Unusually for a graphic design student, Stefan Hürlemann worked for five years in industry before enrolling at the Zurich University of the Arts. He completed a four year apprenticeship at a major printing company in Switzerland, Polygraph, where the young designer learned all the necessary skills for a career in the discipline. He cleaned up designs, rebuilt many files so they were easier to print, as well as retouched and edited hundreds of images for the company.
The apprenticeship impacted Stefan with the historic expertise of a type setter and a lithographer; two dying trades that our now-digital world has rendered redundant. But utilising this knowledge to the best of his ability, Stefan’s work makes use of his typographic prowess as seen in his graphic design portfolio which is nothing short of elegant. After his apprenticeship, the Zurich-based creative went onto work as a graphic designer at one of the city’s advertising firms before making the decision to go back to university to hone his conceptualisation of a design.
It was through his instagram account that Stefan started to draw in his first commercial clients. Challenging himself to deliver a small project a day (namely posters at the beginning), Stefan started to build his signature visual language which combines the historic Swiss design systems with a contemporary flare. Now taking a year out of his studies to further establish himself in Zurich’s design industries, Stefan’s path to becoming a designer with clients such as Nike China, has certainly not been a conventional one. He even dabbled in the space art scene as a young teen, working with the programme Gimp and later Photoshop, to create Space Composites and fantastical digital paintings.
More recently, Stefan was approached by the Shanghai-based agency RoyalClub to create four typographic interpretations of the word dash, faster, run and speed. “The goal was to create fast-moving, typographic illustrations to reflect the character of the Nike Zoom mix while matching the type with patterns and the Nike brand," the designer tells It’s Nice That.
Irregardless of the sportswear brand’s stature, for Stefan, the joy of the project lies in the initial sketches of the designs which “help me learn a great deal about typography, type design and working with a client.” With this brief specifically, the project allowed Stefan to get a feel for working with Chinese calligraphy which he had little previous experience with. Challenged with artistically experimenting with the letterforms on one hand, and not offending the calligraphic tradition or the readability of the language on the other, Stefan went back and forth between his designs and the client to create type-led animations that adhere to both.
In other projects, Stefan collaborated with Samara Keller, Viltė Jurgutytė and Christian Knöpfel to design the event identity for this year’s Art Director’s Club Creative Week in Zurich. He also worked alongside Tanja Krebs, Fabienne Müller and Laurence Hau to brand a new affordable housing area designed for both refugees as well as students to live in. And looking ahead to the future, Stefan’s plans are equally exciting. Currently in the process of designing his first typeface to be publicly released, he’s also planning to launch a new platform, typeswiss.ch this September. With the aim of empowering and promote emerging Swiss designers, Stefan has big plans to hopefully help young designers gain industry contacts through the site, as well as allowing them to sell their work at the same time.
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.