Rasmus Koch, Graphic designer and partner in SUPERDESIGN
EH/ How did you came in contact with SUPERFLEX?
RK/ I have a professional graphic design studio. My studio was known to them as one of the most progressive studios. Working as a graphic designer means working closely together with a lot of artists and creative people. In my daily work I have many creative people running in and out of my studio, such as stage and film directors, writers, musicians, photographers, and artists. With Copenhagen being quite small and because we’re all operating in the artistic scene, it was obvious that we should meet. I knew SUPERFLEX through my friends and had met them several times socially.
EH/ How did the actual contact come about? Did SUPERFLEX come to you and ask for your support?
RK/ Since my main field of work is corporate design, Bjørnstjerne called me up and asked if I could help. He asked whether I had a professional view on a logo for SUPERCHANNEL. But I told them that that wasn’t how I worked. Working with corporate design is based on grasping the whole content of a company’s brand and translating it into a mainly visual language. Instead, I
proposed that we should look at the whole of SUPER-FLEX’s visual appearance in all of their projects. Then maybe we could find a key to solve the puzzle.
EH/ Do you work in other areas besides corporate design?
RK/ Yes, corporate design is just part of our business. The range of commissions goes from type design through film titles – i.e. title sequences – signage, to posters and book design. But what’s most important for us, we also teach. We’ve been doing workshops, student assessment, lectures, etc. at the Royal Academy and many design schools in Denmark and abroad.
EH/ Tell us more about how you began working with SUPERFLEX.
RK/ It was clear to me after the first discussions that – besides producing a new logo for SUPERCHANNEL – what they really needed was some kind of overall
visual guidance. I suggested that we might do a SUPERDESIGN project which would enable us to work on lots of different tools, not just SUPERCHANNEL, which was the issue at the time.
An interesting fact is that although I work in the commercial area, my work is primarily based on producing parameters, rather rigid tools, and narrowing down the range of possibilities to be worked with. In a way SUPERFLEX were doing the same and this gave me an interest here.
Also, I found it quite intriguing, from today’s perspec-tive, that as a professional graphic designer I was asked for guidance by an art group. But in fact, in the old days my line of work was not called graphic designer but commercial artist, so perhaps it’s not so strange after all.
When we began talking I told SUPERFLEX about the strength of a corporate image. At first, I looked at the situation with strictly business-focused eyes. I had been called to solve a problem but it turned out that through dialogue and discussions we might be able not only to solve the problem but also to establish a new connection. In the course of this process we established SUPERDESIGN.
EH/ How long have you been working in the field of graphic design?
RK/ My business partner, Adrian, and I have been working professionally in the field for something like eight years, in our own company, Koch&Täckman. We are both trained graphic designers, Adrian from the Royal Aca-demy of Art. Graphic design is part of the Department of Architecture there. And I went to the Danish Design School. We started our own business right after school, first in partnership with old school colleagues – in a company called E-Types – and later, when it became too successful and the general aim was to earn more money rather than expanding the field of graphic design, we felt it was time to move on and we started a new, smaller company. Generally you could say, that our approach to graphic design is done with a very inquiring outlook. Since we haven’t been employed by big, settled companies, our approach is still very open, straightforward, you could even say unspoiled.
EH/ Why are you working with SUPERFLEX? What’s the challenge?
RK/ The way SUPERFLEX work is that they start a train of thought and then engage other people to carry on with it. In some sense our educational work is done in a similar manner. In a workshop we have maybe 30 students. In order to establish their confidence we have to teach them how to find a way for themselves, to set certain parameters, to narrow down the choices for them, so the process becomes obvious to them. Educating is a kind of didactic tool for self-understanding. It gives us a verbally critical mind and it sharpens our understanding. You have to take a stand. In some ways SUPERFLEX do the same. Having arrived at the same approach and also being entrepreneurs in the field of language there is a definite link.
EH/ What would you consider to be the difference in your working methods and SUPERFLEX’s?
RK/ My own work is done in a professional context. In that sense our ways of working are different. My work for clients is very much concentrated on the matter in hand. I have to create a language that speaks with the client’s voice and is respectful to the client’s soul. It’s primarily based on solid craftsmanship.
Working with SUPERFLEX, on the other hand, is based on more lateral thinking. When creating tools and parameters I have to think in a global context. The parame-ters we make have to be adaptable from small-scale to big-scale in every sense. For instance, when we do a corporate manual we have to decide what typeface to use, to make a lot of type rules, e.g. typeface usage,
typeface size, colour of typeface, etc. In a SUPERFLEX parameter we can’t be that rigid. The type rule may be something like a scaleable parameter and a sentence saying like “In any given circumstance we should use the type that has the lowest common denominator”. For example, if we work in a high technology environment with a lot of typefaces available in the computer, the lowest common denominator would be a clear and beautiful typeface. In a non-high-tech environment it would be drawing in the sand with a stick or painting on the wall with a brush. It’s quite interesting that looking at these parameters, wherever you are situated, you find a language to suit your surroundings. In the commercial world you wouldn’t have this freedom and adaptability.
On the other hand there are more similarities between art and business than differences. They both operate with various mathematical terms, believe it or not. If you like structures, forms, points and numbers, you will pro-bably find both areas fascinating in one way or other.
EH/ What else is it that interests you in SUPERFLEX?
RK/ The social aspect is very important. We have a great time together.
EH/ SUPERFLEX always have a lot of discussions about all of their work amongst themselves. Are you involved in some of these discussions?
RK/ I have to be, since I establish a kind of corporate identity for them. This can’t be done without discussion at the top level.
EH/ What do you think about the position of SUPERFLEX’s work in the art world and/or in the business world?
RK/ I don’t really bother about it. Formerly, I was fascinated by the art world but I’ve found out that the art world is even more commercially driven than the field I’m working in. For me it seems that many artists are like puppets-on-a-string and the curator is the director. That I find quite scary.
I think that SUPERFLEX are very aware of this and they’re able to differentiate and to block out this institutional ‘regimism’. They’ve been working in company-like structural settings – SUPERFLEX, SUPERGAS, SUPERCHANNEL, MUSICSYSTEM and SUPERDESIGN. Therefore they are very familiar with the mechanisms of the professional world and they’re not easily tricked.
EH/ Are you involved in any other of their projects?
RK/ SUPERDESIGN, also a bit of SUPERTOOL. As I’ve mentioned, I developed SUPERDESIGN in order to create aesthetic rules for the SUPERFLEX projects in general.
EH/ What effect would you say SUPERFLEX and their way of thinking have on your life?
RK/ My professional work is of course influenced by this
lateral thinking – but maybe we can come back to this in 5 years time.
This interview was conducted by Edda Hoefer.