Keeping design humorous and joyful with Raffael Kormann
For the Stuttgart-based designer, everything starts in his sketchbook. Here, he tells us about the infinite workings of the sketchbook and an unexpected project making light out of cliche tourism imagery.
- Jyni Ong
- 10 January 2022
Eager readers of It’s Nice That will probably remember Raffael Kormann’s name from this article last year. One of the most read pieces of 2021, we quizzed the Stuttgart-based designer along with fellow collaborator Mark Bohle on a project designing 80 posters for Kulturzentrum Merlin. Now, we’re here to find out more about Raffael specifically and what else he’s been up to recently.
In Der Südsee, the Stuttgart-based designer brings a bit of fun to the typically “rather bloody boring” area of Lake Constance, the area he grew up in. Located in the very south of Germany, the platform offers a range of activities to people looking for a sense of adventure in the region. Raffael tells us, “it’s known for being everything but adventurous, but we decided to mess things up by playing with stereotypical tourism imagery as well as using regional clichés in an ironic way.” In turn, the tongue-in-cheek project features comical images paired with bold and brightly coloured type, each graphic element acting as a playful contrast to the other elements on the poster.
At the time of our interview, the project was just about to launch, and Raffael was greatly looking forward to seeing how the people from Lake Constance would react to this humorous approach. Putting a lighthearted yet artistic spin on the images of a gnashing shark, a tranquil beach and an OAP on a mobility scooter, respectively, Der Südsee is a tourism project with a difference thanks to Raffael’s creative vision. He also points out how it was a lot of fun working with people from Lake Constanse to develop this funny approach.
In another project, Temporary Truths, Raffael set out on an exploratory research-based project to find how ideas come about through working in a sketchbook. The project draws on the concept that drawing and design can be a form of thinking. “The sketchbook is a space for visual and intellectual experimentation,” he says, “it’s a space for open-ended research in what is read, seen and thought, visualised and processed.” Amassing his research into a full-bodied compendium, the mighty project now takes the form of a 620-page publication. A reflection and reaction to our surrounding visual world, the work draws out various perceptions of reality through the art of the sketchbook.
Raffael describes the ensuing product as a “heavyweight manifest – a time capsule packed with research material, thoughts, drawings and ideas produced while wandering through sketchbook wonderland.” As a consequence, the project has gone on to influence video works, huge prints and sculptures that were exhibited last year in an “old, dusty stone workshop”. Constantly in flux, Raffael is currently working on a second part to the project, an evolution of his changing ideas brought to life in the moment.
These two recent projects are just a small glimpse into Raffael’s creative vision. The son of two architects, he was introduced to art, architecture and design from an early age. With time, his creative interests took an independent turn and he started flexing his muscles in photography and graffiti. He established a small skateboarding label selling T-shirts out of his parents basement before studying Communication Design and Fine Art at the art school in Stuttgart. There, he did internship stints at Zeit Magazin and Bureau Borsche, then freelanced with a range of studios most recently including Wieden+Kennedy London where he's been a collaborator since Spring 2021.
“I am really curious about finding new ways of expressing something in terms of its visual appearance, its idea, concept and story,” the designer adds on his creative ethos. As someone who’s interested in “a thousands different things”, Raffael is too curious about various facets of the creative industry to hone in on one style or project for too long. That being said, he likes to be consistent in the way he always tackles a project with humour and joy. There is another constant too: Raffael starts every single design or project in the sketchbook. He takes a sketchbook everywhere with him all the time. Whether it’s adding notes, drawing something or just fooling around, the sketchbook beholds a place for infinite exploration, reflection and thought.
Raffael Kormann: Der Südsee, 2021, in collaboration with Mark Julien Hahn (Copyright © Raffael Kormann, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.