Where do I belong when everything is on the move? »Trigger« your Attitude!

As TYPO Berlin 2018 progressed many inspiring speakers talked about what triggered them to establish their design mindsets. Five key aspects kept popping up during the conference, noteworthy to inspire other designers and useful to get rid of some daily “should haves” and constraints. Deutsche Version hier lesen.


— by Nora Tanner, with Matthias Kliefoth

TYPO Berlin 2018 kicked off with two quiet political talks this year, that were hold by the Godfather of the concept of the Creative City Charles Landry and the upcoming New York based Art Director Jonathan Key. At first glance, Landry and Key didn’t seem to share much common ground—coming from different disciplines, continents, backgrounds, and generations. One is actively involved in the development of Berlin and the other, visiting the German capital for the first time. But with a closer look they both have more common ground on how change is a chance to challenge the status quo for the better, either in theory or practice:

“What is the highlight of a conference? It is seeing a lot of people who have found a place for themselves in a world that is broad and grand.”
– Kali Nikitas, Facilitator

 Charles Landry’s talk about urban change, based on his recent publication “The Civic City in a Nomadic World” (read a short synapsis here). Landry, an advisor, and author from the UK, raised the question of where we belong if everything—people, ideas, goods and even reality—is under constant change and moving forward at a fast pace. His big-picture approach to the development of liveable spaces can also be applied to the design process.

After Landry, Jon Key took the stage. He is a perfect example of a designer who is not intimidated, but rather feels inspired and challenged by the spin. Key is a New York based freelance Art Director and member of the codifyart platform—his mission, to make the mainstream society more aware by giving marginalised groups a voice, particularly women, queer, and trans artists of colour. He is also one of the co-founders of Artists Against Police Violence.

No matter if in urban development – Landry advices over 60 cities worldwide – or in the cultural industry, that Jon Key is having a lot of clients in, design can trigger new work routines and reinvent social structures. Here are five key aspects:



Good designers are great listeners and emphatic towards a client’s needs, driven by the urge to get involved. Jon Key stated, “With every client, we begin the design process by listening and getting a sense of their mission, goals, and personality.” The essence of his work is people centric. Timothy Goodman, who purely entertained TYPO Berlin’s audience in the big Hall, is on the look for the personal and singual, yet not to confuse with the egoistic: He presented 12waysofkindness.com where he and fellow designer Jessica Walsh, made a whole project on how to become more emphatic. Working as an Art Director, Muralist, and Illustrator in New York City, Goodman is triggered most by telling people’s stories through his graphic design skills in order to connect to people on an emotional level, to educate and raise awareness. He also motivates the audience to get rid of labels and titles and instead just do what they want. This leads to the second point:



“Writers, filmmakers, and artists have used their feelings, like fear, for years to generate output, why do designers not?” Goodman asks. He is combining his emotions and creativity for purposes that matter to him and others around him, especially the ones with a weak voice.
Our need for stability and certainty sometimes collides with the fast-moving world. Instead of just giving in we can relocate and strengthen our inner voice.

Physical location is becoming less important today, so one’s inner attitude and anchorage become even more important. Times of transformation always provide an opportunity for growth and inspiration, even though it seems intimidating and overwhelming at times.

“Creativity is an asset, not a service.” – Erica Wolfe-Murray

But if those borders blur and the often funny chaos grows, how do we keep an eye on our (financial) wellbeing? Alex Mecklenburg and Erica Wolfe-Murray from lola media in the UK triggered the whole industry to not to be afraid of talking about money. “Let’s seize control!” and strengthen the creative industries by learning to think creatively about the commercialisation of our work, not only design aspect.

If we know what differentiates us from other design studios, and if we become aware of what points we are really good at, it’s easier to value our work and put a price on it. Let’s not use the initial time taken as the only currency and give away our potential future value for free. Let‘s see our work as an investment, not as a one-off cost.
The thought about the future impact of design leads to the third point:



Without being negative design Rockstar Aaron Draplin underlined that his creativity is indeed fueled by the need to pay bills – next to a pure ambition that everyone could feel and see. But many speakers explained that this isn’t the sole focus of their work. Charles Landry, once more explains that for the sake of our future we should aim for “healthy” design, with long-lasting values and ethical purpose, instead of short-term profit-oriented only. Getting involved in the “bigger picture”, the world’s longer-term needs, is an interactive process—at the end rewarding for everyone.
For Saar Friedman from Jerusalem, this means aiming for an open world. In his speech, he gave us insight into life within the borders of his home city, but also in daily (design) life. Boundaries are always around us, giving us stability but also limiting us: budgets, client wishes, social structures etc. Friedman says he has chosen openness as a way of life because inner borders prevent us from doing what we really want to do. It is not our sole task as designers to simply make things prettier but to step out of our comfort zone and create a better environment for everyone.
Golnar Kat Rahmani, a Berlin-based Iranian Graphic Designer, and Typographer is engaged in the fight against racism, Islamophobia, and gender inequality, using her design skills to trigger conversations and encounters between people and also raise questions about things that come up short in daily life. She feels that her point of view of an ideal world should lead her work.



How many personal projects are jammed up somewhere in our minds—postponed because of the lack of time, money, resources etc.? What keeps us from focusing more on them? Elliot Jay Stocks, an Art Director and musician from the UK encourages us to value personal projects as we do “money-jobs”, using structure, timeframe, and milestones to achieve them.

“Now is always going to be the wrong time, which means there’s never going to be a better time! So why not start now?” – Elliot Jay Stocks

dina Amin, an Egyptian Designer, was tired of postponing the inner urge to do the thing that she really likes. She took the time, made herself aware, and focused on “the thing”—meaning stepping back for a moment from being driven by career progression, paying bills, solving problems, fitting into society. In her case, it is taking products apart, thus giving them more value by exposing the complexity that is normally hidden within.

“If I could do one thing for the rest of my life, I would take products apart.” – dina Amin


For Timothy Goodman, the trigger to do “the thing” came after seeing painting a huge mural in New York, which consisted only of huge black and white brush strokes. “How do you manage to get paid to scribble on a building?” Or for taking things apart rather than delivering slick ready-to-print data?. The key is to put your work out there and let people know what you are good at and what you’re interested in. That way we can shift the focus of our work to what we are really passionate about.

Another excellent example on how to actively draw work to you instead of just waiting for it to come along is Hansje van Halem’s story, who published her type design “playtime” as a book and unexpectedly received a number of commercial inquiries about it. Putting passionate work out there attracts future clients which share the essential style and values of these projects. Social media tools make fundraising much easier these days—the crowd can even replace a single purchaser at times.



International trends and global exchange in design, architecture, tourism, and commerce, lead to a merging of aesthetics and a mainstream look around the world, overlooking the voices of marginalised groups and jeopardising the richness and variety of environments and cultures. Experimental zones and spaces for wackiness have become rare, and all things look cosy and familiar—and boring?

“It is your Party – go for it!”– Chris Campe

Chris Campe, who works from Hamburg, specialising in lettering, book design and everything typography-related, encourages her audience to add to the world, the thing that in her view, is missing—real inspired design work instead of just another inspirational hand-lettered quote.
So, after three really inspiring days at TYPO Berlin 2018, we have been triggered a lot! Design is not the only tool to answer all the big questions of our time, but since it is the thing we’re best at, we might as well use it and rise to the occasion to challenge the mainstream society a bit. Triggering our environment, and through this, changing its spirit, is a good and rewarding thing, if we keep in touch with our inner voice and lead the movement in a healthy direction.


Dina Amin

dina Amin

Designer (Cairo, Egypt)

dina Amin is a designer from Cairo, Egypt. She completed her B.A. (Hons) in Industrial Design in Malaysia. Although trained as a Product Designer, dina loves to explore the intersections between various disciplines. In 2016, dina started a side project called ‘Tinker Friday’ on Instagram, where she combined her passion for product design and stop motion with her views on consumerism.

Chris Campe

Designer and Writer (Hamburg)

Chris Campe knows how to think, write and design. Her design studio All Things Letters specializes in lettering and creates EVERYTHING with letters: books, covers, logos, illustrations, spaces and storefront windows – for publishers, agencies and corporate clients. Chris studied Illustration in Hamburg and Paris and Visual Studies in Chicago. She writes books for designers about lettering and typography and loves to teach.
Timothy Goodman

Timothy Goodman

Graphic designer, illustrator and art director (New York)

Timothy Goodman's art and words have populated walls, buildings, packaging, cars, people, shoes, clothing, book jackets, magazine covers and galleries all over the world. His clients include Google, Samsung, Uniqlo, Target, MoMA, Airbnb, Netflix, The New Yorker and The New York Times. He has received awards from most major design and illustration publications. He's the author of Sharpie Art Workshop, the co-creator of the blog and book 40 Days of Dating, whose film rights were optioned to Warner Bros., and the co-creator of 12 Kinds of Kindness, which was featured in NPR & The New York Times. His global collection of clothing with Uniqlo launched recently. He teaches at SVA in New York City, and he uses Instagram to talk about his feelings.    

Golnar Kat Rahmani

Designer (Iran)

Golnar Kat is a graphic designer from Iran and founder of Studio Katrahmani – a multidisciplinary design practice in Berlin. Main task fields are Persian and Arabic typography.

Jonathan Key

Art director, Designer and Writer (Brooklyn)

Jon Key is an art director, designer, and writer. He is a partner/co-founder of the Brooklyn based design studio Morcos Key. His collaborations have lead him to work with a diverse set of clients and institutions as designer, educator, and artist including HBO, Nickelodeon, IDEO, Grey Advertising, The Public Theater, MICA, American University in Beirut, Parsons and the Whitney Museum. His creative pursuits have allowed his work to be featured internationally in galleries, museums and collections in Boston, Toronto, NYC, London, and Ljubljana, Slovenia. He currently serves as a contributing art director to The Tenth Magazine a Black, queer arts and culture magazine. Jon is also co-founder and the design director of Codify Art, a Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist collective whose mission is to create, produce, and showcase work that foregrounds the voices of people of color, highlighting women and queer people of color. He is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design where he received a Bachelors of Fine Art in Graphic Design.

Charles Landry

Advisor, speaker, author (UK)

Charles Landry works with cities around the world to help them make the most of their potential. He is widely acclaimed as a speaker, author, innovator and he facilitates complex urban change projects. An international authority on using imagination in creating self-sustaining urban change Charles has advised cities or given talks in over 60 countries. He helps shift how we harness possibilities and resources in reinventing our cities and his Creative City concept has become a global movement. His book The Art of City Making was recently voted the 2nd best book on cities ever written by the planning website. His most recent book is The Civic City in a Nomadic World. Other books cover the measurement of urban creativity, the digitized city, urban fragility and risk, the sensory experience cities and interculturalism.

Alex Mecklenburg

Creative Thinker & Doer (London)

Alex Mecklenburg is a creative thinker, doer and problem solver. Her motto of curiosity, resourcefulness and resilience have guided her throughout her career in the creative industries. She started her journey 25 years ago at Ogilvy. Where she worked across multiple disciplines and regions, building global brands and campaigns for clients like Lufthansa, Unilever or GSK. She has since been MD at the global digital agency Huge, business partner at service design shop ‘We are Friday’ and Client Strategist at Edelman, collaboratively shaping new creative structures that delivered innovative products and services. In 2017 Alex started her latest adventure: leaving the corporate world to work collaboratively across multiple initiatives and organisations. She is an Associate at the Digital Think Tank doteveryone.com, a Co-founder at the Creative Business Consultancy Truth & Spectacle and a passionate collaborator at the innovation studio Lola. Throughout her career Alex has always been fascinated by how leaders, organisations and brands communicate, behave and operate in a constantly changing world. How to create the right foundations to stay creative, adaptable, resilient, relevant and good - whatever life throws at you.
Erica Wolfe-Murray

Erica Wolfe-Murray

Author and Consultant (Salisbury, UK)

Founder of Lola Media, imaginative innovator Erica Wolfe-Murray has worked with over 200 creative, cultural and tech companies in the last six years’ alone. With a determined belief in the power of creativity to build value, she totally rethinks/reframes companies' output, their financial models and their legal frameworks to deliver better results, more revenue streams and owned IP, leading to growth and improved resilience. With a background in advertising, design, tv production, digital, licensing, she has been both a creative head and an FD.  Her passion for ensuring creative companies unearth, develop and harness their intellectual assets has brought her clients such as NB Studio, GBH, D&AD, Re as well as global pattern experts Patternity.  She has had a joint venture with National Geographic, worked with the UK Intellectual Property Office, Parliament as well brands such as Puma and Harvey Nichols. Author of ‘Cake - A Creative’s Guide to IP’, she has also just completed ‘Think About it This Way - An Ideas Workbook for Business Growth’ aimed at companies of 10 employees or less whether they be plumbers or designers who government growth funds or support rarely reach.

Elliot Jay Stocks

Designer and musician, creative director (UK)

Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer and musician. He is the Co-editor and Creative Director of lifestyle magazine Lagom, the Creative Director of coffee roaster Colonna, and the founder of typography magazine-turned-book 8 Faces. He was previously the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit and his design work, for clients such as Virgin, Microsoft, Brooklyn Beta, and MailChimp, has been showcased in publications such as Communication Arts, Creative Review, Computer Arts, Page, The Independent, .Net, and Design Week. He lives and works in the countryside near Bristol, UK, and creates electronic music by night under the alias ‘Other Form’. (Photo: Norman Posselt)

Hansje van Halem

Graphic designer (Amsterdam)

Graphic designer Hansje van Halem (1978) gathered recognition with her distinctive typography and geometric, almost psychedelic illustrations built on complex patterns. Van Halem digitally scratches, draws or weaves her letters and designs stamps, posters and illustrations. Her design-experiments sometimes  lead to commissioned applications for public space, including a border fence at the Dutch Schiphol Airport. Her work is in the collection of museum, amongst others Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (NL). Since 2017 Hansje is responsible for the head designer of Lowlands music festival. Passionate about typography, book design and print in all its forms, Hansje van Halem has run her own studio in Amsterdam since 2003. She works digitally, creating intricate typographic experiments that explore the tension between a systematic approach, legibility and irregularity. Fascinated by the interplay between pattern, texture and typography, Hansje van Halem had developed a distinctive style that bridges the gap between digital and print to suit her needs – she’s as comfortable generating striking visuals as she is experimenting with screen print and riso. (Photo: Isabella Rozendaal)