January 1, 2012

Nikolaus Hafermaas

Is a transdisciplinary, cross-cultural, pan-global creative.

Author: Stanley Hainsworth

Nik Hafermaas is chairman of the graphic design department and newly appointed acting chief academic officer at Art Center College of Design, where he regularly cohosts transdisciplinary studio-abroad projects that send students to work in places such as Berlin, Copenhagen, andTokyo. With his company, UeBersee, he designs major environmental installations. He was a former principal and chief creative officer of Triad Berlin, where he and his two partners formed one of Germany's leading design firms special-ized in communication design.

Graphic design has left the page to con uer objects, spaces, motion, and interaction.

I have great visual curiosity; I get inspired when I discover design solutions by nondesigners and when I visit extreme places like the desert and places of rapid change like emerg­ing cities. I also draw inspiration from conversations, articles, movies, conferences, and lectures.

Inspiration also comes from collaboration with people of a complementary creative wavelength, often in discussion and brainstorming sessions with sketching in real time

I take a lot of photos, but edit them rigorously for visual or conceptual interest. However, I rarely go back to documented inspirations; if ideas are powerful, they tendto linger in my memory for quite a while.

I prefer looking at creative work that is not directly related to my discipline. Transferring inspiration from other areas, such as fine art, science, or engineering, yields more surprising results for me. Graphic design is more than ink on paper. It has left the page to conquer objects, spaces, motion, and interaction. Graphic design has evolved into communication design, transcending and blending all media categories.

The eCloud installation project at the San Jose (California) airport building has confirmed my belief in creative collaboration across various disciplines. If the chemistry is right, conceptual ideas can augment each other in a creative process. Creative challenges of greater complexity benefit from shared input. The idea, concept, and design evolved in an intensive artistic collaboration between me, Dan Goods of JPL/NASA, and Aaron Koblin, an artist who specializes in experimental data visualization.

We used this situational construct, both client-requested and self-generated, as our blueprint to create a visually stimulating and engaging solution.

Starting from the premise of creating a dynamic suspend­ed sculpture that is visualizing abstract data streams, the idea of a cloud evolved organically out of our creative collaboration. Before we arrived at the smart glass pixels, we experimented with three-dimensional arrays of white LEDs, but discarded this idea because it would not produce enough visual impact and would have looked too expected. We also experimented with various spatial configurations and suspension principles before we arrived at the current solution.

Since this project is a public art commission, we had to go through a complex request for qualification (RFQ) process with the City of San Jose art program. Dan, Aaron, and I were selected as an artist collective based on our individual creative backgrounds that combined experience in engineering, data visualization, visual storytelling, public installations, and narrative spaces.

Source: Idea-ology