HELLO my Name is ... That’s probably what a logo is best described. An open invitation to get to know its originator and what he has to offer. It should show its character. For me it should work without colors, just in black, in all sizes and without any effects on it. Like a good grafﬁti piece should be able to strike without the colors, without the 3ds and everything distracting from the real essence of the letters. If you can see that the foundation is good than you build up on it and make it funky. Otherwise you have a problem and need a lot of make-up to hide your weak spots. Maybe the logo could better be compared to a tag or a throw-up of a grafﬁti writer. You can read his character, skills and development in every line. A tag should also stand aside from the rest on the street. You don’t want to be overseen. The goal is to stand out. But more important is the idea to create a rememberable sign and repeat it over and over again, on highly recognizable spots, in quality or quantity. Both together are the ultimate. This is probably what the writer learned from the advertisement industry.
A logo is the ﬁrst handshake of the company. It’s the ﬁrst impression. A logo is the key to the brand, crystallizing the essence of a brand, an artist or a product to a single sign. And trying to understand the past, present and future of the product and the brand is the key. Where does it come from? What does it represent now? Where does the company sees its future? ... Where are the possibilities? How can I communicate the character or personality to the audience? A logo is the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the corporate design or identity needs to support the logo and help the communication of the brand’s philosophy. For me it has to be straight and on point! It has to function on a micro ﬂyer, as well as being able to stand alone on a billboard. Of course you always have to see the logo in its environment. It could fail if you build a clean national bank-like logo for a punk band and vice versa. Luckily I was able to create logo designs for a large amount of clients from all kinds of ﬁelds, from snowboard to clothing, from music to events.
Later I also created a bold cut from this font and used it for some other work. Like here for example on the Montana Cans design. I’ll talk about it later.
Font design itself attracts me because it gives me another viewpoint on letters. When I sketch or paint a piece, each letter is connected to another one. The letters balance each other. Maybe they could not stand alone. They need each other. You build some kind of organism that depends on the other parts. At the end you have one system that makes sense in itself. The opposite happens with a font or even a whole font family. There, every letter needs to ﬁt all the others. With all the possibilities of letter combinations you can imagine what that means. Then it’s not just the minuscule letters, the same goes for the capital ones. Both need to function in a system – a word, a sentence, a chapter or a whole book. Of course it depends on the font design’s intended purpose. Do I want a headline or a copy text type? On a display font there is more space to play with because its main intention is to catch your eye.
Instead, the copy font wants to guide you through the text without being even noticed. All these different angles to letters or type are useful to me. My grafﬁti writing gets richer through it and affects my lettering in design and this might change my view on fonts. Looking at a subject from more than one corner helps to understand it more deeply. Something you can use as a template for many things or life itself. Catching more than one viewpoint enables you to see more possibilities, new combinations or another way to approach. Typo design has always been a big and important part of my work, mostly using the elements through the eyes of a grafﬁti writer. Arrangement of forms, letters, colors. How can I ﬁll this page up in a funky way? Instead of ﬁlling a wall with paint. In design you have other restrictions and rules, which also need to be known before breaking them later. Or just working on the boarders of it to ﬁnd new solutions. I try to give a human touch to my design and letters, small imperfections to escape the industrial look. Handmade meets reproduction. Like that it touches people more on the emotional side. We always feel with the broken heroes in the
movies, follow the struggle and relate to him. But the perfect superhero is quite a boring character. There is nothing like that in our lives. Imperfection is our daily life. Talking about design and typography, the little mistakes give the eye something to get irritated by. It’s not the machine that invents something, but the human brain that uses the technology to create. To show that is a way to free yourself from the synthetic world. But I have to admit, that a corporate design for a brain surgeon or a specialist in another ﬁeld would pretty much scare me, if it had too much imperfection in its appearing. Every design problem needs its own solution. Besides this, hand lettering is one of my passions. Giving words depth through the shape and stance of the letters. Connecting words and assembling them to a nice composition is in a way another angle of the abstract art movement. It exists somewhere between art, comics and design. Comics are stories with pictures and text. The text is the picture. Like a constructed calligraphic.You can see some experiments I did in this direction in the “artwork” section. For my work it also helps to know how to quickly draw an idea on paper.
Then you have a basis before you implement the digitalized format. But it often happens that I just keep my sketch and after cleaning up a bit I vectorize it. Then I can play with a mix of hand and digital-made elements. That gives a livelier note to the design. Some examples of this technique can be seen on the next two double pages. The posters show how type, shapes and a bit of color can tell a story. “Funk Your Soul” is a two monthly party series in Switzerland, for the ﬁnest in Funk, Soul, and Breaks. The “o” of “your” is a 7-inch sleeve, for the rare groove feeling of your favorite tunes. The “Soul Clap” poster is loaded with old school Hip Hop references. I used the cloud, the splash and funky stars, with that new school touch. For the 10 years Phaderheadz DJ team anniversary posters I connected the birthday cake with a turntable to make the message clear. With two hands, coming from the decoration, spinning the wax. Some will recognize an homage to the ﬁlm title and poster design from “The Man with the Golden Arm” by Saul Bass.
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COMMUNICATION IS DEAD This picture shot by Tone with Danny Diabolo rocking my design on a graveyard really blew my mind. Maybe there is now a re-interpretation of my design: “You snitch. You’re dead before trying to explain!”
THE TRUTH MASCHINE A Utopia & Theory Manifest With the launch of Ecko Unltd.’s new sub brand Ecko Function, a more classic orientated line, they needed a special item to translate the idea behind it. For that they chose four of their favorite artists to design a t-shirt for them: WK interact (NYC), Jay1 & Skki (Paris), and me. But just a plain t-shirt would have been too simple. It got a nice box around and was limited to 170 pieces. As you can see, the very heavy box was constructed like a picture frame. After the line was dropped and the boxes went around the world, they also hit the style temple Colette in Paris. And you can also see Stéphane Vigroux (Parkour artist) sporting it while “parkouring” through Paris, London, and New York in an Ecko Function video. For everybody easy to see, that design came straight out of my sketchbook. Like I always carry a black book with me, on my travels, in the subway, just to hold quick ideas, I sketch, write, whatever comes to my mind. Later I can ﬂip through it and when the idea is still worth it, bring it to life.
For me it’s the essence of everything, a plain black outline. You just need a pen and paper to get the idea out, nothing more. If it feels right, you are on the right track and develop your style, design or piece further. In this case it’s from my Hong Kong and Tokyo travel with Michel in 2005. We always show our creations or books to each other and discuss our ideas. Or just build the weirdest stories around it. He really loved this one, I guess. When he developed the concept for the artist box he asked me for especially this design. I was ﬁne with it, scanned it, added some red color elements, which all of us artists used, added some little details ... ﬁnished. Sent. Some months later I had some nice samples in my mailbox. And yes, I know that “machine” is written without the “s” ... but to add a stronger sound to it, I chose the German word. Too bad I can’t make sound effects in this book to underline my idea. Just think of a spray can gone wild, like in a classic King Kong scene, which bombs everything in its way. Then get this frightening Dolby Surround sound that says with a deep male voice: MASCHINE. You get the idea.
The collaboration with the high quality brand Völkl Snowboards, for over ﬁve years, was a great opportunity and taught me a lot. The design process for a snowboard is super long, but deﬁnitely a fun thing. Coming from a more urban skateboard background I never never really got into snowboarding. So I was excited to get involved in that industry and to see the development of a snowboard. The technical side of a product like that is gigantic. It’s a high tech masterpiece. Layers, special woods, metal, etc. At my time there they produced all their boards in-house, which means full control of your product and quicker reactions. There are so many things to understand in production before you even do the ﬁrst line of your design. When you start to understand, it opens up an ocean of possibilities.
I learnt from all the given borders of the projects I have worked on so far, and developed a creative way to cope with them and to even make a beneﬁt out of it. My knowledge grew over those ﬁve years. And so did the amount of board designs in my portfolio. The design meetings with Völkl were mostly held in winter snow resorts to get into the vibe and also to test the prototypes which came fresh out of production. Thus they got the possibility to make little changes on the shape or ﬂexibility before running the whole production. All the designers, the whole pro-snowboard, production, and distribution teams were there as well, to give their opinion and feedback. The testing of the products was probably more fun than checking through another design. But in the end they were really proud and involved in all the details of their tool.
INTRO by Jay Ramier In the course of time, you can observe fellow comrades exchanging the spray can for classical brushes, Xerox copies, or the copy & paste mode with mice and keyboards. And I ask myself how we, the “noneducated”, can manage to operate the transition from a free, intuitive, and instinctive expression to a conventional and well-ordered design convention. As a grafﬁti artist, to establish any sort of reputation in graphic design or on the “art” market, you have to decide between the acceptance of the codes and rules used in these different markets and forget about the long and hard work you put to develop your style or signature, or simply adapt it to those new formats. Many have succeeded in that transformation. To me, Komet is one of those brilliant artists who could make the conversion. Before, SuperBlast was Komet, and I remember watching his uncelebrated, but expressive pieces a decade ago. They were so unique and different from the popular and common 3d-like styles or the “sentimental” New York grafﬁti aesthetics. Komet was one of the ﬁrst grafﬁti writers I saw painting those unmoral, inconvenient, yet structured pieces, far from the simple and roundish old school bubble letters or throw-ups (which seem to be a nostalgic try to revive the old school). Instead he truly developed an expressive and identiﬁable grafﬁti sensibility. Obviously he was not too concerned about the equity or proportion of his
letters – his Os would have the center-hole completely distorted and off-centered, defying the geometrical conventions of the alphabet. The letters’ aspects looked like familiar, stylish typography but chopped, cut, or sliced in a way to ﬁt them next to each other, like if they were forced to live with each other, creating a rough and rugged human-made style. Later he was recognized among the fresh and innovative writers of his generation. He inﬂuenced the Potsdam street art scene. Today that aesthetic is familiar, even in the hardcore and incommode Berlin scene, where it has smoothly penetrated. Today, under the name of SuperBlast, Manuel Osterholt demonstrates his ability to change mediums while keeping that manual (that’s actually the origin of the name Manuel) feel on the digital canvas, taking his initial vision inspired by a strong socialistic and humanitarian to an evolving audience. His cut-out stencil-inspired fonts are particularly remarkable. Recently exploring what seems to be the other part of his cultural heritage, it’s maybe more legitimate for him to use icon and relics of the Greek orthodox imagery. The late work brings back the dramatic and spiritual sense his lifework needed. Because when talking with Manuel you soon realize that this man has a lot more to dispense than all those beautiful but insigniﬁcant images we are surrounded with. His work surely deserves to be observed, ’cause it continuously develops.
GRAPHIC ART & GRAFFITI WRITING
Size does not matter, but it feels good to see my little drawings in an eyepleasing size, I had to admit though. This is by far my biggest solo painting by now. And while painting it I discovered a slight fear of height, which is not the best thing to ﬁnd out when you stand on a crane and you know you gonna spend three more days on that machine. The weather was stormy and cold, which didn’t help that much. But with some helping handy of my men Marcel and “Mythos” everything got ﬁnished in time. The people from Sony Playstation commissioned this work and gave me the artistic freedom that I needed to scale up my utopia icons a little bit more than usually, on the unique Berlin “ﬁrewalls”, which have no windows. Some great artists already had the possibility to work on those huge walls around the city, as part of Adrian Nabi’s vision to use these places for public art projects – bringing artwork to the citizens, outside of the “white cube” where just a few have the joy of seeing it. Anyway, the galleries normally don’t have this kind of space to work with, nor the amount of people to
surprise – walking or driving by and irritating them in a good or bad way, that’s up to their perception. There is another communication between the work and the receptor than in a specialized and closed place, like a democratic energy that talks to everybody; all ages, all professions, all social backgrounds, as it was mentioned earlier for the t-shirt artworks, which have a similar way of communication. On the other hand, what do people think, passing by a huge wall, with three creatures, composed as a trinity, promoting “The Truth Maschine”? Whatever that’s supposed to be. All covered up with psychedelic patterns. They don’t look mean, but it wouldn’t be a great idea to place them in a dark alley. Maybe they are some sort of new cult, promoting a new lie detector, which can be installed easily on your back head? And if you reach a certain point of wisdom, your eyes pop out and get replaced by holy spray caps. Sounds good to you? Welcome to our brotherhood, young Padawan! Order your Truth Maschine now and if you place your order today you get a third eye for free. With extra hotline support 24/7. It’s fun for the whole family. Don’t sleep on this one!
THE CALLIGRAPHY of our times For me grafﬁti writing and its culture are a perfect way of self-expression. The letters change their attitude according to your daily condition. When looking at a grafﬁti piece, you can immediately detect a happy or a stressed day. Each letter gets an attitude and harmonizes with the others, like a group of people hanging out, having some sort of social communication. For me there’s a reﬂection between the piece and your inner self. You express a feeling or a mental state of mind to the outer world. Like a mirror, just that it’s spray painted. Searching yourself as a 13-year-old is normal, I’d say. You try to ﬁnd your place in the world and try to connect with it. When I saw these huge colorful letters for the ﬁrst time, it felt like heaven to me. There was something raw and beautiful in it which soaked me in. From that point on there was no turning back. I tried to get all the information about it, as much as I could. I ran around all the spots to take pictures and tried to ﬁgure out how it worked. I sketched non-stop to get a feeling for the letters, but also to get rid of the stuff in my head.
Kerz, a long time friend, got in contact with an older guy who gave him some sketches at school. From that day on we made our ﬁrst steps outside of our sketch books. It was the time before there were ten different kinds of skinny, medium, or fat caps. We had a range of about 10 to 20 colors, and just a handful of rare books and fanzines – you had to dig deep to ﬁnd the information you needed. The good side of it was that most things you could ﬁnd were from the original source. New York was the city where the letters learnt to walk and grew up; it’s the ground on which writing should be based. If you understand the origin, you can do whatever you want with it. If you don’t understand your letters, something will always miss in your style. I’m not talking about copying or brainless following, but studying, discovering, and creating – this seems to be my key for it. If you want, you can add some destroying. But without a mental foundation, on which you can build on, it might collapse and won’t be able to stand strong enough. In the end it’s up to everybody to decide for themselves what they like and what motor drives them. For me it’s the love for the letters and the joy of discovery. Writing was the best school I could have possibly attended for my later professional life. There are lessons in composition, form, language, typography, colors, with sometimes a really tight schedule and deadlines. Plus you are taught to make your work highly visible. Learning all this while trying to work on a big scale is “un-pay-able” for me.
SuperBlast - StyleStudy Where does the letter begin, where does it end? Is the 3D already the letter or visversa? With a style study i tryed to ﬁgure out a way to blur that line. Is it possible to make this optical illusion work?
SuperBlast discovered the sparkling world of grafﬁti writing in 1989. It opened up a whole new universe to him which led to a very personal style, tinted by Hip Hop, Punk Rock and Skateboard culture. Since then, he met and teamed up with some of the most interesting artists and companies in his ﬁeld. He lives in Berlin and works as a graphic artist. The strength of his artwork, his knowledge of cultures and lifestyles, are precious contributions to a wide range of projects. Besides eclectic artistic explorations, he is known for his collaborations with international brands, such as Ecko Unltd., Sony Playstation Portable, Montana Cans, Völkl Snowboards and others. This book is a selection of graphic designs, grafﬁti writing and art, out of a year of work, as a personal statement. With extra sketch book insight! “Manuel’s work hits me on a deep level, not just because he’s my Orthodox brother – although that’s a big plus – but it really kicks some serious ass.” - Boogie „I could putreally a Quote here....“ - by Somebody
Published on May 10, 2008
New book by graphic artist / graffiti writer SuperBlast. Published by Publikat / Gingko Press. 160 pages of graphic design, illustration & g...