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Meet the Rinzens: Karl Maier

Juxtapoz // Monday, 14 Sep 2009

Interview by Kirsten Incorvaia


Welcome to round three of Meet the Rinzens: a look into the Australian design collective that has our eyes glued. The man of the hour is Karl Maier, Rinzen’s Sydney dwelling member.


You might call Karl Maier a chef of all things Pop. He gathers ingredients like scribbled paper, coffee, and ‘70s films to conjure up designs that are simply refreshing. In an age where visual overload has become the norm, Karl breaks down messages into digestible, attractive forms. He is also a collector and distributor of inspiration through his up and coming Australian mag, The Pop Manifesto.


From the land of Oz, Maier divulged his keys to creative success. Read on for Karl’s cure to creative blocks and to discover the secret behind Abbotsford Invalid Stout.

Why did you start The Pop Manifesto?


The Pop Manifesto was something Ilirjana (my partner in the magazine) and I had been thinking of and talking about for a while. We felt like we knew a lot of talented people who were doing their own thing and deserved more recognition; whether they be artists, musicians or designers. With both of us having had a variety of publication experience, it was exciting to start our own.


What does the title mean to you?


I love everything pop! It is both broad and extreme depending on what part of the spectrum you look at. We called it The Pop Manifesto because it is our manifesto on what we see as positive in pop.


What makes your magazine different than any other?


We do it for love, and we love everyone who we write about or involve.


Why does every issue feature a woman on the cover?


There's really no reason at all, it's just the way it's worked out so far.


After 6 issues, does Pop Manifesto have the impact you hoped for?

Yes, we've found people who inspire us and we hope people come away inspired to do their own thing after reading The Pop Manifesto. It's inspiration 360 degrees.

How do you get out of creative slumps? 


It may seem obvious but I really just find I need to get as far away as possible from what I'm doing for a while—go for a walk, get a coffee, maybe a beer. Nothing dramatic, more so something akin to rebooting the brain. In lieu of that I also find simply switching between different projects can be quite refreshing. Anything to add a little time and space between me and my silently mounting catastrophe.


What is the first step to beginning a design?


Usually, like most people I imagine, there's a lot of scribbling to work through an idea. I almost never create a prototype as it were of a finished design, but prefer a sort of visual short hand where I try to get as much information down as I can—sketches, words, reminders to myself for later. Maybe a little bit like prepping all your ingredients before cooking. Or perhaps more like the obsessive note taking seen in the film Memento. Similarly I use all odd bits of paper, and have a tendency to draw over the top of things endlessly. Sometimes, looking back at the drawings, even I have a hard time figuring out what's going on.


Why do patterns fascinate you?


I find I am naturally drawn to quite bold, geometric, graphic forms. If you look at it a certain way you can see the world as a series of shapes and colours—where things are reduced to their essence and there's the possibility to communicate perhaps quite a lot through fewer and simpler forms. I really enjoy playing with the kind of abstraction it offers, and through it finding a commonality between what might be considered quite disparate ideas or elements. For me it's a way of discovering the world that is both compelling and delightful.

How many hours do you work each day?


As a rule I try to keep fairly regular hours. That said it really tends to fluctuate based on the demands of the day. It's good to have the flexibility to choose when to work, or not. All this goes out the window when deadlines come into play however. Sometimes I prefer working late at night and when the weather's especially not nice at all.


Do you have any tattoos?


Not as yet.


What's so great about Vegemite?


I wish I could tell you; unfortunately I can't stand the stuff.


Best Ozzie beer?


Personally I'm a fan of Coopers Pale Ale. Though when I was living in Melbourne I discovered a beer called Abbotsford Invalid Stout. Although I wouldn't drink it all that often, it has a pretty awesome name and an equally good label.


When you were a kid, what did you expect out of life?


I'm not sure what I expected out of life as such. I certainly hoped I would be able to do something with art and generally felt that was where I was headed, but in practical terms I had no idea what that equated to in the 'real world.' I remember a friend of my dad's who was a graphic designer; he was an older Swiss gentleman and very much a proponent of Swiss Modernism— quite accomplished. He was semi-retired so he would give me a lot of his old design books and magazines that were a revelation at the time. He also worked from a studio in the bottom of his house that looked out onto the rainforest behind, so all of a sudden being a graphic designer looked like a pretty good gig.

Is your current life much different than that?


Well I'm still a ways off the house in the rainforest but otherwise perhaps not too much.


Beverage of choice?


I've recently become a big fan of cider. Long sunny afternoons and cider.


What magazines do you read?


Not all that many these days. I quite enjoy Monocle though. The illustrations are always charming. Other magazines I've bought in recent memory are Apartmento and 032c. Vanity Fair always seems to find its way into our house so I'm prone to pour through that as well.

Top 3 movies?


A few movies I seem not to tire of watching are Withnail and I, Harold and Maude and my recent favourite discovery, William Klein's Mr. Freedom. It's an absurd pop explosion with a cameo by Serge Gainsbourg, what more could you want?


What visual references do you call upon for inspiration and influence?


There are many artists, designers, photographers, filmmakers and generally people I would cite as being influential on some level and certainly inspirational. More than anything I find I am inspired by anyone who is able to make things happen on their own terms. I love coming across something so cool, and just marveling at how great it is that it exists. Working a lot on commercial or public projects, I realize how difficult it can be when there are so many points of compromise or hurdles to overcome. The Opera House here in Sydney is a prefect example—completely amazing.


How would you describe your personality in 5 words?


Likely to avoid this question.


Check out more of Karl's works here...




Every image in one place


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