July 5, 2011

Shared Convictions

cyan, Berlin, Germany

Author: John Foster

Topics: Handmade, Profiles

cyan—always lowercase—has brought a sense of intensity to the German design scene. Daniela Haufe and Detlef Fielder worked together elsewhere before deciding to concentrate on their cultural work and form their own studio, where they were joined by Julia Fuchs and Katja Schwalenberg. They quickly found themselves feted in international magazines and collections. The firm was even identified by Neville Brody as one of the few worth watching in Germany.

"Designing a poster is an elementary design exercise."

Due to their extraordinary ability to unify content, form, and image on a single sheet of paper, the poster is a natural vehicle for their talents.

Haufe and Fielder share their design convictions with the emerging generation of new German and European designers through their teachings and lectures at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig, where they are both professors. "The poster is integral to the learning process. In our teachings, we always try to make the poster the subject of discussion—and we make the students get involved with this medium." They also are involved with the internationally recognized association, 100 Beste Plakate (100 Best Posters), working with people and communities interested in keeping up poster design. They support the medium through international festivals, associations, and publications, helping to keep the poster vibrant.

A Certain Radicalism

Given that cyan will surely go down in history as one of the most innovative German firms of their time, and given their scholarly pursuits, it is particularly interesting to hear their thoughts on past masters of poster design, among whom they count Toulouse-Lautrec, John Hartfield, Raymond Savignac, Rodchenko, Piet Zwart, and Wolfgang Weingart. "We are influenced by posters that managed to change the style of an era through a certain radicalism." Somehow, that Haufe and Fielder are drawn to radical solutions does not come as a surprise to me. The challenging thought behind the work they consider great seems to shape their selections, as their own work shows little of its influence.

Speaking of influence, cyan reveals a more obvious basis for their work. "Besides the fine art, music, and photography—think Bauhaus, Cartier-Bresson—of various epochs, it is mostly everyday life that influences us." For example, "we once bought a colored striped sweater, out of which came the colors for our following layouts. The sweater as a piece of clothing also became one of our favorites!"

Ahead of Their Time

"Designing a poster is an elementary design exercise," say Haufe and Fielder. "First of all, there is the size of a poster. The other dimension you have to work, unlike in designing a book or a brochure, is that a poster also always has to win out over its environment." In addition, they point out, the designer must take into account the poster's effect when viewed from various distances. To create a poster that draws attention at first sight, but is still interesting on the second view, means concentrating all of your creative energy into a single panel. There is no room for anything less than a flawless execution. This imperative, plus "dealing with a huge amount of text and twenty or more logos," they laugh, makes the challenge of creating a poster that is both legible and attractive a daunting but rewarding task.

Some studios seem to be five years ahead of their time. cyan, with their inventive color palettes, eye-catching patterns, and blazingly intense presentation, is one of those firms. Given its heavy influence on Germany's young designers, by whom Haufe and Fielder are revered like rock stars, one can only imagine what the future will hold. Luckily, we can view the work presented here and dream.

Source: New Masters of Poster Design