Today, we are joined by Hans Christian , he is a Illustrator. You can view his portfolio here.
Firstly, I’d like to thank you for the interview. We’d like to understand how your interest for illustration started shaping up. Tell us a bit more about what made you go this route!
When I started my education it was first and foremost to express myself through visual expression, this have not changed. I have always been interested in art and design, and when I took a course in web design at an early stage, I knew I was in the right place. Before this I was lost and didn’t know what to do with my life, so it was almost a coincidence. The next years I studied graphic design at Westerdals school of communication in Oslo and MA in Visual Communication at St. Martins in London. Here I tried to break all possible rules and experiment as much as I could. I was captivated/obsessed. I worked all the time and often argued with my teachers. But it was the best teachers I could get. One of the teachers told us ” Good enough, ain’t good enough”. He expected the best and nothing less. Some students thought it was too much, but it was perfect for me. I wanted to take back all the time that I have lost by wondering what to do with my life.
I loved studying Graphic design, but it still was not enough for me. My love for art and personal expression was not fulfilled. Graphic design is all about working for others and communicate their brand. Therefore I made up all kind of different projects on the side. Experimenting with illustration, shapes and spaces. Some of my own projects was; “How can I get people interested without they knowing it, with only abstract shapes?”. I love abstract art, but I don’t know why it got interested in it. It was the use of space, the shapes, the colors, the unknown that evoke an emotional feeling in me. This was probably what made me go this route. The projects after this was kind of based on this and have evolved ever since. I like to think…
Tell us a bit more about how you learned it all. What changed in the last few years in terms of ease of expanding your skills and knowledge?
I learned it all by asking question, experimenting and trying out new things. And of course hard work and failure. Don’t be afraid of fail. Nothing have been created without failure. I try to tell this to my students when I teach. I will not just look at the final piece. I want to see what they have done and learned through the process. I am a big fan of the American writer Ayn Rand’s book ‘The fountainhead’, where you have the main character, Howard Rourke, that got expelled from the architect school because he didn’t do it “the right way”. He asked questions and didn’t want follow trends.
I experimented through my studies and I never stopped experimenting when I have been employed at agencies. Many designers are often satisfied with getting a job, but I wasn’t. During my first job as a web-designer I also had my first solo art exhibition the same year. I made 12 pieces and started asking around if I could exhibit this. I was new in town and I didn’t know anyone in the art environment, and I didn’t have many friends there. The only friend I had couldn’t care less. Anyway, I had the exhibition and I can’t say that it was a success. No one came on the grand opening and I sold just two pieces- to a friend and to my sister… But I was satisfied, I did my first exhibition. I knew that this was a test and I learned a lot.
After a year I moved back to Oslo and started a new job at a design agency. I continued working on personal projects and created a second exhibition, but now with my girlfriend (now ex girlfriend and ex partner). We called it “Three weeks” and this was the beginning of Oh Yeah Studio. This is now 7 years ago and since that I have done all kinds of things- teaching, giving talks, collaborating with other designers, had different jobs while still working with Oh Yeah Studio, having exhibitions etc.
So I guess all this experimenting and expanding my horizon when it comes to everything design and art related has led me into new fields and developing new skills to master what is expected of me. I’m always trying to learn something new, through personal projects or through a job. I never say no to opportunities.
What does your creative process look like?
I get this question a lot. I found a good way to describe it after reading a magazine about the nomadic designer. A no-manic designer, that Martha Cerda calls it, strives for more. They aren’t afraid to go backwards, to stay uncomfortable, place for a while, accepting errors and failors as part of the journey and embracing surprise. Their goal will be the journey itself. They think that the the objective itself is more important than the process.
It is different from project to project, but I always start out with a brainstorm, then do a lot of research and try to get as much information as possible to make a mood-board. I always have my route on the main target, but I often experiment different things in between or go out doing something else. It is interesting how accidents happens. Sometimes you just immediate know what to do and sometimes you sit for days and have no idea what to do. If I don’t have an idea I just do something else, work hard and then go to sleep and hopefully get a good idea the
In a bigger company the process is mainly based on hours and the focus is on efficiency. I have tried this, but I couldn’t stand it. I work best when i am free to spend as much time as I need to create the best possible product.
I also try to be up to date. It is important to get inspired from other artist from different blogs. Today we have so much inspiration right in front of us and it is many new possibilities out there created every day. But when we are talking about this theme I can see a pattern today how some designers are more into the status of being famous, than doing great work. It is easy to be influenced by this when everything on the net is focused on success, on being liked and seen. You have blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and so on that dominates most of the impressions and influence.
Do you have any recommendations in terms of good books, programs you use, or media choices you’re willing to share with us?
I am now reading “The Shock of the new” by Robert Hughes which is inspiring. There are so many great books out there, but I can mention a few that have had impact on me. “How to be a graphic designer without loosing your soul”, by Adrian Shaughnessy, Bill Bernbach’s book by Evelyn Bernbach, “A Smile in the mind” by Beryl McAlhone and David Stuart is three of them. The next book I want to read is “Before I Die” by Candy Chang. I have heard many great things about it. I also love looking at Computer Arts. Websites I love is Ted, Siteinspire, Creative review Designinspiration, ffffound, Hi Fructose, It’s nice that, Behance and Pinterest. The programs I use is mainly Adobe software and Apple software like Keynote and Final Cut If it is one app I recommend, it must be The VSCO cam. It is fantastic. I use this app all the time and it’s so easy to adjust the pictures so they look awesome.
Do you have a special place or object that boosts your inspiration and helps your creative drive? What is it like and why does it have this effect on you?
I often go to galleries, to a cafe with pen and paper or I go to a bookshop when I want to boost my inspiration. I think my favorite is a bookshop in the center of Oslo. There is all kind of books and relaxing sofas where you can sit and chill. Other things that inspire my work is the interest in surrealism, dreams and abstract art. This is usually present in my work and is something I have been working with for some time now. I became very interested in dream and the subconscious in Saint martins and when I studied wanted to explore and visualize dreams so I could bring it into my design and image making. I started studying emotions and psychoanalysis. I was searching for answers, or a formula, so I could create images with only shapes and colors to stimulate the subconscious emotions. I wanted the viewer to feel one or more of the inherent emotions all humans have, like sadness, disgust, hate, happiness and so on. This was also related to the sensory overload we are a part of today. After just hours the brain are not capable to process information in the same way. I could also use this idea of evoke emotions to the target audience by create interest without they even think of what the actual message is.
This was also the theme for Oh Yeah Studios first exhibition “3 weeks”. In dreams you are in an strange emotional universe. In a dream there is always something you can recognize and something that are kind of abstract and unreadable in a way. This was kind of a starting point for Oh Yeah Studio. It is probably not so strange that I am a fan of Kafka, Dali, El Lissitzky and Freud. Butalso, to keep up the inspiration I always have personal projects going on, or I support Non profit organizations and charity organizations, through design. An example of a personal project is “This is now”, an exhibition I had two years ago. I contacted all the best designer and illustrators in the world (in my opinion), and asked them if they wanted to contribute with a new piece. All I asked said yes, it was a huge success and it shows that people wants to collaborate and also have a need to work and experiment without clients. I guess many designers have an “Inner artist”. To mention a charity project, I made a poster contribution for the “Designers against child slavery” in New York. Right now I have three personal projects and one for a non profit organization. Oh Yeah Studio was born from a personal project and it will always be a big part of me. Personal projects makes you stay updated, it is a good way to try things without clients and it can be a good idea if you want to change your path. The best part is that you can work with other great creatives.
I also have two quotes/reminders I often think about- One is from Abraham Lincoln. He had a scheme for every day. The first thing he asked himself was “what good can I do today?” and when before he went to bed he asked himself “What good have I done today?”. This inspire me to do more.
Could you describe how a productive day would look like from your point of view? Which are the most important hours for you?
The work before 12.00 is the most important hours for me. If I can start working at 08.00 it is perfect. I’m also off to a great day if I can squeeze in a jog before that. I start by reading some newspapers with a cup of coffee, answer e-mails and then get started. If I have been efficient before lunch I feel that I have control, I can be very good at thinking “I’ll do it later”… I also have to do research on clients and possible job opportunities. This is a must for a freelancer. The day ends at between five-six pm on a regular day. I also try to work some hours just before I get to bed. So I can do all the things i didn’t do during the day, even though I thought I did it. I also do this to have a look at the work and ask the question “How good is this really?”
What is your stance on today’s ever growing opportunities enabling artists to take on remote design work?
I think this is great opportunity for the artist- and the client. The client can easier find great artists that suits their needs, and artists have the opportunity to work with clients they love to work with. We have worked with Adidas and Nike in US and we could not have had this opportunity if it hadn’t been for the social media and design blogs.
What would you prefer: a steady, well paying job in a local agency, or the freedom and often stressful life of a freelancer? Why?
I prefer the freedom. I have worked in a big agency that payed well, but it became very stressful because I was frustrated most of the time. They talked more about the hours and efficiency than the actual projects. This can of course be that the agency was too big for a person like me. They wanted to get the job done, and I understand that this is the way it is in many agencies with hundreds of employees. But I think if the agency is smaller, like up to 15 employees it should be different. You can turn around faster and your designers have more responsibilities, which makes them more devoted. However, I don’t think being a freelancer is stressful. The feeling of having total control, responsibility, working long hours and facing big challenges is the way I like it. It is the freedom that don’t make it stressful. A steady well paying job is not for me. My mother don’t agree, but have accepted it:)
It is important that I make something new and evolve as a designer. Do new things and not go on safe mode. For me this is not a job, this is art.
How would you describe “the ideal project”? Did you have any recent opportunities to come close to this?
The Ideal project for a client must be the new identity for the national “Good Morning Norway” program on the Norwegian TV. This program are sent three hours every day. The reason it went well because we did a really good research and set clear deadlines with what they would expect on every deadline. We saw early were it could go wrong and tried to be aware of this. Since this was a important project we delivered more then they expected.
The other project must be the personal project ‘This Is Now’. This is now was a exhibition as I described before. I contacted some of the best designer and illustrators in the world (in my opinion), and asked them if they wanted to contribute with a new piece. All I asked said yes and it was a huge success. I did not expect anything, but it was packed with people on the grand opening and got a lot of press around it. I met a lot of new people that I still have contact with today. The exhibition also got awarded that was a bonus.