It’s rare when humor and intricately stunning designs intersect, but Sebastian König‘s recently published Jamming has mastered this remarkable intersection. Through his graphic designs and illustrations, inspired by paper-cut-out style, you’ll find his works are full of thought-provoking humor, bold color combinations, and a unique perspective. He’s also created designs for clients ranging from The Economist and Soho House to Apple and The New York Times.
In his latest endeavor with his book, König found inspiration in simple shapes paired with Larry David-inspired humor. There’s no denying that there’s something undoubtedly universal with the book, as we’ve all taken that seemingly neverending road trip with our folks. Plus, with a lack of text, everyone checking it out will have a different perspective and appreciation for the content that lies within the colorful pages.
Your inspiration for the book is derived from car trips when you were growing up. Can you explain how you chose certain specific moments to depict?
Being on the road and traveling by car is one huge inspiration for the book. Of course, these journeys took place in my childhood, but having kids myself now, I am somehow still traveling by car instead of flying. Some of the moments in the book are directly inspired by observations and things I had on my mind each time I returned to the microcosm of the autobahn. For example, the always dirty pissoirs, each male visitor is disgusted by a potentially dirty public toilet and steps back a little bit from the dirt on the ground, leading to the unavoidable. Also, seeing leftover food on a diner’s tray—it’s always a pity wasting food. But as a kid, you might see the tasty junk food you would like to eat yourself but didn’t order. Picking a french fry is just curbed by one’s own disgust.
That’s is a significant m.o. for the picture stories: making fun of yourself and human peculiarities. Some of the ideas came to my mind from my own experiences, others developed from scenes I liked to draw, and then I worked out a story for the drawing. The motorcycle followed by the police car, for example, is a more constructed idea.
Besides your own car trips, what was the biggest inspiration for the book?
The biggest inspiration is my own style of drawing, which led to the overall look. I work with simple shapes and a lot of edges in Adobe Illustrator. The boxy shapes of 90s cars were a perfect match for this project when I started working on moods for the book. Also, the aesthetic of Kraftwerks “Autobahn“ with the video and the simplistic lyrics (“the road is a grey band / White stripes, green border.”)
Describing the road inspired the general style using lanes and simple landscapes for the more complex illustrations. Another huge influence is a kind of “Seinfeld and Larry David “humor reflecting human oddities and is making fun of yourself rather than others. That’s universal, a simple emotion everyone can relate to.
Who is your ideal demographic for this book?
The book is published by Stolen Books from Lissabon. They publish art books in the field of graphic design, illustration, and art. So I think everyone who is into those topics, in general, may find it interesting. I like my comics and picture stories to be understood universally. I believe that everyone who likes picture stories and shares the book’s humor can relate to it.
Each of the pages works flawlessly together through a consistent color palette. Can you explain how you chose the specific colors used throughout the book?
The initial idea for the book was a much shorter riso printed zine with 16 pages. But when I started, I soon realized I had more ideas I wanted to incorporate. So the number of pages increased, and it wasn’t easy to print and process that with a risograph. So I then kept the colors and worked in CMYK.
What was the process of creating each page? Did you start with a rough sketch with a pencil and paper?
Some concepts started with a rough scribble of an already finished idea in my mind. Others were composed in Adobe Illustrator, and I started from a simple composition imagining what might happen in the next frame. I generally work with pencil sketches to scribble ideas and compositions and then finish the illustrations digitally in Adobe Illustrator. One huge difference in this book was that many of the cars I used were ready-made objects I prepared and used as material and a starting point for the picture stories.
Why did you choose to use zero words throughout the book?
My work is mainly working without any text and can be understood universally. My editorial work, for example, always is an addition to a text piece. A lot of personal projects I do also work by decoding a picture story in one’s mind, and it leads to a moment of understanding. I really like that mechanic and the power of illustration.
A relationship between the illustration and the viewer develops without any distraction from text, sound, or other things. Illustrations are doing magic in one’s brain. The short titles of my works sometimes create a second level of understanding, but I like the minimalism of keeping the narration mainly on the image level.
How long did the book take to create from inception until completion?
I worked on the book while also doing my regular client’s work, and then the pandemic happened and delayed the project. The whole process took around 2-3 years, including a covid break. But the main time working on the project was around nine months, drawing strips besides clients’ work whenever there was time. I did not outline a total amount of illustrations at the start. The book was growing over time by steadily working on new ideas throughout the process.