NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 34


Storyteller, Mark maker, System designer

Jens Mueller

Rolf Müller was born in 1940 in the West-German town of Dortmund. At the age of twenty, he applied to the now legendary Ulm School of Design, and was accepted to his own surprise. For about four years he studied in Ulm, where Otl Aicher became one of his teachers. He spent one year of his studies in Zürich where he worked in the famous studio of Josef Müller-Brockmann.
In 1964 he opened his first studio in Ulm and completed his first identity work, which included the branding of the office furniture company Wilkahn. Shortly afterwards, his former teacher Otl Aicher asked him to join a team to design the visual identit y of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Müller moved to Munich in 1967 and became Aicher’s employee at the age of only 27. He was largely responsible for the visual identity of the Munich Games, which is today considered to be an international prototype of systematic corporate design. Simultaneously, he established his own business, which ranked among the leading German design firms throughout the following 40 years. During this time, he also won the famous contest of Kieler Woche, created an election manifesto for the late German chancellor Willy Brandt, and was appointed to design an identity for the City of Leverkusen. The Leverkusen design became an assignment of more than twenty years. In this period Rolf Müller and his team created integral solutions for all parts of a midsize city – from cultural announcement posters to the townhall’s signage system. The studio, which was based at the heart of Munichs cit y centre for many years, grew to eight people. Cultural organizations as well as international corporations such as BMW, Allianz or Siemens were clients of Büro Rolf Müller. A very special job started in 1985 when Rolf Müller became the editor and designer of HQ (High Qualit y), a corporate magazine for Heidelberger, the leading manufacturer of printing machines. In 39 issues he w as able to pr oduce monothematic magazines that impressively presented the excellence of printing and print. Next to selected photography, art and writings, each magazine introduced three important graphic designers from all over the world.
In the 2000s Rolf Müller reduced his studio staff and focused on self-initated projects, in parallel he became a part-time lecturer at the Schule für Gestaltung Ravensburg. In 2008 he was awared with the Designprize of Munich. On this occasion a solo exhibition of his works was held b y the Munich Typographic Society. For this exhibiton Rolf Müller came up with the terms “Storyteller,” “Mark maker” and “System designer” to best describe his work as a graphic designer. He died on February 18th 2015 at the age of 74 years. For a monograph on his work published last year, he defined the three terms in short texts:

Rolf Müller on Storytellers:
Arranging pictures in a particular sequence, by size or other characteristics means creating something new, making one plus one equal three. Text can be consciously used to guide or disrupt what is new. The eye and mind piece the pictures and text together to form a whole—a story. People have always told stories—to pass on their experience to following generations, or simply for entertainment and pleasure. In art and culture, numerous formats in which stories are told have emerged, from theatre through novels to film. Designers can be storytellers too. To do that, they have to learn to view their surroundings with great curiosity and develop an eye for the interesting and unusual. They have to be able to blank out the foreground and surface, and find the essence. Only then can they start to narrate correctly and engagingly. They do that with the means they understand: text, photography, graphics and drawings. The combination of media leads to neverending stories. In times when designers are increasingly perceived as mere service providers at a computer, the ability to tell stories is a strength that can make their work unique.

Rolf Müller on Mark Makers:
Pictograms, logos, posters and book covers are beacons aimed at sending out a signal into the world as an effective announcement of messages which may be more or less complex. Making a mark is the most elementary and historically rooted field of activity of the designer. At the beginning there is the analytical process: What do I want to tell whom, and how? Several possible solutions in form and content move gradually closer to the objective. The designer takes reading habits and customary modes of perception into account, and carries a visual discotheque of the available symbols around with him as a cultural reference. The creative achieve-ment consists in reducing the draft so far that the design becomes distinctive and remains in the memory. It is not sufficient for businesses or institutions to offer good services, sell excellent products or put interesting projects into practice. Every offering has to become visible and comprehensible, and needs visual symbols and precise simplifications to do so. Computers and design software cannot replace the designer; on the contrary, they increase the demand for the designer’s skills in establishing an identity and compacting the message.

Rolf Müller on System Designers:
Corporate Image, Corporate Design, branding or identity: There are many terms for the visual appearance of a business, an institution or a service provider. Order, clarity and recognizability are always in the focus. Visual systems make special demands. They have to function equally well in different media and formats, and therefore require standardization. But at the same time, visual systems should also leave room for individual messages. The system designer moves in a magic triangle between chaos, system and schema. Helmut Schmidt-Rhen defined the three corners as follows: chaos = soulless disorder, system = living order, schema = exanimated order. Order is at the centre of this magic triangle. Curiosity, subjectivity and craft are its attributes, contributing at best to an aesthetic message. At worst, they can become ends in themselves. One of the oldest systems in the history of our civilization is typography. The alphabet is a perfect set of 26 letters in which a systematic and systemic spirit resides. The system designer acts and constructs in a comparable way. He makes things visible and readable, always varying his moves. This intellectual performance-the thinking while doing-is what customers employ the designer for.

Jens Mueller

Born in Koblenz/Germany, 1982. Apprenticeship in advertising agency and printery. Diploma and Master-Degree in graphic design from University of Applied Sciences Dusseldorf. Since 2007 Designer of stamps for German Ministry of Finance. 2009-2012 partner of Müller Weiland design studio. 2013 Winner of international design 'Kieler Woche', with Karen Weiland. Since 2009 editor of A5 book series about graphic design history. Since 2012 Creative Director of optik design studio in Düsseldorf. Winner of national and international design awards. Author of several articles and books on graphic design history.

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