Although Berlin-based Karolina Pietrzyk has been designing for almost a decade, starting by making gig posters for shows held by “post-squat social and cultural centre” CRK Wrocław, Karolina finally found her groove when she started working with other people.
“For a couple of years, I practically stopped working alone. I found collaborations to be the happiest and most fulfilling practice,” she tells It’s Nice That. Currently part of Rainbow Unicorn and the graphics department of the DWA collective where she makes prints and exhibitions, she eagerly tells us about her list of frequent collaborators: Gilbert Schneider, Tobias Wenig, Mateusz Zieleniewski, Oliver Spieker from Form und Konzept, Rainbow Unicorn’s creative director Anna Niedhart and Ewa Głowacka.
This focus on collaboration means that Karolina places trust and loyalty at the core of her practice, returning to work for and with the same people multiple times. “It creates trust and freedom with experiments,” she says about these collaborations. She speaks warmly about her collaborators, frequently mentioning their names when discussing her design projects as if recounting a memorable trip. This continual mingling with other designers means that she has to push herself towards growing her practice, as it prevents her from taking shortcuts and returning to familiar and comfortable techniques. “I’m happy that collaborating can solve these problems after a discussion and having a pair of fresh eyes look over it,” Karolina explains, “it can help strengthen your concepts and stop them from sliding into a ‘cosy zone’.”
Although she initially wanted to be an illustrator, she started doing graphic design work through to her involvement in the music scene and eventually her enrollment in the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław. “I started to make posters for concerts organised by friends, and music is still my favourite field I think. With Oliver Spieker, Gilbert Schneider and Tobias Wenig, I have been doing covers for Edinburgh-based tape label Czaska Records for almost four years,” Karolina says.
She didn’t immediately warm to the discipline, however. “It took me some time to start thinking about design as something that can be as free and personal as drawing. I learnt this from my internship and, later on, from collaborating with Gilbert and Tobias,” she says about the DWA collective members.
She tells us about several commissioned and self-initiated projects she did with the pair. For We Will All Meet at the Same Place, an exhibition curated by Paweł Szroniak, the trio worked with the material and process of unfolding exhibition posters. “We thought about making the paper poster as an object in itself, a big one folded so that you can fit it into an envelope,” she says. Upon unfolding the poster, it makes an audible and annoying sound. They went for a more restrained approach for lightboxes and advertising, leaving out most of the graphics to create negative space. For the seventh A L’arme Festival in Berlin, she worked with Oliver Spieker and Tobias on creating an identity based on the idea of the accumulation of smalls sounds that eventually forms into a full song, using simple, multiplying triangle shapes.
In their self-initiated project for the Try Nothing Twice exhibition held by the DWA collective, she notes that the name reminded Gilbert of TNT, the compound used in dynamite. From this, they produced a poster featuring pixelated explosions and scattering type, sourced from the light-hearted wordplay. “The process of making this poster was really funny and light, we did it in the backroom between hanging the artworks. It’s this kind of project – quick, easy and light that I like a lot,” she explains.
Her most recent poster for the seventh edition of Cati Spazializzati, a series of workshops and concerts devoted to theories and practices of experimental music on the spatialisation of sound, was a collaboration with Mateusz Zieleniewski.”The theme was about nature and then autumn began, so we decided to make a special typeface out of wooden sticks we found in the park,” she explains. “It was a lot of fun,” she adds, noting that she and Mateusz are planning to expand on the typeface in their future work.