The Swiss Wünderkind Shows Us How It’s Done
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His name is Stefan Hürlemann. He is 23 years old, Swiss, and posts every day on Instagram, where I discovered him. You should discover him too. This is the future of typographic design, both aesthetically and in terms of how a designer needs to market him or herself.
Stefan and I recently enjoyed a conversation via email:
Q: I am so blown away by your work. Tell me about yourself. Where did you go to school/university/art school? Who were your teachers? Your main influencers?
Hürlemann: I am still in school, actually, in the first year of a Visual Communication bachelor’s degree program at the ZHdK (Zurich University of the Arts). I’ve learned a great deal from all the teachers and am excited to see what more I can learn. As for inspiration, I love the old Swiss masters (Armin Hofmann, Joseph Müller-Brockmann, Ernst Keller, etc.) as well as contemporary designers that are pushing out awesome works right now.
As a child/teenager, were you always interested in art? Poster design? Typography? Is that just part of being Swiss?
I wouldn‘t say it’s part of being Swiss, even though most public things here are quite well designed. I always liked drawing, and as a child liked to draw weird fonts with slime dripping down from them, as well as copy blackletter fonts. As a teenager I ventured into the direction of space illustrations and digital paintings (you can check out my old deviant art account here). When I started my apprenticeship as a graphic designer, I fell in love with typography, and that‘s pretty much everything I‘ve been doing since.
Which part of Switzerland are you from? Is German or French your main language? And where did you learn to speak/write colloquial English so well?
I am from around Zurich. The language I speak really depends, as I am moving around a lot currently because of my studies. My main language is German, but we had lots of English in school, and I also prefer to watch movies and series and use the web in English. I still run into a little trouble while writing, but I think it‘s good enough to converse internationally and with clients.
It is. How many of the images that you post are created for clients, and how many are experiments you make on your own?
Most of the posts are done for the sake of practice and experimenting. Experimentation is extremely important to my work. Of course, a good design concept is king, but for the whole visual aspect, but experimenting is the best. The more you learn doing your own projects, the more tools you have in your toolbox when it comes to client work. These are all experimental pieces:
Who are your major clients?
I can‘t name them at the moment, but I’m currently working with a few bigger ones. Before that it was mostly smaller artists, architects of events that needed an Identity. I don’t have time for many clients due to studying full-time, and the clients I get from social media eat up the remaining time.
In addition to Instagram, you have a big presence on Behance. Is one platform more effective than the other? How do they work together?
At the moment I get clients mostly from Instagram. I started out on Behance initially, but I am not active there. Just posting projects a few times a year. Behance is more of a portfolio platform, which serves a similar purpose as your website, while Instagram is a fast social network. I initially started out with quick and dirty works on Instagram, posting the refined, finished stuff on Behance. But with all the attention the Instagram posts get, it developed into a portfolio itself. Another great way of getting clients is participating in design competitions.
How much time do you spend every day posting? How much doing actual design work?
I usually spend one to two hours a day designing that day’s post, and maybe half an hour answering messages. It’s less social and more design work for me, as I’m usually not a social media person—I have no personal Instagram account, don’t use Snapchat, and Facebook now seems to be dead.
You wrote (when you got 15K followers): “Posting every day can get quite tiring, but you keep me motivated.” Why is it important to post every day? What kind of feedback keeps you the most motivated?
I started the everyday thing as a way to learn new techniques, get out of creative ruts, to improve my work ethic, and generally get better at designing. For me it’s important to post every day, even if it is a repost, to keep up the consistency. If I skip one day, I’m way more likely to skip another day, and after that it goes downhill. It’s kind of like going to the gym. I do try to post every day, but sometimes life gets in the way, then it isn’t a problem if I’m back at it the next day.
There isn’t one kind of feedback that motivates me the most, but rather the amount of people that take the time out of their day to write something about my work (be it constructive feedback or just nice words). If I had to narrow it down, it is of course especially nice to see comments from designers you already know and really like.
What program do you use to make your typographic videos?
I use mostly Adobe After Effects. Trying to learn Cinema4d as soon as I get the time, and maybe some more coding.
We will be watching!
The HOW Promotion & Marketing Design Awards has a category specifically for self-promotional projects, like those client gifts that promote your design business, your new website for your freelance business, and business card design and rebrands for your firm.