Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid is that his style is such an unusual and challenging assemblage that it is difficult to mimic because it changes with each piece, yet stays amazingly current and fresh.
Hickmann is quick to pull back the curtain on the thinking that has led to his astounding collection of work. You can almost taste his willingness to make risky decisions and to reap the rewards. "Learn all you can. Try all you want. See what there is to see. Explore and experiment. Make mistakes. Climb vast peaks and plunge to hidden depths. Be decent, be depraved, be boring, be radical. Fall in love, wallow in hate. Smell like a flower, stink like a fish. Laugh and cry. And then forget it all and find your own way—to create."
Filling a Blank Space
Hickmann expresses undying affection for the poster and the unique challenge it presents. "No other medium shows the mastery of a designer more clearly than the job of filling a blank space of particular size and format. With posters, it's all about distilling the message down to its essence, to its core. Which doesn't mean a poster has to be bland or prudish. It can easily be kitschy or even playful if that's the best way to support the message being put across." He also sees the parallels with another passion—the written word. "The poster requires a certain concentration. It permits no wavering. Interestingly, similar laws govern writers for the production of a quality text.
Only that which needs to be said is said. The information should be clear and unequivocal. It is better to be precise than waffly. The designer has to successfully hit the given mark within the scope and possibilities open to him. If he doesn't, the whole is thing is a sad patchwork, neither one thing nor the other—a wasted space."
Hickmann appreciates those that have gone down this path before him. "Everything we do is nothing without knowing the past heroes: Hans Hillmann, Shigeo Fukuda, Armin Hofmann, Saul Bass, Grapus." He also knows that the poster cannot be stopped as an art form, much in the way that rock and roll will never die.
m23 serves as a collection of like minds for Hickmann. The staff members are dedicated to the mental aspect of creation and expression, whether they are designers, musicians, architects, theoreticians, or athletes. Hickmann himself is so dedicated to the pursuit of thought that he is now a university professor, a job that has taken him as far as China to speak and teach. For Hickmann, design is all about "the idea." He says, "As a child,I was always jealous of the scabs and bruises that my older brothers got from their football games. Their wounds were proof to me that fun is worth suffering for." We can all be thankful he is willing to endure that suffering so we may reap the spoils.