Making the poster for BIMM University Berlin Hamburg’s End of Year Gig
For this year’s End of Year Gig at BIMM University Berlin Hamburg, we teamed up with graphic designer Alexander Hanke to ask him to create a special poster for us. Alexander founded Hamburg design studio and label Studio Zum Heimathafen and specialises in designing posters for concerts and festivals.
Through his work, he’s deeply connected within the music industry, from album artwork to merchandise or his early steps as a concert organiser. He has worked with Live Nation, FKP Scorpio, City Slang and artists like Foo Fighters, Calexico, Elbow, Feist and Sigur Rós but also smaller independent acts.
Students visited Alexander’s design studio for an exclusive masterclass where he talked about the importance of design in music, the process of creating our poster and at the end, our students also got to screenprint our poster. We talked to Alexander about his work and the key to a great design.
You established your own design studio and label called “Zum Heimathafen” – what is the focus of “Zum Heimathafen”?
Right now, the name is actually ‘Studio Zum Heimathafen’ to give people a better idea that there’s more to it than just the label ‘Zum Heimathafen’. My main work is in the field of graphic design, illustration and printing. I like to keep the areas diverse, so that this way jobs I do tend to be interesting. It also means I’ll keep learning new things and also challenge myself. If you want to go deeper into the earning structure, this is built on three pillars – my own products, client work and screen printing. I have this structure mainly to balance payments, if one area is silent, most of the times another is vibrant. Sometimes all of them are healthy, this can also be exhausting.
You specialise in creating posters for concerts and festivals – how did you decide that this is the field within graphic design that you want to work in?
My heart was always in the music scene, so I was seeking for jobs in the scene and in a way that led to so-called ‘gig posters’. These usually give me the chance to work quite freely and at the same time I can create something for people whose music I listen to and admire. At the same time, I also work for the fans of the band or musician —creating something for them that makes them happy is then a win-win-win situation.
What is the key to a great festival or concert poster?
If I knew what the key was, I wouldn’t struggle to create something time and time again. I would just use that key. The absence of this key also makes the work interesting, otherwise I probably would be bored, and people would as well. You always have to evolve – if you stand still and use the supposed key, your work will be stale. One thing I always do is a holistic view of the whole project and where I can fit in.
When you work on a concert or festival poster, how do you come up with the idea?
This process couldn’t be more different each and every time. But I have a basic structure of how I lead my brain to a decision. First of all, I gather information about the festival, band, musician or whatever that is. If it’s a print for a band, I sit down and listen to their music, read the lyrics and try to figure out what kind of look they have. Each of these alleys can lead to an idea, sometimes they mix. After I’ve gathered some knowledge about the band or festival, I let this simmer in my head;maybe I do some loose sketches and see what sticks. After a while there’s a spark of an idea, sometimes it’ll lead to a torch, sometimes it just dies off.
What has been your favourite design you’ve created so far?
This is pretty hard to tell, after a while I would change many or just a few things in a design; I think most artists can relate to this. Since your work hopefully evolves, you always see a design with fresh eyes and you see things you want to change. This procedure can also be dangerous and lead to paralysis. You think everything is crap because you always find something to change. But you should come to terms with the fact that it’s better that way than if you still like the things from last month.
You have also created the poster for our End of Year Gig – what was the process like?
I was lucky that I could talk to a human, Dave who coordinated the whole project including the masterclass. This is always the ideal situation; I can listen to the people and figure out where their heart is at. The briefing was small but detailed – Hamburg, Music, fun and light. After that I let those words fly around in my head, did some research, scrapped the obvious ideas and drank some coffee. After that I had a loose idea, I made some thumbnail sketches to check if the composition could work. Then,t I sent one of these over to Dave together with some words. Luckily, he could understand this very loose sketch (or at least pretended to!) and just trusted me. After we agreed on the idea, I made a final drawing and thought about the colours, textures etc. Finding the right placement for the type was a tricky task, as you could see in the video, but in the end we found a solution that did just the trick.
We also documented the process of Alexander designing our poster – watch the video here:
At BIMM University Berlin we host weekly masterclasses where we invite experts from the industry to share their insights and skills with our students. Here you can find out more about our masterclasses!