Alexander Wiederin


Adriano Sack talks to Alexander Wiederin


What‘s the first thing you ask of a magazine?
Whether the content’s what the title promises. Are there interviews in Interview? Do you see people‘s features in The Face? The name is also usually the only thing I can not change, when I work for a magazine.

Do you have to read all the texts in a publication, in order to be able tojudge the layout?
Yeah. I even have the texts translated at Italian Elle. Everyone tells me, I‘m the only one who reads everything before I start designing, but I find that hard to believe.

Why do an exhibition now, and why in Berlin?
I don’t see myself as an artist. My work should stay where it belongs: in a publication. That’s why I wanted to show more than magazine pages. I made extraordinarily small editions of typography posters; they’re each only one piece. And I created a soup dish, 1,80 Meters in diameter and filled it with ca. 2300 rubber letters. It reminds me of the Alphabet Soup of my childhood, except I designed the fonts of all the letters myself. The timing made sense. I just became a father; its a good moment to look back.

Is our world more designed today than in the past?
Of course. Anyone can but a computer and download fonts and images from the internet. That is the reason I develop an original font for every publication I work for.

What’s erotic about typography?
Erotic? The most beautiful thing there is, is the power of words. The font has a supporting function. The sex is in the words themselves.

Please explain one of your fonts to me.
The font Moonwriter was actually developed for a magazine, that was supposed to be called Moon. I wanted it to be a typewriter font, cause for me the romance of old typewriters and the dream of traveling to the moon are connected. Typewriter fonts are strange hybrids. They have serifs, but very bold ones. They were originally developed to keep the line straight, cause old typewriters were mono-spaced, which means the distance between the letters was always the same. With the thick serifs and equally bold strokes, I wanted to coin a new look and create a font that functioned on a modern computer.

You are always working on multiple projects at the same time. Why is that?
If I didn’t I wouldn’t function. I’d get bored. My creations have a lot to do with reactions. Something that happens while working on one project will help me on another. I would burn out if I only had one job.

Is there an Alex Wiederin look?
No look, but hopefully a presence, a similar approach. If you have a recognizable style, you can sell yourself easier. On the other hand my clients always get something that was actually created for them.

You told me that 80 percent of your work consists of telling other people what kind of pictures they should take.
I don’t only do graphic design, I also work quite closely with photographers. I help them to see their images in a different way or to discover something new in them. Magazines communicate mostly through images these days. I’m afraid they have become more important than words.

How do you stop yourself from taking these pictures yourself?
It‘s easy. I never pick up a camera. And for the few private pictures I take I use my iPhone. The magic of photography does not lie in the technology or the equipment it’s the chemistry, that the photographer can create with his subject. I would not be as good at that as the photographers who I work with are.

Does fashion today need to be charged by art?
Of course (laughs). I find it much more interesting to name sources and inspiration, than to leave the creation to play in a dream world. There’s nothing new and there’s nothing unique. So you can just show where something comes from.

Where do you come from?
I’m from a small village in Vorarlberg called Frastanz, surrounded by big mountains. As a child I had a strange habit that people thought would be a huge developmental problem. My notebooks looked totally different in each subject because I always copied the teacher‘s handwriting from the blackboard. That made me quite popular because I was the best at forging signatures for excuses. Later I studied at Ortweinschule in Graz. My professor didn‘t really like me, because I worked on the side and won a few competitions he was in.

Who were your most important teachers?
In terms of photography the different Vogues and other fashion magazines, in terms of storytelling and layout Tempo. I learned from Neville Brody that you can do anything and everything. From Lo Breier I learned that sometimes you have to leave things in a publication that you don’t like yourself.

Which photographers opened your eyes?
As a student I was fascinated by the Old Masters like Blossfeldt, BillBrand, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton. Later I worked with what you could roughly describe as my generation of photographers: Norbert Schoerner, Mario Sorrenti, Ines van Lamsweerde, Terry Richardson, Juergen Teller, Wolfgang Tilmans. They have been essential to me and they changed fashion photography and the way we see the world.

What was it like to work for Helmut Newton later?
Listening to his stories was fascinating and hysterical. The work was as
expected. For me it’s always the case that I’m more intrigued by people
before I meet them.

How has the job of the designer changed in the last few years?
There are more images than ever and they’re all at-hand. The question about a photo is, what makes you take a second look? Today there’s hardly enough time for a second look. Watch a classic film from the 30s! There are scenes when you know exactly what will happen, even if you haven’t seen the film before. What took two hours to tell back then we can sum up in twenty minutes. We’ve become a lot faster. That is the reason why we live in the most exciting time that I can imagine. The language of images is radically changing right now. You overload each picture with information and at the same time the techniques are becoming less important.

What are your criteria for a good photo?
Beauty, composition, light. Or the right idea or story. We did an issue of the magazine Big with Lauren Hutton. The picture of her that was most essential to me, we didn’t end up using, because I was the only one who saw something particular in it. It was a picture of the tiny prosthetic that she used to have to wear to conceal the gap between her two front teeth. At some point she was famous enough that the defect became a trademark. Also, context has become more important today than ever before. When you combine photos by Martin Parr and others from FlickR, nobody can see the difference. Probably not even Martin Parr himself.

How have you failed as an art director?
With Tempo. Back then I wanted to realize myself. We packed in too much. In terms of design, it’s incredibly important to set priorities. At that time I was still battling windmills. In hindsight it’s charming, the same way Don Quixote is charming, but it’s also totally crazy.

What makes you a good art director?
Doubt.

In the press relewase for your exhibition Alles Liebe you are described as someone who achieves his tasks with the help of logic.How can logic and love exist together?
I am active in communication and see myself as a problem solver. I offer a service, not artwork. I approach a new job rationally and strive for finding a systematic. Once that is done I use my gut feeling and my emotions. For me logic and love aren’t contradictory. One cannot exist without the other. ◊

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