Mirko’s career has spanned between work in corporate advertising and progressive cultural design. One time art director for the Mini group in BMW, he also launched the hugely successful youth magazine, NEON in Germany in ‘00s, has a tenure as creative director at Die Zeit and has worked with Operas, Orchestras and Theatres. Now head of his eponymous Munich-based design studio, Mirko is a modern European design legend in the making.
What was your creative Genesis?
It all started with graffiti, bombing trains and walls did influence me a lot. Graffiti makes you learn how to improvise, to team up with people and to be fast
Can you describe your creative professional route to your current position?
It’s hard to describe, because there is no linear route. I actually never wanted to do graphics, it’s more of an accident. After needing to earn some money, I ended up doing advertising for seven or eight years. In advertising you are basically editing large corporate manuals, it often doesn’t have much to do with design. That’s why I can’t watch Mad Men, it’s just too dramatically authentic. My first proper design job was Jetzt Magazine, for the first issues I designed, possibly the worst magazine in the world. I was completely overwhelmed, I had no idea how many rules there are in making a magazine, after a few issues I started to understand how a magazine works. After doing that for several years and magazines, as an employee, I decided to freelance for magazines and agencies. I never thought about having a bureau it just turned out being one.
“Graphic design is not art. We give form to brands, with the clients of our clients in mind.”
A new project lands on your desk…take us through your initial process?
There is no routine how I handle jobs, the requests are so diverse, that the solutions need to be as like. Nowadays, everyone builds mood boards, but nobody knows how to develop ideas on a conceptual level. I think 80 percent of what comes out of brainstorming sessions is useless. People take it as an excuse to sit back and talk bullshit, it’s a waste of time
Is it important to have a love, knowledge or even an interest in the work or client you are designing for? For example, was Opera already an area of interest for you or has it grown as you have invested more time and thought into designing for it?
It s not what the client does, it s more about the way clients are. it may sound a bit cliché, but we really like our clients personally and they do like wise. Respect is the most important I think, from both sides and understanding.
At OFFSET 2010 Condé Nast’s Scott Dadich presented the new digital design strategy for their titles including Vogue and Wired. There was at the time much debate, wailing and brow-beating over the death of print as a medium. What has transpired since though is a resurgence of a new culture and audience for zines and mainstream magazines/supplements with design at its core such as The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Business Week and of course your own Zeit. Can you share your thoughts on why you feel editorial design and content is still important and exciting work?
That s a toughy. This discussion is held by so many people of many different interests, I think the more information we get through digital influences, the more we feel the need of one true source of information. Magazines and newspapers of certain serious kind, with a good quality in text and layout, make us feel better informed and actually they do so. In the moment they still look and feel better and contain a lot more information.
There are enough magazines which present art in a very clean look. Take the beautiful Art Review in London, it’s super polished and looks great. Spike has almost has a 70s vibe to it and a very fine-tuned layout. In contrast, Kaleidoscope has a bolder and more experimental design, which fits the artists they feature. There is definitely a dialogue between content and design.
The way we use fonts sometimes hurt a bit. We like to experiment. If that means stretching the limits of what we consider beautiful, we can live with that but boldness is never a goal in itself. My best friend’s mum collects the programmes we do for the Bavarian State Opera because she appreciates them as objects, and she has nothing to do with design.