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In conversation with Andreas Uebele

A major presence in contemporary German graphic design, Andreas Uebele’s work is a barometer of expressive and experimental graphic design. Ahead of the release of his new monograph, andreas uebele material [Unit 32], we spoke with the designer about what's on his shelves and how an architect becomes a graphic designer. 

We know you began your career in architecture, what attracted you to graphic design?

AU: It happened by coincidence at the age of seventeen, when writing hopeful love letters it became clear to me that I got better results when they were well designed. I designed the envelopes and realised that design is something that suits me.

Wayfinding and environmental typography occupy a large space in büro ueble’s portfolio, does this interest come out of your architectural training?

AU: No. It happened by coincidence while screening the telephone book for potential clients – calling them up and asking whether there was a demand for a visual identity or a monograph. One Friday afternoon after 346 unsuccessful calls, I reached the letter F and an architect answered – no visual identity, no book, but he urgently needed a signage system for his project (huh, what’s that?) and wanted to know if I could finish it on Monday. I said yes.

The new monograph, andreas uebele material [Unit 32], spans 13 years in the life of büro ueble – what are the most remarkable changes, either positive or negative, that you’ve noticed in this time?

AU: 'Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the strange)' the most remarkable change is that our design process has evolved to include more collaboration – external and internal. I appreciate that I don’t have to design by myself anymore. To talk about design, to rethink, and to manage suits me better.

In the digital age, is the book still relevant?

AU: The opera didn’t disappear because of television. The newspaper will not disappear because of the internet. It’s a process of quality selection. The book is one of the most important cultural inventions and it will survive like type, knives and forks, tools and musical instruments. All these are human extensions – to express ourselves.

In the new book, your advice to burgeoning creatives is to read. What are you reading right now? What should we be reading?

AU: Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels. You should also read all of W.G. Sebald!

andreas uebele material [Unit 32]

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