“I think I was always interested in all kinds of critters,” explains Chris Hoffmann of the gateway into his creature-centric works. “Big or small, just anything that moved in different ways than we as humans do,” he continues, noting how he’s always been utterly infatuated with building worlds filled with sounds, colourful visuals and realistic characters. It’s safe to say that Chris’ work is like stepping into another reality; a form of escapism no less.
You’d assume that a creative working in this colourful, joyous manner must have had a similar upbringing. Well, as for his education, Chris sees it as a bit of a “maze” and recalls how he was not even close to a good student – who had to switch to a “lower” education. “I was never really talented in traditional media, say drawing or painting, so it was quite hard to explain to my parents that this is what I want to do even if it doesn’t look like much yet,” he tells It’s Nice That. Thankfully he burst through these barriers of doubt with great success, and when he got his hands on his first computer at the age of 15, his universe filled with critters really started to grow.
“It was a revelation for me as it created so many possibilities,” he adds, “even the non-drawing savant could potentially create whole worlds.” And that’s just what he set out to do – he experimented greatly, working heavily in digital art on the side of school. Eventually, the hours paid off and he landed his first internship at Parasol Island studio in Dusseldorf, during which he networked with like-minded people and got the chance to create at a fuller capacity. “My cultural education is almost all internet,” he adds, noting how at the time his small-town upbringing led him to discover all sorts online – be it Warp Records, anime much as Dead Leaves by Imai Toonz, as well as the Triadisches ballet by Oskar Schlemmer.
GalleryChris Hoffmann: Deconstruction (Copyright © Chris Hoffmann)
“But back to the work,” he remarks, telling us how he was offered a junior position working on After Effects animations at the studio, following his internship. Six years had passed though, and he needed to try out something new. That’s when he decided to embark on a year stint at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, before returning back to Parasol Island and eventually landing on freelance design. “This was the very first time that I worked on my own personal stuff – getting more confident with my own ‘vision’ of things,” he adds. It was the start of his entire visual language, and his character design caught the attention of Henrik Mauler and Jamie Raab of Zeitguised, a Berlin-based studio that he’s been working with up until this very day.
Now working as a freelancer with freedom to explore more interactive topics and experiments, Chris quite often portrays his work in a “direct and unapologetically naive” manner. This is evident throughout the inclusion of his “colour coded whimsical forest on legs”, and the tons of critters that roam throughout his lands, an example of which can be seen in a commission for Apple. An iPad-created project that places a bunch of characters in an artfully toned scene, he views the characters as being very special to him personally, “because they are fully my own language with not much compromise for a big client, which is always a very good feeling,” he says.
Elsewhere, there’s a spaghetti shaped VR sculpting experiment, a neon fashion show project for Zeitguised, a futuristic piece on a biker gang, plus a robot-like collaboration with Rita Louro from Portugal. But most imperative is Chris’ first developments into a more interactive world in Sorry We Missed You. “Maybe a game or maybe more of an experience, I don’t know yet,” he tells us, but one thing’s certain and that’s how excited he is about dabbling in this new territory. “It has everything I like to do: characters, sound, animation and people can interact with it,” he concludes. “This is kind of a dream for me, and with technology today, it is a lore more feasible than years go. For now, this is all a huge experiment” – a turn that we’re thrilled to be seeing more of!
Chris Hoffman: Here with You (Copyright © Chris Hoffmann)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.