In his new book, Sebastian König illustrates the very relatable trials and tribulations of being stuck in a traffic jam
At some point in time, we’ve all found ourselves trapped in a car sitting in miles of traffic. The new book, Jamming, explores this universal experience, helping us to look at the funny side of a frustrating ordeal.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 5 October 2021
Hamburg-based illustrator Sebastian König began his career as a graphic designer. After studying the subject at Alsterdamm – School of Visual Arts, he began working in magazine design and publishing, running a small graphic design practice that focused on typography and branding. At the time, illustration was just a means to an end for Sebastian, part of a wider process but never the focus.
Around 2017, however, he started to use the medium for his personal projects, submitting them for awards and publishing them on his Instagram. The feedback was positive and he realised then the creative possibilities of illustration. It allowed him to “have more creative freedom” and gave him the ability “to create more personal work,” as he puts it. It was also an ideal way to “create something from nothing” and quickly visualise concepts for others to engage with. He soon developed his own unique style – one which he has continued to work in ever since.
Sebastian has gone on to work on a range of zines, books and prints, and has collaborated with big-name clients such as The New York Times, Die Zeit, Apple and Rimowa, among others. One recent project has seen him create a book titled Jamming, which has just been released by Portuguese independent publisher Stolen Books. Containing a series of illustrations by Sebastian, Jamming explores the universal phenomenon of traffic jams, focusing on this strange modern experience that brings us so close to others, and yet fills us with frustration.
“I really loved the absurd idea of being forced to deal with odd circumstances in the microcosm of the Autobahn (Germany’s highway system),” explains Sebastian. “It is like a new world you are entering when you are on the road – if you get stuck, there is no way to escape and you and the other drivers have to accept new rules. Being in a traffic jam shows all the bright and dark sides of humans.”
The book, which has been put together in a simple manner and minimally designed – to allow Sebastian’s illustrations to speak for themselves – deals mainly in primary colours. The drawings are bright and bold and reminiscent of old car games. This retro aesthetic is intentional, says Sebastian, who drew on the “boxiness of older cars” that perfectly matched his drawing style. During this process, he was also fascinated by the “ugly beauty” that has come to define our modern infrastructure. “We have a heavy impact on nature and the way we live,” he says. “The change of landscapes and the infrastructure we build around us are both unnatural and unhealthy but they are something we have gotten used to living with.” This sentiment adds to the idea, visualised in the book, that highways, despite having become an essential part of modern life, are inherently strange places to occupy and the bringing together of people in traffic jams is an undeniably mundane yet peculiar experience.
Sebastian explains that Jamming was, in part, inspired by his own experiences of driving to the south of France as a child in the ’90s. Cruising in his father’s BMW with a caravan in tow, he developed an affection for this relatively slow method of international travel. So much so that he has since given up air travel. “Since then, I have never been on a plane and have only vacationed in Europe by car – which provides many opportunities to breathe fresh air on international autoroutes and at truck stops,” he says.
As a result, he has become a veteran of car travel and knows only too well the many trials and tribulations of being stuck in traffic. In the book, these include having to urinate into a bottle, getting out of the car to stretch your legs during a never-ending jam, eating others people’s leftovers at a truck stop, and the inevitable fight between young children forced to spend hours trapped in a car with each other. Each situation is captured in beautifully simple detail in a variety of mini series throughout the book. “The basic narrative idea of the book is shown in different formats of picture stories, from one or two images to more complex comics with lots of frames,” explains Sebastian. “Most stories are inspired by my own funny experiences. I hate humour that points a finger at others or makes fun of others, but I love a self-reflective way of laughing at yourself or humanity, feeling uncomfortable and making the best of it.”
GallerySebastian König: Jamming (Copyright © Sebastian König, 2021)
Sebastian König: Jamming (Copyright © Sebastian König, 2021)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.