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Work / Graphic Design

Slawek Michalt’s graphic design is inspired by the sounds and ethos of jazz

As a self-proclaimed “almost musician” and jazz guitarist, Berlin-based graphic designer Slawek Michalt prefers – as most would – commissions that combine his passion and profession. “I love working on designs for musicians, electro-pop or jazz,” he says. “For my approach, I work according to Miles Davis’ quote: ‘Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.’”

One of his favourite projects was a series of posters for a jazz concert in Berlin, where an open brief led him to base the designs on sounds made by instruments. “I wrote down the sounds, like a cello, which sounds like ‘pwff-foo-piu’ or drums, which go like ‘tzss-z-zz-tzss’; it was fun to use the onomatopoeia as well as the abstract illustration.”

The posters combine eclectic typography with free-form shapes and lines to create busy compositions infused with a jazz feel.

Slawek runs his own graphic design studio as well as teaching at various art schools in Germany and China, while his client roster includes major institutions Berlinische Galerie and Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and smaller galleries such as Edition Block, and Italian design magazine domus.

He spent his early childhood in Poland before moving to Kassel, Germany, where he studied typography and graphic design under Nicolaus Ott and Bernard Stein, and feels his mixed background has influenced his current aesthetic. “In Poland in the early 80s I was surrounded by the colourful Polish posters and illustrations. Later on, when I grew up in Germany it was the Bauhaus design which affected me the most.”

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