Besides forming one half of design studio Hammer, Sereina Rothenberger teaches at HfG Karlsruhe in Germany alongside fellow tutor David Bennewith of Colophon studio. (Sereina also teaches at VCFA Vermont College of Fine Arts and David at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy.) “When we invited graphic designers to give lectures at the university, we noticed that there was a certain hesitation amongst our students to ask questions,” she tells It’s Nice That of the pair’s most recent project with their students. “We were convinced that this was not out of a lack of curiosity, but more because they felt they might ask the ‘wrong’ questions.”
In response to this, the pair decided to create a seminar focussed solely on asking questions, a valuable skill not only for new graduates but for graphic designers on the whole. Sereina and David, therefore, invited a group of practising designers to Otl Aicher’s Institut für analoge Studien in Rotis, Germany, firstly in May 2015 and again in November 2017. Over two days and with the help of Manuel Aicher, “the invited designers were interviewed in myriad ways by our students, whose assignment it was to learn to conceive, ask, and design questions” Sereina continues.
The invited designers purposefully represented a range of practices with the final line-up consisting of Marietta Eugster and Manuel Krebs from Norm in Switzerland, Wayne Daly and Veronica Ditting from The Gentlewoman in the UK, Elisabeth Klement and Laura Pappa and Vinca Kruk of Metahaven from the Netherlands, Boy Vereeken from Belgium, Vier 5 from France and Honza Zamojski from Poland. “We also saw it as an opportunity for the students to research different positions in contemporary graphic design, whilst having Rotis as a stimulating backdrop, a place where some of the most interesting German design of the 70s was produced,” Sereina explains. In total, 28 students participated, some who had just begun their studies, while others were in their final semester.
Questions—looking for answers in the middle of somewhere, a publication, emerged as the result of the events. Part of the assignment was that each student had to design a typeface based on Rotis, a font released by Otl Aicher in 1989, and then use these to design their own interview within the book. “This leads to a perhaps crude mix of aesthetics that are influenced by the students perspective on the work, and the interview subjects, they researched,” Sereina comments.
A team of students – Frederike Spielmannleitner, Simon Knebl and Béla Meiers – brought the various interviews together, designing the overall publication using their font Aach, based on typographic sketches for the 1972 Summer Olympics they found in Aicher’s old studio complex. As two separate visits to Rotis took place, Federike, Simon and Béla decided to present the content as two distinct sections, made clear by a separation of colour.
Ultimately as Questions—looking for answers in the middle of somewhere features the work of so many design students in response to the thoughts of so many practising designers, it helps provide insight into the state of contemporary design. “Some of the designs may be more elaborate than others. For us it was important to have an honest representation of the students work, rather than something too polished, we wanted to see how far the design of the interviews could be pushed,” Sereina concludes. “The work produced by young of students is maybe the most contemporary insight you can have in graphic design in a school, since the work reflects their momentary curiosity.”
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