Gilbert Schneider likens his design practice to crate-digging for the perfect sample
The Berlin-based designer starts each project with extensive visual research, preferring the shelves of the library to search results online.
- Alif Ibrahim
- 4 February 2021
When Berlin-based designer Gilbert Schneider was young, his parents took him to an Andy Warhol exhibition in Italy. The exhibition fascinated him. Bright, bold colours covered large prints on the gallery walls and the two-dimensional consumerist aesthetic that we’ve come to know Warhol by struck Gilbert. “I still have the catalogue of that exhibition at home,” Gilbert tells It’s Nice That. Besides that exhibition, he attributed his budding interest in graphic design to his father’s jazz record collection and Rot-Händl cigarette advertising stickers.
“Originally, I wanted to study fine art or painting. But the more concrete my desire to study at an art school became, the more I thought that there was more for me to learn in the field of graphics and design. In fine art you are more on your own,” Gilbert says. “From my mother, who is a painter, I know that as an artist it is often difficult to have a secure income. This was another reason why I chose applied design over fine art.” Furthermore, Gilbert feels that he doesn’t have to stick to one style when it comes to graphic design, preferring to incorporate new techniques and styles into his work.
Currently, Gilbert runs a screen printing workshop alongside collaborators Timm Henger and Paul Bowler while working on several design projects. “I really appreciate working with people from different backgrounds. It gives me the opportunity to play with new aesthetics and run less of a risk of repeating myself and my design,” Gilbert says. “What I like most about collaborations is the aspect of having something out of one‘s control, which often results in an uncertain but all the more refreshing outcome.”
Occasionally, Gilbert tries to work away from his screen to run analogue tests on his design, playing with test prints and incorporating physical materials into his work. “I like to experiment with different materials and techniques when the project allows it, and especially when the schedule allows it. I like to work with my hands, be it with concrete, silicone or electronic instruments,” he says.
His projects usually start with extensive visual research, preferring to look for references in libraries or antique bookstores rather than depending on what Google’s algorithm decides to offer you on a particular day. He likens this practice to crate-digging music producers who are looking for the perfect sample. “I might incorporate some fruits that I've found in a market in Georgia with some overpainted windows that I photographed somewhere in the suburbs of Athens,” he explains. “On top of that, I‘d put some elements of some Polish artists from the ‘70s whose images we found while visiting the archive of a small museum somewhere in Poland.”
Gilbert highlights his work for Biennale Zielona Góra as one that excites him. Collaborating with Karolina Pietrzyk and Tobias Wenig, the three were given a carte blanche brief that allowed them flexibility in their approach. “The work at the Biennale Zielona Góra was very enriching and pleasant in many ways. This was largely due to the responsible curators, a very young and relaxed team as well as the nice and enthusiastic museum staff,” Gilbert says. Collaborating with the Moś i Łuczak print shop in Poznań, they used special printing techniques that created unique effects using silvers and blacks. “It was so good to follow the printer's advice concerning the actual printing technique. To be precise they advised us to print the silver layer first and then the black as a second layer over it, to achieve the reverse effect at the end,” he explains.
In the near future, Gilbert is working on designing a magazine that will be published for this year’s edition of Berlinale, as well as a book in collaboration with a photographer who covered Berlin’s squatter and artist scene in the ‘80s. Across his work, the medley of references work harmoniously not only due to Gilbert’s sensitive eye for balance, but also the sense of humour that he imbues into it. “It's an important part of my work to put this wink into the message that I would like to transport,” he concludes.
Gilbert Schneider, Karolina Pietrzyk and Tobias Wenig: DIY/SHANZAI. Photo: Tillman Schneider (Copyright © Gilbert Schneider, 2018)