Questions: Alice Twemlow.

Interview for an article in Print, New York; August 2006.

Interviews | Print Magazine, 2006

Firstly, some basic things about where and how you work: Which area of Berlin is your studio/office located in? What kind of building is it? Is this the place you live too?

I worked in different locations over time – at a local paper, at home, in a tiny studio in the backyard of a squat, at home again; I’ve also worked in a pre-press studio for a couple of years and shared office with a record label. This was all in and around Mitte.

I’ve also been working in trains, at other people’s kitchen tables, in a tiny wooden hut, in waiting rooms, in hotels. I work alone most of the time, so i don’t quite see the point in having an office just for that … I don't need a lot of equipment (basically just my laptop, an internet connection and a closed door), and i don’t need a “representative” space in order to impress anyone. Even when I work with people in the same area, I hardly ever meet them at all – we communicate by e-mail most of the time.

Almost all of the projects I’ve done in the last couple of years that I’m really happy with were with or for people who were not in Berlin – a designer in Belfast, a record label in San Francisco, a musician in Saarbrücken (Southwest Germany) and one in Malmö, a label in Frankfurt/Main, another one in amsterdam, a textile factory in Italy, a photographer in Italy … the only thing that really matters when working with others is sharing a common language; to me that’s infinitely more important than being in the same office or city or time zone.

In berlin I often worked in different locations in parallel – I had a part-time job in pre-press for a couple of years, for example; at that time I was often at home in the morning, at work in the afternoon and in my “studio” in the evening. Luckily, mobile phones had just become a public commodity, otherwise that wouldn’t have been possible I believe (this was before everybody had e-mail – I got my first mobile phone in 1990 I think, when they were still powered by something resembling a car battery … I needed a bag to carry it around in, along with a couple of syquest disks =).

Right now (in Vienna) I’m working at home, just like in the last couple of years in Berlin.

How long have you lived in Berlin?

20 years.

Where and what did you study?

I haven’t studied anything. I left school and started to work at a local paper when I was 19, the “scheinschlag” -- originally designed by cyan, so it did and still does not look at all like a typical local paper, quite the opposite. That and the pre-press job I took on two years later were “my education” if you want – I certainly learned a lot during that time, and the time at scheinschlag in particular was much more important for me than any degree could have been.

What kinds of work do you do?

Mostly music-related work, although that might be changing a little in the future – I’m trying to get into textile design, I’ve just started a little project for a DVD label (although that’s not very far from music publication), and a catalogue for a photo artist has just gone to print last week. I’m also looking for other new projects as one client of mine (a record label) had to cut down expenses radically so I’m not doing very much for them anymore.

What are some of the qualitative differences between being a designer and making music – how does one inform the other?

If you’re thinking of digital music, the methods you work with are very similar – recording and filtering and layering and looping and noise and silence and all that, almost everything exists in both worlds. Both are extremely technology-driven as well, if you look at how much both design and music have changed in the last 20 years, the mainstream in particular. The potential of generative or process-oriented or simply experimental work of whatever kind also has a similar scope in design and music I think, although in my eyes the experimental music scene is way, way ahead of designers in that respect.

Whenever I worked with a musician, it’s often been very inspiring for me to learn about their working process and what methods they use – overall, that has had a much bigger influence on my work than design, I think.

And musicians are often freelancers, too, so their position in general is on the same level with mine. I mean, it’s not a person dealing with a company or department, but two individuals that work together or one for the other.

To what extent does being in Berlin affect the way you work?

None at all.

To what extent do you feel someone can tell from looking at your work, your CD covers say, that it comes from Berlin?

I would be very surprised if anyone could tell that, unless they look at the credits of course.

To what extent do you consider yourself to be a “Berlin” designer?

None at all. Ten or fifteen years ago, I might have, but the Berlin that I would have meant is now history.