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robertogreco : johankruyf   1

Experimental Jetset: Interview / Studio Culture March 2008
"Q: Can you say how you divide up your workload between the three of you?

We are not really big football fans, but we once saw this interview with legendary player Johan Cruijff in which he explained the concept of 'Totaal Voetbal' ('Total Football', or 'Total Soccer'), and that was really inspirational. Total Football is a system where a player who moves out of his position can be replaced by any other player from the same team. So the roles aren't fixed; any player has the ability to be attacker, defender or midfielder. When you think of it, it's a very modernist, modular system. It's also very egalitarian, very Dutch in a way. There are certainly parallels you can draw between Total Football and Total Design, Cruijff and Crouwel.

In short, our ideal is to stay away from fixed roles. When dealing with stress and deadlines, we sometimes fall back into certain roles, but we try very hard to avoid that. Our intention is that the workload is divided equally, and that each one of us has the same set of abilities.



Q: Are all decisions taken collectively?

Yeah, absolutely. But it's not that we officially vote by sticking up our hands or something. Decisions are taken in a very organic way. The fact that there are three of us might have something to do with that. If two persons agree on something, the third person usually just tags along. So we always move in a certain direction. There are never two blocks of people standing against each other.



Q: My understanding is that Experimental Jet have no employees. Do you ever envisage a time when there will be lots of Jetsetters? What is attitude towards recruitment policy?

In our 12-year career, there have been quite some moments in which we could have chosen to expand, to employ people; but we have made a deliberate choice to stay small. We know many designers of our generation that have chosen another path; studios that started out with two or three people, and now employ 10, 15, sometimes even 20 people. But we have always resisted to grow in such a way.

We never really understood the point of expanding. As we see it, the reason we exist as a studio is because we have a singular aesthetic/conceptual vision, a very specific language we speak. If we would employ people, this would mean we have to force this vision upon them, that we have to oblige this people to speak our language; we would certainly not want to do that. We don't want to pressurize people into speaking our language. There's already too much pressure in the world as it is now; we don't want to add to this whole system of stress and alienation.
We could also leave these people free, and let them develop their own language, but what would be the point of employing them then? Let them start their own studio if they want to speak their own language!

As it is now, we get offered more assignments than we can handle. We simply don't see that as a problem; we're not megalomaniacs, we don't have to design everything. If a client offers us an assignment while we're busy working on something else, we simply try to direct this client to another small, independent studio. Ultimately, this whole model, of all assignments being done by a lot of different small graphic design studios is much more interesting than the model of all assignments being done by a few large agencies.

If we see two posters in the streets, we would prefer them to be designed by two different small design studios, instead of one large agency. It's as simple as that.

We do realize that there are more and more clients who feel that their project is so special that is should be handled by a large agency. But we think that's nonsense. We really believe that all projects, no matter how large, could in principle be handled by small studios. That's the whole point of printing, of mechanical reproduction: that something small, something created by just a few people, can be blown up to something really big. That's the beauty of it. That the starting point can be small.

A few decades ago, it was not uncommon that the whole graphic identity of a museum would be created by just one single designer. It should still be possible. A nice logo, a monthly invitation, some brochures, a couple of iconic posters, a basic website: what else do you need? The reason why it all became so complicated is because there exists now this whole new layer of marketing- and communication-people who are more or less creating work just to keep themselves busy. So instead of efficiently designing good-quality printed matter, you are now wasting days discussing the order in which the sponsor logos on the poster should appear. That is indeed a shame. But the solution of this should not be the design studio growing, but rather this whole marketing sphere shrinking.

Q: What about interns? Do you have a policy towards giving internships?

It would be so awkward having an intern in the studio. We really feel we have to do everything ourselves: DIY. To have somebody do all the 'dumb' work for us would make us feel terrible. For example, if we come up with a solution that forces us to spend days and days on kerning, we feel we have to do this kerning ourselves. We came up with the solution, so we have to suffer the consequences, even if this involves days of boring work. (It's probably a calvinist guilt trip, disguised as a socialist work ethic).

We are glad that the graphic design department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy doesn't require any internships. In fact, we dislike this whole notion of giving students a taste of 'the real world', as we simply don't believe there is such a thing as 'the real world'. The world is for students to shape, not to adept to. Or at least, that is how we think it should be.
Four years of study is already quite a short time. There's a lifetime of work after that. Why not dedicate those four years fully on investigating new models of design practice? Why waste a couple of months on investigating already-existing companies?

Maybe internships make sense in the context of other disciplines, but in the case of graphic design, we really like the idea of students entering the field of graphic design without any preconceived notions about it. It worked for us, so it might work for others. (But then again, we sometimes speak students who really liked their internships. So we might be completely wrong).

Having said that, it really breaks our heart to receive all these portfolios daily, from students asking for internships. We wish we could help all of them. We know their schools require them to do an internship somewhere; we wished this wasn't the case. Most of these people are really bright, their portfolios look really good; it's a shame they are required to beg for an unpaid job. It's humiliating when you think of it."
studioculture  experimentaljetset  2008  via:tealtan  openstudioproject  glvo  graphicdesign  design  small  growth  groupsize  internships  howwework  horizontality  diy  collectivism  partnership  tcsnmy  lcproject  organzations  soccer  football  johankruyf  totalfootball  totaalvoetbal  egalitarianism  futbol  sports 
december 2013 by robertogreco

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