitive, in-touch, even modest, and the politically opportune tone of their wording contrives to imply quality.
However, when I look at the international uniformity (with heavy European emphasis) of the commercial mainstream – and this also applies to the avant-garde mainstream – I find myself asking how many laudable-sounding banal platitudes and how many implied claims are actually being presented here. In other words, what degree of manipulative whitewashing has now become “common sense” in the presentation of self and client, and how much analytical and critical consideration is actually being performed and implemented?
When I take a closer look, I find myself additionally asking whether these statements, which sound as if they are intended as a way of asserting quality standards, are ultimately nothing more than flowery descriptions of a procedure, quite possibly well-meaning but providing no standards for the quality or significance of an artefact or process. After all, Nazi graphic artists would also have researched and analysed to communicate in a pithy and relevant way. If the Nazi graphic designers – or those of the early Soviet Union – were compliant implementers of a totalitarian ideology, I sometimes ask myself: are we today not perhaps naive facilitators of a neoliberal egomania and arbitrariness?

The architect Hans Kollhoff writes that: “Before anyone can become an architect, he must become a citizen. He must not be satisfied with things as they are. Instead, through the way he constructs buildings, he must set an example of how things should be – in the best traditions of a civic citizen. This is truer than ever when traditional obligations are dissolving and becoming a question of taste, and, as Rüdiger Safranski states, bad taste is being given an easy conscience.”
Perhaps we should adapt the statement made by the socialist revolutionary Thomas Sankara, “A soldier without education is a potential criminal“, as follows: a graphic artist who does not think is a potential deceiver?

Peter Sloterdijk says that design is nothing other than “skilled processing of the non-skilled” and sometimes a “simulation of confidence” that helps “to retain a form amid that which disintegrates forms”.
In our modern world of products in which stable qualities no longer exist, design has the task of keeping the mechanisms of continuous surpassing and increase going, of keeping a permanent process of rejuvenation moving forward, with a fixed gaze. Additionally, the applied art of design offers modern mass society sufficient help in striking the right balance between dismantling and building up illusions: “Everyone should have access to the feelings of being a winner.” As mass “self-designing”, it provides “its smart wearers” with an “up-to-the-minute competencies bundle of tempo, information, irony and taste” – but with an associated corresponding recklessness.

Friedrich von Borries conceives of a different way of thinking about design: “Design is a Janus-headed discipline that can react swiftly and flexibly to changes in society or in the environment. It has a dual nature, belonging simultaneously to the world of art (with all its freedom) and the world of economy (with all its effectiveness). […] Design has the power to create positive pictures for the future, to make desires visible, to further emancipation and to develop concepts for how to implement a good life for all. The tension inherent in design between its roots in the day-to-day society and economy, speculative desire production and the power of the artistic imagination can produce an effective force that transcends boundaries and conceives new possibilities for the world.”

I want to use the Point of No Return symposium series to pose the question of how graphic design and visual communication operate within the tension that exists between all these factors. My intention is to bring together thoughtful and critical attitudes in the field of graphic design – artistic and academic – in order to expand, stimulate, and make public the voice of a critical discourse on graphic design. I am particularly interested in the specifics of graphic design as a phenomena, something that has been insufficiently illuminated in the design discourses of recent years.

Anyone wishing to exercise criticism must constantly ask themselves: what is, in fact, the object of my criticism? To exercise critical discrimination means to put things in context, to measure them, to weigh them, and to interpret them – criticism is thus a dynamic dialogue between how things are and how things should be in which each dialogue partner influences the other. In order to produce a constructive opposition, the first symposium, to be held today and entitled Point of Departure, will begin by addressing the things that must be taken into consideration by working designers, and by looking at the question of what graphic design today can do, and what it does in fact do.
The second symposium in the series, entitled Born in the Echoes and scheduled to take place on the 31st of May of this year as part of the German-language AGI conference (once again in Hamburg), will focus on an interrogation of graphic design by various disciplines of the (cultural) sciences. What do philosophers, and sociologists, psychologists, communication and politics scientists, literary scientists, art and design theorists make of – or with – graphic design?
The third symposium, entitled Keep it Hit and scheduled to take place in December at the Bauhaus Universität in Weimar, will enquire into critical praxis in relation to graphic design. What are the essential criteria for the work of curators, critics, and those commissioning design work? And what might be put in place in order to fuel a critical graphic design discourse of the future?
Finally, in early 2020, the symposium series will appear in published form, to be launched at the It‘s a Book independent book fair in Leipzig. In order to assure as broad a base as possible for our efforts to give greater voice to graphic design, this publication will include the voices of a number of further authors in addition to the contributors to the symposium series.

Ingo Offermanns, Hamburg, January 2019

Point of No Return: Born in the Echoes

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What is good graphic design? This is a major question, and yet one that designers face routinely. Its continual everyday presence sometimes robs this question of its urgency – it is like a difficulty that a person has learned to live with, dealing with it smoothly and without thought. This is a question that is not new to us. It has previously been answered many times in a functionalistic/ideological manner, and, over recent decades, it has also increasingly been answered in a subjectivistic way. However, it is a question that must be posed by every generation, in all its urgency: answers are always context-dependent, and cannot be exhausted through the comparison of stylistic features and the checking of functionality. The question of what constitutes good graphic design implies pragmatic and moral qualities, and it must also respond to the context, task, object, process, and artefact of graphic design.
The philosopher Gerhard Schweppenhäuser suggests “that we do not take values as a referential framework [for this], because they change permanently, but their form, which remains constant. Instead of ‘good or bad’, the code of differentiation that we apply should be ‘correct and false’ or ‘fair and unfair’. [For this reason], the referential framework must consist of normative moral principles.” Schweppenhäuser demands that: “The communicative purposes that are realised with visual media must justify themselves under the principles of ‘self-determination in freedom’ and ‘equal rights of understanding’. Other criteria should not be recognised. Designers who consider ethics will discover that they are under an obligation to promote the cognitive and emotional abilities that we need in order to operate in an understanding-oriented way and with solidarity, and to consider the matter together in reflective discourse.”

The symposium Born in the Echoes poses the question of where and how such an attitude – surely one with which most designers can agree – expresses itself in graphic design. How can we recognise correct or just graphical design in relation to context, task, object, process, and artefact? And when is criticism appropriate, in spite of all well-meant assertions?
In my eyes, it is, in particular, important not to overlook the artefact. After all, it is the artefact that makes the content, parameters, and processes comprehensible – that is, accessible in sensory and intellectual terms. It is the reverberation and echo of these aspects. If sustainability in graphic design is to have a value, then this also means that the artefact also takes on a major significance.
But what should the criteria for determining quality be, given that they must go beyond simple questions of personal taste, strategic success orientation, and simple moral attitudes? What are the benchmarks for criticism, and where should they begin? What might serve as examples of correct and just graphical design and artefacts, or as examples of the complete opposite?

In my introduction to the opening of the symposium series Point of No Return, I said that one can read on pretty much every graphic design website that the graphic designers that advertise themselves on these sites operate in wide-ranging areas of enlightened publishing and are interested in a maximally intensive collaboration with their customers (aka society). Everywhere, the presumption is that what people are interested in is genuine exchange, in researching the unknown, in diversity, and consequently, only in design solutions that are independent of personal style and precisely tailored to the context that is being designed for.
Mission Statements of this type make easily palatable reading. They sound earnest, differentiated, sensitive, worldly-wise, even humble, and the politically opportune sound of their words somehow suggests quality.
When I look at the heavily European-influenced international uniformity of the commercial and the hipster mainstream alike, I find myself asking: how many generalised platitudes that sound good and how many assertions loaded with implications go along with this? How much manipulative whitewashing in the presentation of self and art? Or, in the spirit of Sloterdijk, how much simulation of confidence and solidarity has now become common sense? Also: to what degree is critical thought actually practiced and implemented?
As someone who works exclusively in the cultural scene, I also find myself asking: it is enough to work on morally opportune content for morally opportune clients, so that one never has to shine a critical light upon one’s own way of operating in design?

In the graphic design content, expressing these thoughts often leads to irritation. But what is at the root of this irritation? Is it because there is little tradition of this kind of thought in graphic design and design theory? Is it founded on the fact that this thinking is an overreaction, has little to do with the real world, and is of interest only in academic circles? Is the social significance that I am alleging for this discourse perhaps not justified in the case of an activity that is understood as a subordinate means to an end, something that is not in itself the cause of anything, but is primarily directed by outside agencies and is strategically deployed to create effect? Ultimately, do people suspect that this is an arrogant elevation of what we do?

In the symposium series Point of No Return – as with the open letters to the Stiftung Buchkunst that I have published jointly with Markus Dressen and Markus Weisbeck – if I argue for an increased capacity for speaking within graphic design, and for negotiating and disputing the criteria of what critical graphic design action is, then it is not because I am concerned with academic hair-splitting or greater cultural sophistication. Instead, it is about making people conscious of a reality described by the literature scientist Albrecht Koschorke thus: “Cultural symbolisations are for their part actions in the field that they symbolise. They do not record social conditions like passive measuring instruments. Instead, they change those conditions (to a greater or lesser extent). The relationship that prevails between social facts and their cultural representation, between object and concept, is thus not ‘cold’ and objective, but is a potentially ‘hot’, circular relationship.”
This interdependency and interweaving of visual communication and society reveals that neutrality in graphic design is an illusion, and that subjectivism is a questionable strategy. Thanks to their social function, communication designers are among the first people to come into contact with experiences of intercultural exchange and the associated values conflicts. In her article for the Lerchenfeld, Eva Linhart, curator at the Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt, speaks about the responsibility that goes hand in hand with this: “Graphic design, in its interaction between many specialisms and in its dependency on a series of new technologies and media, permeates all areas of life today and, since the digitalising of communication, it is the premier information, and imagery instrument of our society. […] If autonomous art connects with life only in an exemplary fashion, as an aesthetic transmission service from the detached space of the White Cube, graphic design’s natural home is in real-life praxis. In this context, it operates in an immediate, context-dependent, and multifarious way. This makes it all the more urgent that we should consider its effect, if it is not to be received in an unconscious manner.”

The interdependency and the interweaving of visual communication and society makes graphic design a constituent element of the public sphere – a value that erodes as society disintegrates into singularities. Interestingly, visual communication is in fact an integral part of this disintegration; not only does it support the dialogue activity of the public audience, it also supports the monologue activity of the cutthroat competition for attention – in other words: social exclusion. Might considering the audience in a spirit of solidarity be a desirable quality of graphic design?
But what does open graphic design look like? How does dialogue-based and solidarity-based participation in the public communication shaped by graphic designers function? How can this participation be given a graphical form that is more than just the smallest common denominator of strategic goals, particular interests, and subjective conditions?
Without wishing to anticipate the subject of the discussion, I find myself asking whether, along with remembering the public audience, it might not be just as important to discuss the expansion and reconquering of the public audience? After all, as Christian Bauer quite rightly remarked, whilst communication designers can certainly be trusted to act in a purposeful and profitable manner in line with the expectation of the market and of competition in the working field of audience effectiveness, a question remains as to possibilities “for providing an (imagined) audience that is not necessarily primarily composed of commission givers and other market participants with appropriately knowledgeable and public information on ‘the impropriety or unjustness’, that might take place in the fulfilling of commissions.”
How widespread this view has become was made particularly plain by Matthias Görlich’s contribution to the previous symposium, in which he asked whether the graphic designers of today are in fact still responsible for the graphic design of our societies, or whether this is in fact performed by other forces, with the graphic designers simply providing a trendy figleaf?
Does this mean that the discussion should be about the remembering of public audience dialogue on the one hand, and the expanding and reconquering of effective and interpretative power in this public audience context on the other?
Eva Linhart writes: “It is the responsibility of the whole of society in a civil society to penetrate the knowledge of the ability of the complex and power-constituting effective contexts of graphic design, if we as consumers are not to be solely those seduced by its effect.”
In the symposium series Point of No Return, I want to ask where the forming of theories for graphic design should begin and how concepts and criteria might be developed and differentiated, in order to provide an orientation for the qualities that should characterise critical design activity.
In the first symposium, Point of Departure, which will take place at the end of January, we have addressed the thoughts of active designers and posed the question of what, from their perspective, graphic design can achieve today, and what it does. Referencing Friedrich von Borries’ publication Politics of Design, Design of Politics, this discussion produces thoughts on lines of action such as how graphic design articulates, reproduces, questions (or challenges), opens up, empowers, comes up with concepts, and mediates. In the publication accompanying the symposium series, this list is expanded in order to provide space for as many perspectives on graphic design activity.
In the second symposium Born in the Echoes, my aim is to discover what thoughts on the questions being considered here might be offered by the scientific angle. In doing this, I feel that it is important not to ask questions solely within art and design theory, but also to incorporate philosophy and social, communication, and media sciences.
Finally, the third symposium Keep it Hit, which will take place at the end of the year at the Bauhaus Universität in Weimar, will look at critical praxis in relation to graphic design. What are the significant criteria in the work of curators, critics, and those who give designers assignments?

Ingo Offermanns, Hamburg, May 2019

The case against “the beautiful (German) book”

+


Design is always political. It would be irresponsible to think of graphic design today as any different, because (graphic) design influences our hyper-mediatised day-to-day lives more strongly than practically any other aesthetic discipline.
In view of capitalist appropriations and an increasing populist distortion of language and communication, graphic design in general and book design in particular must be an arena of differentiated aesthetic action: it is an integral part of our language and writing culture, an arena within which social transformations are developed and implemented. The interplay between action, testing, and application describes an open process that calls for experimentation and pragmatism in equal measure. To think of book design in a primarily affirmative way and in terms of commercial exploitation is an inappropriate and irresponsible act of narrowing. After all, aesthetics criticism goes further than any marketing strategy. Thus, there is a need for a forum to promote and propagate this central aspect of critical/aesthetic cultural activity.
The Stiftung Buchkunst aims to be such a place. However, if one reviews the Stiftung’s work over the past few years, one inevitably has the impression that the Stiftung misunderstands “the beautiful book” as a marketable edification accessory with the potential to yield good returns, whilst systematically obscuring the national and international discourse of critical book aesthetics. In short: the Stiftung Buchkunst operates like a national interest group for the printing and publishing industry, not like an institution that promotes culture and is conscious of culture’s best interests, intended to reflect vibrant book art and book design discourses.
As the signatories of this open letter, we thus wish to argue for an alternative and transnational discourse on the aesthetics of books within and outside of the Stiftung Buchkunst that reflects the wide spectrum of reflection and innovation in book design and also reflects artistic experimentation – regardless of whether it takes place in the context of the market, in cultural institutions, or in universities.
This means that we need panels of judges that do not demarcate these different contexts in hostile and hierarchical terms, but instead can detect outstanding book design and bring it into the discussion. If this type of approach cannot be established within the Stiftung Buchkunst, then we call for an alternative institution concerned with the discourse of book art, which can work shoulder to shoulder and on the same level with international juries.

Ingo Offermanns, Markus Dreßen, Markus Weisbeck, Hamburg, August 2018

Graphic #35

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Tell us about your book design experiences throughout your career.
Throughout my career, one thing never changed: The joy of staying up all night (when the phone finally stops ringing), listening to intriguing music and working on the next book, poster or identity. The joy of the moment, when you fully focus on the old artistic ritual: Stand back, look, approach again, grasp, feel, hesitate, then sudden activity and then another long pause – oblivious of all around one… But, looking back, my experiences range from quick and dirty jobs to never ending stories, from 600 pages madness to 16 pages madness, from generous warmth to cold blooded rip-off, from cryptic independent publishing to straight forward commercial publishing, from hand-to-mouth existance to regular paychecks.
Though, there are maybe two moments in my early career, worthwhile to lift out, because they influenced my work quite a bit: The moment, when I understood, that there is nothing like “the ideal book” – an idea, that I was brought up with, during my studies. And the moment, when I became aware of the limitations of my influence on society as a designer, on one hand, and the profound depths of the manipulative possibilities of visual communication, on the other hand.

Please describe the whole process of your book designing (from clients’ commissions to printing). And which stage do you consider the most important?
The process of book design oscillates between empathy, collaboration, interpretation, ordering, profiling, enhancement, renewing, showing, seducing, and serving.
Meeting a new client, for example, is a challenge in empathy, because you have to get an idea of the social context, that the project is being developed in – and you have to do this in a rather short time. Next to talking, it usually helps to share examples of artifacts, that the participants have in mind, when thinking about the publication’s content and its communicative strategy. This might sound superficial, but in the end, learning always starts with empirical study, emulation and variation.
The next step – and for me, the crucial part – is another challenge in empathy: It’s about getting a sense of the content. And I’m not (only) talking about the “objective” anatomy of it. I’m talking about the “sound” of the content, since our job is to give text and image a visual voice in printed matter. Usually, I try to make up a soundtrack for each project, falling back on my proliferating music collection. But, certainly, at this crucial moment, the parameters interpretation, ordering and profiling come equaly into place.
While gaining a sense of the content, I discuss the communicative idea of the publication: How does printed matter relate to the content? What does the book add to comparable publications? What’s the peer group? Is there any reason for the very moment of the book launch? Should the publication mark an endpoint or a starting point? and so forth. Enhancement, renewal, attention and seduction always play a role in these reflections, because clients don’t want anything worthless, washed-out, invisible or repelling. But, with each commission, there are differences in emphasis on one or more of these parameters.
Taking all this into consideration, a reference frame of printed matter that I have seen and/or collected before, pops up into my mind, and I try to sharpen and enlarge this selection by additional research. This visual reference frame and the project’s soundtrack finally help me to make the first steps towards a physical artifact. An important part of this design phase also is the starting communication with printers and book binders about production and budget.
Once the voice of the project is gaining shape, I order a book dummy, that shows the book’s paper and workmanship, and I make a typographic mock-up of a couple of pages of all situations of the book. In most cases I do this with fake text and image, since the autors are usually writing, while I’m designing.
Having done all this, the design is ready to be presented to the client. This is the most unpredictable moment of the whole book production (unless you work with regular clients), since the relativity of talking, which carries this great potential for misunderstandings, is now being exchanged for a concret object, which in turn causes different connotations with everybody in the team. I once heared an art director of a big advertising agency saying, that he behaves during a presentation, like a ninja during a fight: A ninja enjoys the fight, but never expects to survive. This attitude gives him peace and release for accurate and balanced perception, action and reaction. I admit, that the metaphor is a little cheesy, but still, he’s got a point there…
After a succesful presentation, the next step would be to apply the design concept to the final copy, which means reconsidering parts of the design concept, because the actual copy always differs from the things, that were announced in the beginning. But, this has nothing to do with negligence form the authors’ part. It’s just the consequence of the creative process, that the authors are going through, as much as the designers do. For this part of the design process, you really need perseverance. On one hand, I like this part, because there is something meditative to the process of building a book brick by brick, but certainly with big books, it’s quite demanding to keep up the tension until the end. Part of “the end” is printing and binding. If I get a chance, I like to do the print and binding approval myself, or in collaboration with the artist. It’s the moment, when you can control the final touch of the artifact.

As in any other design field, there are “today’s trends” in book design. How would you evaluate the
current trends in book design?

Maybe “new seriousness” would be a good way to describe, what I observe since quite a while among book designers. After the hedonist, ironic, self centered and playful anything-goes-decades, round about the millenium, after these years of post mechanical fascination for the liquid qualities of digital media and production, I observe a longing for straight forwardness and something like a doubting handling of graphic means.
Though, it’s hard for me to constitute a formal mainstream among the artifacts. Today’s book design can be dynamic, complex, rough, simple or elegant. It can be influenced by magazine or book design traditions. It can draw it’s inspiration from modernist or classical ideas… So, in my eyes, there is not really an obvious contemporary style in book design. Nevertheless, lots of designs do have something in common: It’s an attitude of self reflection, that embraces and shows the imperfection, conflict, distortion and dubiousness of graphic communication. Part of this doubting approach is the renaissance of the ideas of collaboration and humbleness. This may be a little hard to verify visually, but from what I experience, lately, the (modernist) idea gains strenght, that content and form has more to do with contextual interaction, than with devine ingenuity. I like this idea.
Nevertheless, I do have some doubts about highly conceptual and generative approaches, that put primary focus on the design process, to the detriment of a refined and precise artifact. Some of these strategies even seem quite academic to me, some without empathy. I know, that in times of transition, relativity and vagueness, striving for precision in form seems naiv, it has this tast of a defiant claim of certainty. But for me, striving for elaborateness is a process of concentration, which is nothing less than the basis for poetic power. Everybody knows this phenomenon from telling jokes: It’s all about the subtle play with words, syntax, intonation and timing – it’s all about refining form. And everybody knows, that on one day the same joke works better, than on the other day. Thus, poetic refinement or completion is incredably powerful, but ephemeral. And it is always a result of hard work, experiment and repetion. And that’s the story of Sisyphos – my role model…

There are different opinions about the role of book design. What do you think is the most important role of book design in contemporary publishing?
I think, that the heroic times of (inter)national education with the help of books are over. This promising task is taken over by new media. Book design and production is no longer about spreading information as fast and broad as possible. Books become more and more ritual objects – objects, that work as much symbolic, as functional, contributing to our need for self-assurance.
This means, that book production is going back to its roots: Preserving and highlighting elaborated and valuable information, and creating thorough and repetitive reading experiences. In times when major parts of our daily life take place in an abstract, boundless, liquid and intangible sphere, a physical condensate of thought – like a printed book – becomes a means to counterbalance and enrich our daily culture of communication.
This might sound anachronistic, but looking at the digital natives, I can observe a longing for some kind of authenticity, that goes along with elaborated physical objects. So, there is a chance that book design, in this respect, is going to become even more important for publishing, than it is today.

Your studio was founded in 2001. Has the process of book design been changed since then? (in terms of e.g. clients’ requests, the specific process of designing a book, your artistic decisions, etc.)
Honestly, not too many things changed. Maybe book making became faster. But so did I. Though, you could probably say, that during the past years, graphic design in Germany gained a little more respect as cultural disciplin in the course of the ongoing cultural identity crisis. But thinking about my daily business, the only changes I can think of, are due to an increase of professional experience.

You have designed a lot of catalogs for museums and artists. Tell us about the distinctive characteristics of catalog design in comparison with typical book design.
Catalogs are usually composed of heterogenious elements – such als photographic reproductions of visual artifacts, scientific or artistic texts, sometimes interviews and lists of data – that cause a multidimensional way of reading and perceiving. All these elements (and their ways of reading) should be arranged in a way, that they represent visual artifacts (or an artistic event) as adequately as possible, triggering both, the behind- and in-front-of-the-eyes-imagination.
Thus, todays catalog design is not so much about describing or documenting in a “neutral” way. It’s more about creating an experience of a specific artistic identity, using the whole orchestra of editorial and graphic means. I would call this the specific character and challenge of catalog design in comparison to typical book design, which I would rather associate with chamber music.

How much do you control the production process from choosing paper to printing and binding? (Are you satisfied with the printers and binders that you have worked with?)
This depends on the commission. Dealing with marketing departments (say in big publishing houses or big museums), I’m part of a team that takes decisions – and quite often, many decisions are taken, before I enter the game. Working in such teams, I feel more like an adviser, than a designer.
But, since I mostly work for smaller museums, publishing houses or directly with artists, I do control most of the production process in consultation with my clients. More control means, greater scope for experiment, more communication, coordination and responsibility. I really appreciate this, because the design process can take surprising turns, when discussing closely with good authors, publishers and printers. And luckily, I regulary work with such good teams.

What is the attraction of designing books compared to the other kinds of graphic design such as print, identity, etc.?
Whereas posters and identities are in most cases about compression, abbreviation and overpowering, the qualities of books lay in proximity, physicality and deceleration. Books are in general a vessel for a more or less complex story, that the reader is supposed to take some time for. Therefore, regardless of wether you have to deal with a novel, an art book or a scientific publication, you always have to deal with an extension in time, that allows and/or demands a special degree of subtleness and a wide range of nuances. Book design is about constructing and playing with structures and rhythms, that equally speak to our visual and tactile senses – and even to our senses of sound and smell.
But there is another important aspect about book design: the human scale. Posters can burst this scale by size, identities by omnipresence and web applications by infinity. Bursting the human scale is always overwhelming, because it aims at an adrenaline shock, that triggers our existential attention with the result of a temporal deindividualization. The human scale, in contrast, means limitation, finiteness and manageable size – a good basis for imagination and individualization. Books do intrigue this imagination by giving a physical impuls as much as a physical anchor for the stories and adventures behind our eyes.

E-books and mobile reading contents field have been emerging and expanding. How do you predict the future of book design?
I think that the ritual quality of books, that I mentioned earlier, is getting more important with the growing market of e-books. The market for printed books and magazines will probably shrink and mass production probably becomes less important, but I can imagine that the market for specialized, independend and high-end productions will stay stable, or even grow.
Looking back in history, looking at the different ways to communicate, we can rather observe a growing number of media, than a predatory competition between them. Content (and its creative process) always finds the medium, that suits best, and our educated societies demand nuances as much as simplifications. That’s why painting exists next to photography, theater next to television, analog music next to electronical music…

Ingo Offermanns, Hamburg, September 2015

DESIGN

“Leave your ego, play your music, and love the people.” 1


Translator Swetlana Geier once said that one reads from left to right, but one translates with head held high. This of course refers to internalization, not hubris. Design is also a form of translation. It is interpretation and authorship: humble authorship, relating empathically to the object of direct relation. Design is abstraction, deviation, allusion, and craftsmanship. What drives people to design, translate, and interpret? Swetlana Geier would say it is a yearning for the Original.

Form produces meaning. Whether one wishes it or not. Neutrality, friendliness, modernity, voluptuousness, machismo, simplicity, warmth, distortion, sweetness, humility, balance – all possible concepts – remain negotiable values. This negotiation continues seven days of the week. Graphic Design is a part of this negotiation of the everyday, and is therefore jointly responsible for elements of our daily forms of behavior. Forms of behavior mirror personal attitude, imposing conditioning on environments and on the people who live in them. In other words: a nuanced treatment of form is important, and will remain so.

“According to the most well-known principle of Humboldt’s philosophy of language, language is ‘the formative agent of thought.’ In language the productive activity of the mind, one could also say: its performative potential, is expressed. Language is no given system of signs and symbols, no tool of communication, but rather a creative force (energeia) that fundamentally determines man’s relationship to reality. Humboldt describes it as a ‘logical intermediate world,’ a ‘world of vocal sounds,’ which the mind, by its own power, must place between itself and external objects in order to internalize and cope with the objective world. This is why language so decisively determines our worldview.” 2


Different media and means of transport create different forms of encounters. An encounter in which one makes no commitment to the other is no more than tourism. To learn the language of the other is to engage in an exchange. Cultural exchange is translation, and is the responsibility of Graphic Design. Translation is a key cultural technique of global communication. Striving for an international language, however, is both idealistic and naive. Language can be tamed only to a certain extent. Graphic practitioners therefore work at least as much on changing communication symptoms as on the dilemma of their causes. It is Sisyphus, not Hercules, who is the graphic practitioner’s hero.

“If one denies language its deviations and indirectness, it becomes a yell or a command. If walking lacks all hesitation, all pausing along the way, it ossifies into a march.” 3


Translation never functions without friction gains and friction losses. It is always, also, a commentary and an attitude. Graphic practitioners therefore act just as they react. Graphic practitioners are concerned with language, dialogue and translation. All three phenomena require dedication and distancing, acts of letting go and deciding. All three phenomena are brought to life by convention, personal attitude, and surprise. In other words: the attitude of a graphic designer is shown by his or her personal engagement with the phenomena of language, dialogue, and translation, and in the ability to engage in exchanges concerning these phenomena. His or her praxis oscillates between the parameters of participation, collaboration, interpretation, ordering, profiling, evaluating, renewing, showing, seducing, and serving.

“Every translation is primarily the result of a design process involving language as its substance. The process does not emanate from focusing on an object, but rather from focusing on the tension between two ways of handling an object. This is a process in which the ‘what’ takes a backseat to the ‘how.’ […] The ‘what’ is only of interest inasmuch as it discloses layers of the ‘how.’ These extend farther and deeper than most readers imagine. […] As a non-native speaker, the translator is constantly balancing between chasms and abysses – between two languages, two worlds made up of images and sounds, between calling out and listening, listening and writing, skill based on knowledge and art beyond the pale of knowledge. To whom is he answerable? To language itself.” 4


Graphic Design is a discipline for meeting the world: for translation, for construction, for representation, for memory, and for multiplication. Meaning and function are always an integral part of visual communication. Rationality emphasizes the functionality. As functional necessity decreases, the focus shifts to design qualities. Graphic artifacts once again become ritual objects.

“‘Remember me, whispers the dust.’ (Peter Huchl) And one hears in this that if we learn about ourselves from the time, perhaps time, in turn, may learn something from us. What would that be? That inferior in significance, we best it in sensitivity. […] that passion is the privilege of the insignificant.” 5


Graphic Design is based upon actions and experiences. Graphic Design is a mediated discipline, a discipline of indirect exchange, whose focus is, in multiple ways, on ephemeral communication. Its requirements are: a thirst for knowledge coupled with doubt, initiative and experience, fervor and empathy. Graphic Design is a cultural technique for the knowledge-based society, and for capitalism. To think about Graphic Design is to think about a living cultural technique.

“The old ritual: Stand back, look, approach again, grasp, feel, hesitate, then sudden activity and then another long pause …” 6


1 Luther Allison
2 Excerpt from: Boris Buden, “Der Schacht von Babel. Ist Kultur übersetzbar? (The Shaft of Babel. Is Culture translatable?)”
3 Excerpt from: Byung-Chul Han, “Duft der Zeit (Scent of the Times)”
4 Excerpt from: Esther Kinsky, “Fremdsprechen (Speaking in foreign Tongues)”
5 Excerpt from: Josef Brodsky, “In Praise of Boredom”
6 Excerpt from: Wim Wenders, “Notebook on Cities and Clothes”

CLIENTS (SELECTION)

museums & galleries
Buddenbrookhaus Lübeck
Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum
Huis Marseille Foundation for Photography
Fondation Custodia
Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop
Kunstmuseum Winterthur
Kunstsammlung NRW
Marlborough Gallery, New York / London
MARTa Herford
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Saarlandmuseum
Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie

artists
Katharina Grosse
Judith Joy Ross
Olav Christopher Jenssen
Michaela Melián
Mutter/Genth
Pepe Danquart
Pia Stadtbäumer
Stefan Panhans
Werner Büttner
Wim Wenders

publishing houses
Hatje Cantz
König Books
Klett-Cotta
Manesse Verlag
NAi Publishers
Richter & Fey Verlag
Richter Verlag Düsseldorf
Schirmer und Mosel
Spector Books
Steidl
Tropen Verlag
Uitgeverij Vantilt
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln

AWARDS


best dutch book designs 2001
best dutch book designs 2002
best dutch book designs 2003
Schönste Deutsche Bücher 2012
TDC New York 2018
Kieler Woche Competition 2018 (2nd place)
German Design Award 2019
TDC Tokyo Award Nominee 2019

LECTURES (SELECTION)


The Book Society, Seoul, Korea, 2016
China Academy of Arts, Hangzhou, China, 2016
CAA Shanghai Institute of Design, Shanghai, China, 2016
Beginner's mind Shanghai • New look Shanghai International Forums (Symposium), Shanghai, China, 2016
Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany, 2017
Kindai University, Osaka, Japan, 2017
Tianjin University, Tianjin, China, 2017
Hangzhou Design Summer (Symposium), Hangzhou, China, 2018
Bauhaus Universität Weimar, Weimar, Deutschland, 2018
Point of No Return: Point of Departure (Symposium), Hamburg, Germany, 2019
CAA Shanghai Institute of Design, Shanghai, China, 2019
Point of No Return: Born in The Echoes (Symposium), Hamburg, Germany, 2019

INGO OFERMANNS

1972: born in Aachen
1999: Diploma in Fine Arts, Academy of Fine Arts, Munich
2001: Master of Fine Arts, Werkplaats Typografie, hoogeschool voor de kunsten, ArtEZ, Arnhem (Netherlands)
2001: Launching of Ingo Offermanns, design
2004/2005: Lecturer at the hoogeschool voor de kunsten, ArtEZ, Arnhem (Netherlands)
2005/2006: Visiting professor at the School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA (USA)
2006 to present: Professor of Graphic Arts at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) Hamburg www.klassegrafik.de
2015 to present: Editor in chief of the research platform Inter Graphic View www.intergraphicview.com
2016 to present: Member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) www.a-g-i.org

+49 (0)173 2158502
ingo@i-offermanns.de
i-offermanns.tumblr.com

IMPRINT

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owner: Ingo Ferdinand Offermanns
Eichenstraße 43, 20255 Hamburg, Germany
+49 (0)173 2158502
ingo@i-offermanns.de
tax identification No.: DE 252426817

Ingo Offermanns studio makes every effort to ensure that the material contained on its website is current, complete and correct. Despite this, errors and mistakes cannot be completely ruled out. Ingo Offermanns therefore cannot be held responsible for the topicality, correctness, completeness or quality of the information provided. Parts of the pages or the complete publication, including all information and offers, may be extended, changed or partly or completely deleted by Ingo Offermanns without notice; nor is Ingo Offermanns responsible for the availability or any contents linked or referred to from our pages. If any damage occurs by the use of information presented there, only the author of the respective pages may be held liable, not the one who has linked to those pages. Furthermore Ingo Offermanns is not liable for any postings or messages published by users of discussion boards, weblogs, guestbooks or mailing lists provided on our site.
All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are copyrighted. No part of these pages, either text, audio, video or images, may be used for any purpose without explicit authorization by Ingo Offermanns. Therefore, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, or otherwise, is strictly prohibited without prior written permission.

responsible for content: Ingo Offermanns

design & development: David Liebermann, Maximilian Kiepe

photography: Ernst Christian Dümmler, Shuchang Xie, nizza.cc, Edward Greiner

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AHMED ALSOUDANI

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Marlborough Contemporary
details: 290 × 360 mm, 60 pp.
awards: TDC New York 2018

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14

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BASIC RESEARCH – NOTES ON THE COLLECTION

category: catalogue / 2014
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 218 × 305 mm, 64 pp.

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28

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BEVERLY PEPPER

category: catalogue / 2019
client: Marlborough Gallery
details: 240 × 340 mm, 76 pp.

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15

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CARL ANDRE

category: catalogue / 2011
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 216 × 270 mm, 152 pp.

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24

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DISHAMMONIA

category: book / 2019
client: Michaela Melián / Spector Books
details: 120 × 170 mm, 76 pp.

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15

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FRANZ GERTSCH

category: catalogue / 2015
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 230 × 320 mm, 68 pp.

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40

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FRIEDRICH VON BORRIES. POLITICS OF DESIGN, DESIGN OF POLITICS

category: magazine / 2018
client: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum
details: 232 × 328 mm, 160 pp.

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10

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FRIEDRICH VON BORRIES. POLITICS OF DESIGN, DESIGN OF POLITICS

category: exhibition graphics / 2018
client: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum
Exhibition venue: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum
details: exhibition design by Friedrich von Borries

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34

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GIUSEPPE PENONE

category: catalogue / 2019
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 230 × 320 mm, 84 pp.

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8

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GOTTFRIED BENN. MORGUE UND ANDERE GEDICHTE

category: book / 2012
client: Klett-Cotta
details: 162 × 182 mm, 32 pp.
in collaboration with: Michael Zöllner
awards: Schönste Deutsche Bücher 2012

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20

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GOVERT FLINCK. REFLECTING HISTORY

category: catalogue / 2015
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 240 × 330 mm, 236 pp.
in collaboration with: Cyrill Kuhlmann

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15

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GREGOR HILDEBRANDT

category: catalogue / 2015
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 230 x 320 mm, 160 pp.

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24

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HANS-CHRISTIAN SCHINK. HIER UND DORT

category: catalogue / 2018
client: Saarlandmuseum
details: 210 × 280 mm, 92 pp.

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20

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HEIKE MUTTER & ULRICH GENTH. METAREFLEKTOR LUFTOFFENSIVE

category: catalogue / 2006
client: Heike Mutter und Ulrich Genth
details: 210 × 330 mm, 56 pp.

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42

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HENDRICK GOLTZIUS & PIA FRIES. PROTEUS & POLYMORPHIA

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 198 × 305 mm, 260 pp.
awards: TDC Tokyo Award Nominee 2019

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29

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HOCHSCHULE FÜR BILDENDE KÜNSTE HAMBURG

category: book / 2017
client: Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg
details: 195 × 288 mm, 164 pp.

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22

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INSIDE INTENSITY

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
details: 218 × 305 mm, 68 pp.

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13

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JAMES BISHOP. MALEREI AUF PAPIER / PAINTINGS ON PAPER

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop
details: 220 × 275 mm, 124 pp.

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23

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JERRY ZENIUK. HOW TO PAINT

category: book / 2017
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop
details: 144 × 236 mm, 144 pp.

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10

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JOSEF ALBERS MUSEUM QUADRAT BOTTROP

category: visual identity / 2008 –
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop

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23

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JOSEPH BEUYS. WERKLINIEN / WORKLINES

Gattung: Katalog / 2016
Auftraggeber: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
Details: 200 x 290 mm, 288 S.

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11

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JUDITH JOY ROSS. LIVING WITH WAR – PORTRAITS

category: catalogue / 2008
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop, Steidl
details: 240 × 300 mm, 164 pp.

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KAZUO KATASE. KATAZUKE

category: book / 2018
client: Museum Wiesbaden
details: 164 × 230 mm, 124 pp.
awards: German Design Award 2019

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KURT KOCHERSCHEIDT. MALEREI

category: catalogue / 2013
client: Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop
details: 240 × 300 mm, 144 pp.

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MARTINA SALZBERBER. ARBEITEN / WORKS

category: catalogue / 2005
client: Martina Salzberger
details: 116 × 160 mm, 248 pp.

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13

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MUSEUM KURHAUS KLEVE – EWALD MATARÉ-SAMMLUNG

category: visual identity / 2012 –
client: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung

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20

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MUTTER/GENTH

category: catalogue / 2015
client: Heike Mutter und Ulrich Genth
details: 230 x 295 mm, 200 pp.

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PEPE DANQUART. LAUF, JUNGE, LAUF! FRAGMENTE EINES FILMS

category: book / 2014
client: Pepe Danquart, Alexander Verlag Berlin
details: 165 × 240 mm, 120 pp.

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PIA FRIES. MALEREI 1990 – 2007

category: catalogue / 2007
client: Richter Verlag Düsseldorf
details: 235 × 285 mm, 192 pp.

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R.B. KITAJ. THE EXILE AT HOME

category: catalogue / 2017
client: Marlborough Contemporary
details: 240 × 340 mm, 92 pp.

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STUDIO KATHARINA GROSSE

category: visual identity / 2004
client: Studio Katharina Grosse

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22

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WER NICHT DENKEN WILL, FLIEGT RAUS

Gattung: Katalog / 2016
Auftraggeber: Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
Details: 218 x 305 mm, 68 S.

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WERNER BÜTTNER. DÜNGESCHLACHT ÜBER DEN FONTANELLEN

category: book / 2014
client: Werner Büttner, Textem Verlag
details: 223 × 320 mm, 172 pp.

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WERNER BÜTTNER. POOR SOULS

category: catalogue / 2016
client: Marlborough Contemporary
details: 228 × 326 mm, 96 pp.

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WERNER BÜTTNER. SOMETHING VERY BLOND COMES TO TOWN

category: catalogue / 2019
client: Marlborough Gallery
details: 240 × 340 mm, 92 pp.

DE/
EN/
中文

DESIGN

“Leave your ego, play your music, and love the people.” 1


Translator Swetlana Geier once said that one reads from left to right, but one translates with head held high. This of course refers to internalization, not hubris. Design is also a form of translation. It is interpretation and authorship: humble authorship, relating empathically to the object of direct relation. Design is abstraction, deviation, allusion, and craftsmanship. What drives people to design, translate, and interpret? Swetlana Geier would say it is a yearning for the Original.

Form produces meaning. Whether one wishes it or not. Neutrality, friendliness, modernity, voluptuousness, machismo, simplicity, warmth, distortion, sweetness, humility, balance – all possible concepts – remain negotiable values. This negotiation continues seven days of the week. Graphic Design is a part of this negotiation of the everyday, and is therefore jointly responsible for elements of our daily forms of behavior. Forms of behavior mirror personal attitude, imposing conditioning on environments and on the people who live in them. In other words: a nuanced treatment of form is important, and will remain so.

“According to the most well-known principle of Humboldt’s philosophy of language, language is ‘the formative agent of thought.’ In language the productive activity of the mind, one could also say: its performative potential, is expressed. Language is no given system of signs and symbols, no tool of communication, but rather a creative force (energeia) that fundamentally determines man’s relationship to reality. Humboldt describes it as a ‘logical intermediate world,’ a ‘world of vocal sounds,’ which the mind, by its own power, must place between itself and external objects in order to internalize and cope with the objective world. This is why language so decisively determines our worldview.” 2


Different media and means of transport create different forms of encounters. An encounter in which one makes no commitment to the other is no more than tourism. To learn the language of the other is to engage in an exchange. Cultural exchange is translation, and is the responsibility of Graphic Design. Translation is a key cultural technique of global communication. Striving for an international language, however, is both idealistic and naive. Language can be tamed only to a certain extent. Graphic practitioners therefore work at least as much on changing communication symptoms as on the dilemma of their causes. It is Sisyphus, not Hercules, who is the graphic practitioner’s hero.

“If one denies language its deviations and indirectness, it becomes a yell or a command. If walking lacks all hesitation, all pausing along the way, it ossifies into a march.” 3


Translation never functions without friction gains and friction losses. It is always, also, a commentary and an attitude. Graphic practitioners therefore act just as they react. Graphic practitioners are concerned with language, dialogue and translation. All three phenomena require dedication and distancing, acts of letting go and deciding. All three phenomena are brought to life by convention, personal attitude, and surprise. In other words: the attitude of a graphic designer is shown by his or her personal engagement with the phenomena of language, dialogue, and translation, and in the ability to engage in exchanges concerning these phenomena. His or her praxis oscillates between the parameters of participation, collaboration, interpretation, ordering, profiling, evaluating, renewing, showing, seducing, and serving.

“Every translation is primarily the result of a design process involving language as its substance. The process does not emanate from focusing on an object, but rather from focusing on the tension between two ways of handling an object. This is a process in which the ‘what’ takes a backseat to the ‘how.’ […] The ‘what’ is only of interest inasmuch as it discloses layers of the ‘how.’ These extend farther and deeper than most readers imagine. […] As a non-native speaker, the translator is constantly balancing between chasms and abysses – between two languages, two worlds made up of images and sounds, between calling out and listening, listening and writing, skill based on knowledge and art beyond the pale of knowledge. To whom is he answerable? To language itself.” 4


Graphic Design is a discipline for meeting the world: for translation, for construction, for representation, for memory, and for multiplication. Meaning and function are always an integral part of visual communication. Rationality emphasizes the functionality. As functional necessity decreases, the focus shifts to design qualities. Graphic artifacts once again become ritual objects.

“‘Remember me, whispers the dust.’ (Peter Huchl) And one hears in this that if we learn about ourselves from the time, perhaps time, in turn, may learn something from us. What would that be? That inferior in significance, we best it in sensitivity. […] that passion is the privilege of the insignificant.” 5


Graphic Design is based upon actions and experiences. Graphic Design is a mediated discipline, a discipline of indirect exchange, whose focus is, in multiple ways, on ephemeral communication. Its requirements are: a thirst for knowledge coupled with doubt, initiative and experience, fervor and empathy. Graphic Design is a cultural technique for the knowledge-based society, and for capitalism. To think about Graphic Design is to think about a living cultural technique.

“The old ritual: Stand back, look, approach again, grasp, feel, hesitate, then sudden activity and then another long pause …” 6


1 Luther Allison
2 Excerpt from: Boris Buden, “Der Schacht von Babel. Ist Kultur übersetzbar? (The Shaft of Babel. Is Culture translatable?)”
3 Excerpt from: Byung-Chul Han, “Duft der Zeit (Scent of the Times)”
4 Excerpt from: Esther Kinsky, “Fremdsprechen (Speaking in foreign Tongues)”
5 Excerpt from: Josef Brodsky, “In Praise of Boredom”
6 Excerpt from: Wim Wenders, “Notebook on Cities and Clothes”

CLIENTS (SELECTION)

museums & galleries
Buddenbrookhaus Lübeck
Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum
Huis Marseille Foundation for Photography
Fondation Custodia
Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop
Kunstmuseum Winterthur
Kunstsammlung NRW
Marlborough Gallery, New York / London
MARTa Herford
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum Kurhaus Kleve – Ewald Mataré-Sammlung
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Saarlandmuseum
Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie

artists
Katharina Grosse
Judith Joy Ross
Olav Christopher Jenssen
Michaela Melián
Mutter/Genth
Pepe Danquart
Pia Stadtbäumer
Stefan Panhans
Werner Büttner
Wim Wenders

publishing houses
Hatje Cantz
König Books
Klett-Cotta
Manesse Verlag
NAi Publishers
Richter & Fey Verlag
Richter Verlag Düsseldorf
Schirmer und Mosel
Spector Books
Steidl
Tropen Verlag
Uitgeverij Vantilt
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln

INGO OFERMANNS

1972: born in Aachen
1999: Diploma in Fine Arts, Academy of Fine Arts, Munich
2001: Master of Fine Arts, Werkplaats Typografie, hoogeschool voor de kunsten, ArtEZ, Arnhem (Netherlands)
2001: Launching of Ingo Offermanns, design
2004/2005: Lecturer at the hoogeschool voor de kunsten, ArtEZ, Arnhem (Netherlands)
2005/2006: Visiting professor at the School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA (USA)
2006 to present: Professor of Graphic Arts at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) Hamburg www.klassegrafik.de
2015 to present: Editor in chief of the research platform Inter Graphic View www.intergraphicview.com
2016 to present: Member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) www.a-g-i.org

+49 (0)173 2158502
ingo@i-offermanns.de
i-offermanns.tumblr.com

IMPRINT

owner: Ingo Ferdinand Offermanns
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+49 (0)173 2158502
ingo@i-offermanns.de
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