a conversation with TIM PETERS

Interview to Filep Motwary

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Those who follow The Kinsky since its launch two years ago must be familiar with the groundbreaking works of Tim Peters. The art director & graphic designer, lives and works in the mysterious city of Antwerp of Belgium, a place that embraces creativity through various ways. Peters graduated from St Lucas University College Of Art And Design, a genuine creative spirit,  he likes to explore areas like fashion, interior design, jewellery, photography. He collaborates with brands and designers as 10 Corso Como, Atelier 11, Eastpak, Dries Van Noten, Sony, Tim Van Steenbergen, and Piet Stockmans. He is responsible for designing The Kinsky’s logo.

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FM: Hello Tim, thank you for this interview. We are in the middle of August… How are you, where are you and what are you doing?

TP: Thanks Filep. Things are exciting at the moment. Last month we cleaned, painted, and decorated my new workspace here in Antwerp at Wonderburo.

Which is nice because I’m sharing it with the inspiring & talented people of Minju Kim, and in the same building there’s also Wim Bruynooghe’s shop & atelier. Before that, I’ve worked always from home, it was comfortable, yet not really social. Now I have the opportunity to meet people. Also, it’s a new start, a new environment, after a turbulent, and dark period. In June I lost my mother, and this new workplace & direction helps me to look ahead for better times.

-The Kinsky’s signature logo is your artwork. Can you tell us more about your work, where everything started and how it has evolved today?

In a nutshell, my focus is to work for clients in fashion, architecture, photography,… And I’m trying to find the balance between commercial  and non commercial work. I respect the choice of people doing the same thing every day. Personally, only working for artistic projects, or only commercial projects, otherwise I think it’s really boring.

It started after my masters in graphic design when I received a phone-call to work together with Dries Van Noten’s show invitation. The week after the team of Tim Van Steenbergen asked me to make their look-books and invitations. It was straightforward and a pleasure to work with them. I remember a funny, and probably the most awkward moment in my career, when I had a meeting with them in building of the Modemuseum. Tim Van Steenbergen and his team were very busy making preparations for the next show, but it was not clear in which room. I went upstairs, opened a door, and there was…Walter Van Beirendonck teaching the students of the Fashion Academy.

Actually, when I look back, I was very lucky to work for such great clients from the early start. When I did my master at Sint Lucas, I remember there was not really an interest in my class for fashion. For most of the students and teachers it was weird to buy magazines like The Face, Another Magazine and so on. For me it opened a new world which was not available in  the university’s library.

Maybe my background is in ‘graphic design’, but for me there so much more beyond that. It’s not only about creating logos,or finding the right font and making pretty layouts.  As example, years ago I found myself making sketches for a jewellery collaboration. If you’re an expert in one thing, you end up doing this your whole life, and that’s not my intention. It’s all about finding the niche and the context I  want to be in.

 -You live in Antwerp. What is so special about this city?

What I like about the city, that it is a small & huge place at the same time. Small, because you’ll meet mostly the same people here when you go out for a drink, but that’s not necessary a bad thing. These people bring also new faces to parties you’ve never met before. Huge, because of the lot of different places you can go; the area of the north, the center, and the south, almost every month there’s somewhere a new concept for parties, shops and bars.

Sometimes you’re in a bar or restaurant and you recognize immediately you’re Antwerp, because of the interior and the atmosphere. And sometimes a place looks like Parisian bar, or a restaurant in Berlin. I think the international element is very important for a city. My impression of Antwerp is very ordinary, but when I meet people here from South Korea, or Glasgow, they show you always a fresh perspective of this place, you’ve never been thinking of.

- How would you describe your approach in graphic design and art direction? Where these two connect?

When I’m working as an art director I’m responsible for the concept, moodboard,  and the main look of a project. When this is finished, my role switches to graphic designer where I’m more responsible for the communication,  and have to make decisions about colors, fonts, materials, and other important details.

- What do you consider as your maiden inspiration to all the years you have been working?

Over all the years I recognize  2 names, in the area of graphic design. Peter Saville , Trevor Jackson , which are not only relevant, but also really good. In art, Petra Cortright , and Hassan Rahim , both from LA.

In fashion, I was for the first time blown away of Raf Simons’ exhibition ‘Guided By Heroes’, which he curated, at Z33, in 2003. From that moment on I followed everything from his work.  At the moment there are also very interesting young designers like Hyein Seo, Wim Bruynooghe, and Minju Kim, I really appreciate.  In music ,most of the time I listen to NTS Radio from the UK, they have a massive choice of styles and DJ’s.  I’m not really searching anymore on music sites for reviews and new albums. I’ll find it somewhere on the radio, or on a YouTube link from  someone’s

Twitter, it’s more surprising.

Probably my friends are already bored when I’m telling them how important David Bowie is, but he’s so much more than a musician. I think he’s a kind of lifestyle. Not choosing for the limited life, that’s what keeps me going everyday. And not only because I’m from Belgium, but I still have a big respect for the guys from 2 Many Dj’s. Everytime you see them playing it’s a madhouse. It’s very rare to have artists with such energy and discipline. Very inspiring.

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-How far are you today from what you dreamed as a little boy to become your career?

Very far, I think. Because when I was little I was dreaming to be singer, or to be in a band. I remember in a summer vacation  I was play-backing  Nirvana with long hair wigs and tennis rockets on the corner of our street. The next summer vacation I combined paint with images from old magazines, and listened to Front 242. This, in the peaceful countryside, in combination with the heat wave of august made it very special. I wish I could do that forever. After my room was filled with collages, my parents and teachers decided to send me to an art college, and It was a great experience. After art college, I followed a master graphic design at Sint Lucas Antwerp, and it was very clear I wanted to do graphic design in the area of architecture, fashion, music,…

-Who were your mentors? Why are mentors important?

My mum & dad. They taught me to never give up. Especially last year.  I think mentors are guiding you for a long time. Professionally, I learned a lot from the team of  Hi-ReS! during my internship. Their creative process is very unique. And earlier this year I had a supportive talk with the lovely people of Deutche & Japaner.

- Could you describe the procedure when working for a client? The difficulties and the things you cherish the most?

Every project is in a different context. If it’s a new client I prefer to have a coffee with them and listen to their problems and their wishes.  Afterwards I do research, followed by the question how I can I tackle the client’s problem, and create something new from that. It’s important to find the perfect mélange between the client’s wishes and your own design approach.

 

Also, I believe in a chemistry with unexpected solutions. As example, when I take a break and do a little bike trip, or I have to wait for a train, suddenly some idea can appear.

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-  Where does you interest in graphic design initially come from?

Creatively, it came from Photoshop classes I had during art college. It was in the nineties, and everyone was into David Carson. So it was obvious everyone in our class was manipulating images and typefaces on the Macintosh computers. But before that, it started in the local library where I spent hours between the art books, and the music library. I was obsessively analyzing book covers and record sleeves. It was the only cultural horizon in my hometown.

- Why it is important in our world today or even in the past? Why people thought of it as a way to promote a product?

Today, in graphic design the possibilities and techniques are endless, but it’s more difficult to be relevant.  It’s difficult to find a relevant stimulus to create. If you go back in time, after WOII designers, architects, musicians, they created a whole new world from scratch .  Today, graphic design became more democratic, and it’s getting really sad. People are forgetting the important role of a graphic designer. Now you have banners on Facebook with promotions for websites that generates a logo for your new company, with a very disposable logo as result. I recognize the same problem with people creating a ‘moodboard’ with overly complex logos they found on Pinterest. I have no problems with Pinterest, because I’m using it myself. But foolishly accepting everything what Pinterest directs you to is so pointless.

-When was the golden era of graphic design and why?

I think you can’t define this, because it’s for everyone different. For me, I was hugely impressed when I visited in 2011 the Wim Crouwel exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. His work was so radical and strong. Last year my uncle gave me a Spectrum encyclopedia set from 1974, designed by Wim Crouwel. For some people it’s just a set of books, but for me it’s a collector’s item.

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 -Someone said if you enjoy what you do, it does never become work..Did you ever have the feeling that indeed it was becoming “work”?

The creative process is never work, because there are no limits in sketching, conceptualizing,…It’s pure bliss. From the moment there are some technical obstacles, or there’s some administrative work to do, or I have to use Microsoft Excel, then it becomes ‘work’.

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-What makes good graphic design successful?

When it’s eye-catching, timeless, pure, authentic, without following any hype, or copying yourself.

-More and more, bookshops have started selling fanzines magazines that end up just as valued as books, in spite of a perceived crisis in paper publications, editorial design that seems to be growing.. People not only buy them, but collect them. How would you describe this phenomenon?

It’s an interesting phenomenon. I’m following the FB page of ‘Zines’, and I’m a fan of Shabazz Projects.

-What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on a logo design & campaign for Flanders Fashion Institute.

TIM PETERS

The studio photos are courtesy of Davis Lam

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