“I recommend every artist or designer – it’s hard to draw a line here – to try out new tools and disciplines,” so says Germany-based graphic designer Hans Findling. With an artistic upbringing, Hans was inspired to explore multiple disciplines. His grandmother, for example – a painter and classically trained photographer – would would help him “create contrasts, agglomerations and empty spaces”, says Hans. “So I started to see painting not only as a childlike way of expression but as a way to create aesthetics.”
Retrospectively, this was his gateway into abstract visual design. At the age of 12, he lost interest in painting when he received a reflex camera from a friend of his father’s. “I experimented a lot and I took a lot of pictures – I learned something new almost every day,” Hans tells It’s Nice That. “In the beginning I mainly photographed landscape and architecture; compositions with lines and graphic elements were what inspired me.” He describes the process of photography as one that’s much less intuitive, and one that’s faster and more repeatable – “see, frame, capture.” Drawn into this technique of creating, photography seemed like an undeniable path that even landed him his first solo exhibition. “People bought my work, I gave interviews, won an award and was sure that it would be the beginning of my career – I wanted to be a photographer,” he muses. But, as his style became more conceptual, he sparked an interest in various Photoshop tools and manipulation methods that enabled him to design his own logo, business cards and a website. “That’s how I got in touch with design.”
Although a lengthy one, Hans’ journey into design allowed him to touch base with multiple techniques – ultimately enabling a broader perspective on what can be perceived as art and design. Photography, of course, was the door opener and led him to study communication design at University of Konstanz, located in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. He sees the medium of design as one that blends the tools of painting and picture-taking, anyway: “My work is created from a variable mixture of intuition and following rules,” he says. “Sometimes I find it a pity to have stopped photography or painting and I have the feeling that I could never do it the same way that I used to. But I think that both phases have a big influence on my current way of working.”
Now, alongside his studies, Hans works part-time in a local advertising agency. He sees this as a good balance and one that “reminds [him] again and again that applied, appropriate design is not art.” When tackling a commission, he explains how it all starts with thinking of a certain material, a typeface or a feeling, “the rest starts to build up around that starting point.” He adds: “Stuff like posters, type design, animations and small works that stand alone are formed by my intuition, feelings and what I have seen or experienced.”
Additionally, he points his inspirations to the works of Hans Arp, Henri Matisse, as well as Helmut Schmid or Armin Hofmann. What’s most interesting, however, is that while working in the field of photography he rarely looked to his peers or big names in the industry – “that changed with graphic design,” he says. “Recognising current trends is important, but understanding timeless classics and rules is much more important and really pushed me forward. It’s always good to take a closer look at the works and practices of some masters.”
From the outset, it’s clear that design was his calling. With his multidisciplinary upbringing, Hans has consequently defined a style that’s filled with black and white compositions, bold illustrative posters and functional type – as seen in his recent interpretation for the recycling symbol. “I love to put a lot of details in letterforms to give them a special expression,” he says. “Words can communicate not only by their meaning, but also by their outer form. I find it exciting to contrast these two levels.”
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.