“I would like to think that your portfolio speaks for itself”

Martin Schmetzer is a very talented letterer / illustrator from Stockholm. His main interests have been always related to creativity and craftsmanship since he wanted to be an archaeologist, for example, when he was a child. I asked him about his career, and he mentioned some really interesting things that might be useful for young designers who are ready to launch their career.

Was it your childhood dream to become a graphic designer?
No, not really. As a young child I remember dreaming of becoming an archaeologist. I’ve enjoyed drawing since I was a child but I didn’t really realize it could be a real profession.

Empire State Building

What kind of education have you done with regard to design, typography or calligraphy?
I have no design education after high school. I am self-taught, and I got in contact with hand-drawn typography through graffiti when I started writing in 1996. Graffiti was a good way for me to experiment with the alphabet and learn how letters are put together. You don’t have to follow any “guides or rules” and you can twist and bend the letters until you tamed the words into something own and unique. As a graffiti writer I often aimed for symmetry in my pieces, something that follows me until today in my hand-drawn typography and logo designs.

A well-known proverb says “every beginning is difficult”. Concerning this I’d like to ask you about the beginning of your career: How did you get your first job as a graphic designer?
My career as an illustrator started as an avocation, and – for several years – it was just a hobby besides my full-time job as an event designer. During all this time I occasionally took on freelance illustration commissions in my spare time, but thanks to the Internet and designer blogs spreading my work, the inquiries have increased as well as the projects and clients. It recently got to the point when I decided to take a leap and commit my full time on my letters and make it into my living so I wouldn’t say it has been difficult in my case since I kind of have been served by the opportunity. However, this doesn’t mean I haven’t worked hard. I’ve had my full-time job and been drawing letters late at night and at the weekends, of course, not to my wife’s satisfaction. But I’ve realized I would have been drawing in my spare time anyway without both the commissions and the money.

What obstacles do young designers have to overcome in order to launch their professional career? Do you think it’s crucial to know someone who can help?
Of course, it’s a big advantage to have connections but it’s not crucial at all. Look at me, for example! I would like to think that your portfolio speaks for itself whether it is online on social media sites or physically presented on a job interview.

Do you prefer following a brief or having the freedom to design without any instructions?
Some guides or reference images just to get an idea what the client is looking for make my job easier.

How do you get inspiration?
I find inspiration in my everyday impressions, from graffiti tags in the streets to food labels at the grocery store.

Based on what I’ve seen on your Behance profile I would say you’re quite flexible when it comes to design for different materials. How much impact do the materials have on the design process?
I try not to limit myself when I design. I rather simplify a design afterwards or thicken some critical lines if the original concept is too complex to engrave in wood, for example, or screen print very small on porcelain. Of course, I have proportions and visibility in mind in the process for different kind of shapes or products, but more a graphic composition than a material impact.

Are you working on something right now or you – like almost everyone in Sweden – also take a break in December?
Yes, I’ve been working a little during the holidays. As a self-employed illustrator you are never totally disconnected from work but I do not complain, I am rather thankful instead.



MAJSA Barbara’s interview
Published originally at HYPEANDHYPER on 27 January 2014

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