So many men, so many opinions. Some people say that design is an art, while others claim it is a problem-solving instrument. Practitioners say practice makes perfect and university tutors claim theory is king. Each person can have a different perspective on any subject, but if you’re just starting your design path, try to listen to professionals who’ve been in the industry for decades.

One of these outstanding people is Eike König, a designer and a founder of the design studio Hort. Eike König was a speaker at one of our events for creatives – Creative Loop: Kyiv-Berlin – during which he delivered a talk with a great deal of insights. The designer’s lecture included fake facts, celebrity shissle, a bit of BS and some behind the curtain rumors. Sounds fun, and we are happy to share all these inspiring things with you.

Art does not need pictures. Art needs questions

You have definitely heard a couple of times that art and design are about visualization but Eike König has a different perspective on this statement. According to him, graphic design is not what you see but what you think. It has to motivate people to live in better societies and designers are those who should foster it by means of their problem-solving skills.

The roots of this idea trace to “The First Things First Manifesto”, published by British graphic designer Ken Garland in 1964. The copy was undersigned by 20 other creatives. They claimed that “there are other things more worth using skill and experience on than trivial commercial ads that contribute nothing to the national prosperity”. As to other things they referred to books and periodicals, signs for streets and buildings, catalogs, scientific and industrial publications and “other media that promote the greater awareness of the world”.

ken garland first things first

first things first / ken garland

Although being still relevant in many senses, the declaration required an update. “First Things First Manifesto 2000” was published 40 years later in Adbusters. The new 33 signatories stated that educational, social, and cultural projects require designer’s expertise and help much more than commercial ones. They said the message was urgent and we can’t help but agree.

Of course, with advertising and marketing projects you can pay the bills, but these are not the things that will make a difference for society. It does not mean that creating commercial projects is wrong. It means that you should be more conscious about your work and establish your own life rules as Eike König did.

A Different Perspective On Design From Eike König

Don’t work ‘for’ people, work ‘with’ people

One of the top projects of the Berlin-based design studio Hort was a reproduction of the Bauhaus corporate design. They were to create a modern design that won’t be a stamp but will still be accessible to as many people as possible.

Eike König says that all the solutions they came up with were possible only because they listen to people. “Forget about being the one who creates something out of nothing. This does not exist. It’s romantic. Graphic design is a lot about hard work, experience, and listening to people who understand what they are doing”.

Thus, the first step of the project was communicating with the Bauhaus director, who said that Bauhaus is primarily a folk brand. Thus, Hort decided to take the simple, minimalistic route. They simply changed the glyphs to Arial (as it is free for everyone) and applied basic hierarchy principles.

At that time, in 2011, Hort’s solution was a no-go for many designers. Richer types, textures, and colors were the real trends. When Hort presented it, people said that the design was ugly and it looked like a letter from the tax office. “To be honest, we were much inspired by the tax office letters. You know these official letters you get from the government. They are all about Germany and German people. We are dry. We wanna make things clear and it relates to Bauhaus”, said Eike König.  

The new Bauhaus logo was designed very simple and this is the reason why people still use it. We tried to solve all the problems that might come up, explained the designer, and because of that a lot of cultural institutions came to us later.  

A Different Perspective On Design From Eike König

Bauhaus Dessau


Pitch or Die

People say, there’s cultural work and there’s commercial work but in the end, cultural work should also be commercial. Culture is the engine of the society and if you cut the cultural budgets you will kill a society.

I am totally against this idea of pitching. I think it is a wrong way of creating a business relationship. They are giving you no time and no money for creating the most important things. It just does not work for me. But unfortunately, cultural projects are always to be pitched, because its public money. And if you want to work in a cultural field you need to accept it”, explains Eike König.

At first sight, Eike König’s perspective on design may seem quite controversial. From one point of view, a designer is to make the world a better place. From another, one should make up their own life rules and stick to them at all times. Perhaps, the balance of the both is a matter of experience and time, and that’s what make Eike König’s statements so insightful.

During the Creative Loop: Kyiv-Berlin conference, in addition to Eike König, there was a speech delivered by an art-director of a Berlin-based studio, Super an der Spree Anfisa Hleb, who shared 5 speculative design projects that will blow your mind.

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