Erik Kessels: Strong Ideas Allow You To Blur

Erik Kessels’ lecture was incredibly visual, incredibly entertaining, and showed us how to blur the lines between the contrasts that occur daily in the design industry. “Strong ideas allow you to blur.” Starting with a strong idea allows you to cross over into different disciplines. To support this point we had the pleasure of seeing some slides of Erik’s projects including: His print work for various ad campaigns, 3-D type created to promote the city of Amsterdam, commercials, and even art exhibits curated by Erik.

“The blur between high budget and low budget.” Effective and well-designed work can be created on any budget. Case and point: the Citizen M Hotel vs. the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel. The Citizen M Hotel is very high end and sophisticated while the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel is just about the exact opposite, playing up the fact that you can’t find a worse hotel. Both designs had strong ideas and strong strategies that helped them succeed no matter what the budget was.

“The blur between online and offline.” Erik printed thousands of images downloaded from Flickr and filled a gallery space with them creating a sea of physical printed images. People could pick up the images, make picture angels in them, walk amongst them, and just interact with them in any way they please.

Erik Kessels

Erik Kessels

Designer, Artist, Curator (Amsterdam)

Born in 1966, lives and works in Amsterdam. Erik Kessels is a Dutch artist, designer and curator with great interest in photography. Erik Kessels is since 1996 Creative Director of communications agency KesselsKramer in Amsterdam and works for national and international clients such as Nike, Diesel, J&B Whisky, Oxfam, Ben, Vitra, Citizen M and The Hans Brinker Budget Hotel. As an artist and photography curator Kessels has published over 50 books of his 're-appropriated' images: Missing Links (1999), The Instant Men (2000), in almost every picture (2001-2015) and Wonder (2006). Since 2000, he has been an editor of the alternative photography magazine Useful Photography. For the DVD art project Loud & Clear he worked together with artists such as Marlene Dumas and Candice Breitz. Kessels writes regular editorials for numerous international magazines. He lectured at the D&AD Presidents Lecture and at several international design conferences such as in Singapore, Goa, NY, Toronto and Bangkok. He has taught at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy (Amsterdam), Écal (Lausanne) and at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture where he curated a celebration of amateurism. Kessels made and curated exhibitions such as Loving Your Pictures, Use me Abuse me, 24HRS of Photos, Album Beauty and Unfinished Father . He als co-curated an exhibition called From Here on together with Martin Parr, Joachim Schmid, Clement Cheroux and Joan Fontuberta. In 2010 Kessels was awarded with the Amsterdam Prize of the Arts, in 2016 nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize and is often seen as the most influential creative of The Netherlands.

“The blur between autonomous and commissioned.”

Perhaps the most entertaining point of the lecture was viewing the slides of Erik’s self initiated projects. With projects like the rabbit balancing things on its head, the woman who shoots herself, and how to shoot my black dog he showed us that sometimes doing projects for yourself can turn into successful projects that generate interest and commission.

If you get a chance to see Erik Kessels give a lecture, jump on it because it really shows you how having strong ideas gives you the freedom to experiment, cross mediums, and create brilliant work.