Rene Wanner's Poster Page

by Jianping He

Master & Students, a series of 6 books published by Jianping He

Prof. Fons Hickmann
University of Applied Arts, Vienna (AT)

Edited and designed by Jianping He in the series Master & Students, published by China Youth Press, Beijing (CN) (Sep 2004), available from; 240 pages, 17 x 24 cm, many colour illustrations, mostly full page; softcover; ISBN 7-5006-5665-3; in chinese and english; EUR 25 (about US$ 33)

The pictures on the left show book cover and inside cover, those below are sample pages from the book



Interview with Prof. Fons Hickmann

1. You are a professor of graphic design, yet to me you are primarily a successful designer. Do you think these are two completely different careers? Which one means more to you? How do you compromise the teaching of graphic design and your own practice of it?
I’m a modern nomad – both in the real and virtual worlds. The distance between my Berlin studio and the university in Vienna is around 700 kilometres, so I spend a lot of time travelling. My life is shaped by contrasts – Vienna and Berlin, day and night, studio and university, virtual and real, black and white, I’m Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde.

2. During your educational communication with the students, has your work ever been influenced by the younger minds of design? If yes, in which respect is this so? How do you look at such an influence?
What exactly are “younger minds”? The “youngest” and mentally most agile person in our class is Kari Bauer. Kari Bauer is our screen printer. He was one of the first Actionists in Vienna. He has lived through and survived every imaginable movement in art and design. He’s now 66, but in terms of ideas and behaviour, the man is most definitely a “young mind”.

3. As an internationally renowned graphic designer, many of your works are regarded as classics. I’m curious about whether the strong individual style in your characteristic works has an influence on the artistic creations of your students. How do you take hold of this influence? If a student emerges with a style very similar to yours, how would you feel and what would you do?
According to the Greek philosopher Socrates (or was it Aristotle?), “The one who speaks is the teacher,” which basically means that everyone learns from everyone else – irrespective of conventional teacher/pupil roles. I’m not interested in inflexible styles in art or design. I prefer to see people constantly reinventing themselves. It’s hard but it’s more fun and leads to genuine creativity. If students want to copy my work, that’s their business. Most of the worst plagiarism is done by professionals anyway.

4. With the rapid development of science and technology, it is inevitable that the application of new technologies enter the realm of design. How do you see the relationship between new-tech and the training of traditional basic skills in your teaching?

5. The idea of Globalization is very popular these days. Is graphic design gradually losing its native character and regional identity? May I know your attitude towards the concept of “nationality” in your design and teaching?
Globalization is less popular amongst ordinary Europeans than it is with multinational corporations. I’m in favour of everything that strengthens the sharing of intellectual, cultural and economic resources between societies. But I utterly detest the idea of a few people enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of the planet. Globalization is only positive if it benefits the weak and the disadvantaged, not just the powerful – globalization should be a kind of counterbalance towards creating a fairer world. Where intellectual and cultural values are concerned, there is a particularly acute need to intensify the sharing process. If societies become too self-referential, major misunderstandings and conflicts can arise between different cultures and religions. This type of communication breakdown stems from a lack of knowledge about other systems, resulting in an inability to understand or tolerate them. Intolerance, arrogance and ignorance are the greatest dangers threatening our future.

6. Speaking of Globalization, I always feel that people today are emphasizing speed more than creativity of design. How do you understand “speed”?

7. Savignac used to say posters are children on the streets. In Europe, people tend to understand the poster as an art on the street. Then, what do you think of posters being exhibited and kept in museums? How much time and effort will you devote to poster design in your class schedule?
Many people have declared the poster to be dead, but it simply refuses to disappear. It keeps coming back. The same applies to the book and the magazine. They’re all reincarnations. In design and art, everything is a remake. Even the remakes get turned into remakes. That’s what makes our work so important for the present moment, although ultimately it’s meaningless.

8. Do you have any specific requirement for design theories in class? What are the books that you usually recommend to your students?
Dear students, please read more theories: Flusser, Virilio, Bartes, Eco, Camus, Plato, McLuhan, Nietzsche, Kant. And inbetween all the reading, don’t forget to eat, drink and have sex. You don’t have to read everything, but theory adds critical depth to the design process. The same applies to design itself. There are certain books, exhibitions and other projects by important designers and artists that you simply have to be familiar with.

9. How would you feel about the achievements and success of your students?

10. One last question, how do you define a "good designer" and a "good student" respectively? Thank you!
It must be love!

Jianping He / April 2004

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