“On the one hand I admire the simplicity and lucidity of Swiss graphic design and, on the other hand, I can’t stop using drop shadows and metallic effects,” German graphic designer Vivien Hoffmann tells It’s Nice That. “However,” she adds, “I don’t think one necessarily excludes the other – mixing styles and combining unrelated elements often leads to the results I’m most happy with.”
This tension can be seen throughout Vivien’s portfolio which swiftly dances between formalised book designs and expressive typefaces. With an array of projects, Vivien’s typefaces are some of her stand out pieces of work, varying stylistically and conceptually. “For me, there are roughly two types of graphic design,” she explains, “the first one is kind of invisible, it’s what our eyes are used to, it is meant to be understood by everyone, it doesn’t evoke questions, neither does it attract attention. The second kind is more of an art form, it is not about comprehensible communication but digs deeper into experimenting with visual styles.” It’s in this latter space that Vivien tends to design her typefaces.
Born from a belief that legibility is not always the most important factor, she experiments with the layers of communication a font can have. “When typefaces have a certain character, they reach a new level of communication than just conveying language,” she remarks. In Vivien’s most recent project, she channelled this approach while working on an identity for urban photographer Kasja Prytula.http://www.kasja.de/ Based in Düsseldorf, Kasja’s work captures the raw dirtiness of the streets in a contrastingly clean fashion. As a result, Vivien created Kasja, a custom typeface borrowed from the recurring motif of graffiti in the images: “a headline typeface that has the messy character of graffiti tags but is elegant at the same time.”
Although clearly accomplished and conceptually sound, there are also touches of humour and fun throughout Vivien’s portfolio. For example, her typeface La Vedette – presented in a specimen alongside images of Pamela Anderson – was made with the aim of uniting certain elements that she likes about typefaces. With its wide letters and round shapes, La Vedette doesn’t really allow the eye to settle. “It is elegant but also bitchy,” Vivien explains, “which is why I named it after the French expression for a diva.”
After originally studying graphic design in Düsseldorf, Vivien moved to Berlin while working on her Bachelor thesis: “Surprise, another graphic designer in Berlin,” she jokes. Upon graduating she spent a year working in an exhibition design studio where she “learnt a lot about design within architecture but quickly realised that it is not really my area.” She now works a freelancer which allows her to “put a lot of effort into personal projects which are more fulfilling.”
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.