If I search back through the vast visual archives I kept while studying graphic design at university there’s a particular studio that makes many appearances, the Berlin based HelloMe studio. I was drawn to the unique way in which they experimented with typography to create systematic approaches for their projects. The results we’re bold, intriguing and incredibly clever designs that I ended up heavily referencing in a few of my assignments. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery isn't it? I think so.
Fast-forward three years or so and while routinely checking out the latest mixtape from our friends over at Freunde von Freunden the name Till Wiedeck and HelloMe appeared on my screen. I recognized the studio so I pressed play on Mixcloud and followed the hyperlink to check out what HelloMe had been up to. I was instantly blown away. Firstly by the recent work the studio had done for the Berlin Art Prize but also the mix I was listening to. It was incredible. I just sat there staring blankly at the monitor for twenty or thirty minutes, nodding my head and resting my chin on my fist like an absolute weirdo. Till’s mix is still on heavy rotation and to be honest I don’t feel there has been a FvF mixtape that has come close prior to or since. Sorry everyone… benchmark set.
Recently HelloMe has been developing some amazing work for the likes of COS and most recently, Warp Records and I’ve spent many hours scouring the internet’s many corners, trying to discover if Till has uploaded any other mixes anywhere. Apparently not... We decided it was time to speak with the man himself over Skype and find out what he’s been up to and how he learned to scratch like Primo.
Hey. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, took a little while but that’s okay. It’s hard with the time difference.
Yeah it is. I was knocked off my feet last week. I’m finally back in the office. First full day today.
What are the plans?
Oh, a lot! We’re working on a book right now with a photographer and Warp Records needs some love nearly every day.
The Warp Records project’s are looking great.
Yeah it’s a pleasure to work with them.
How did that come about?
We’ve been working together since 2012 on different releases and record covers. They asked me to do the art direction on the Warp25 anniversary event and that went really well. Over time we established a trusted relationship and they were really confident that I’m the right person to work on the future branding for Warp Records and to take on the overall art direction. We’ve been working on it for almost nine months now, it’s been a huge pleasure and an awesome team to work with. You couldn’t ask for any more from a client than total freedom.
That’s fantastic. It’s a huge job, Warp is such an influential record label.
Yeah absolutely. Warp has been influential to me since I was twelve. One of my first records was Apex Twin’s Windowlicker. Ever since then they’ve been on my radar. Nightmares On Wax, Boards Of Canada, that was what I was spinning all day back in my youth. Now they’re releasing a lot of new experimental hip-hop stuff like Hudson Mohawke and Flying Lotus. I’d say Flying Lotus is one of the greatest artists currently making music.
I agree. He just keeps evolving with each release.
Yeah it’s amazing. I’m really passionate about almost every Warp release. We have a small team here but we’re almost becoming a part of Warp because we talk so much and being a huge fan of almost everything they’ve put out means it’s a pleasure to work with them.
Yeah it’s a really good situation.
Can you tell us a bit about your childhood?
I grew up in the west of Germany in a small town, five thousand people or something, it was pretty close to where I studied in Münster. I started experimenting with graffiti when I was ten years old and that’s where my love of typography started. I still sit in the studio and tag on paper, but I haven't done any actual walls for about five years now. At around seventeen it evolved from graffiti to doing graph based work and things on the computer like flyers for parties. That’s when it all started shifting to graphic design.
A lot of graphic designers and artists seem to come from a graffiti background.
I think it’s a logical step. It’s rebellious in the early stage and at some point — at least for me — it evolved into something that I was more interested in. It wasn't about the thrill of doing a train anymore, at some point it became about creating more complex pieces and working on refining everything. Graphic design seems suited to those who are more logical, and for those who are more free thinking art seems very fitting.
So you finished your study and then moved to Berlin?
Yeah in 2008. Pretty early on I discovered that I wanted to run my own studio and founded it back when I was in Münster. I came up with the whole HelloMe thing which in the beginning was just about saying "Hi, I’m out here doing graphic design and I want to work with you." I was actually still studying when I moved to Berlin to work in some studios (Bureau Mario Lombardo and Fons Hickmann m23). After nine months of working in different studios and doing my own work during the evenings for six or seven hours I decided that I’d focus on my own work full-time. I found a space with a lot of nice people and we have shared this studio for about six years now, it’s a huge two hundred square meter loft situation. The amount of growth is limited because even though we have a huge space there’s a lot of people working here, but for now it’s a perfect environment. We collaborate a lot within the studio, there’s graphic designers, type designers, illustrators and photographers. They’re all really great so you can pick your collaborators from the desk next to you more or less.
What was the catalyst for wanting to create your own studio?
It was a requirement. It was logical because even though I really liked working in studios it was quite clear to me that I have a very strong vision of what I want to do and I would find myself thinking about how I would approach tasks differently. I realized it made sense to go and create my own studio.
Since founding HelloMe in 2008 do you feel the work you do has evolved?
Oh, a lot! I learn new things every day, that’s the best thing about it. In general I approach each project from a similar perspective, I’m always thinking about a systematic approach to things rather than just keeping to a basic, application based approach. At the same time I’d say I also really trust my gut feeling and the conversations I have with clients and collaborators. The overall approach comes from a typographic point of view, but obviously it has evolved over time. The skill level has evolved also and I’m drawing custom typefaces quite regularly for projects now.
What about personal evolution?
I mean, I started the studio when I was twenty one, I think the learning curve was massive for me. Being in a position where you have to take responsibility, learn to trust yourself and learn to trust your judgement too. My interests changed also, in the early days it was more graffiti based but then my focus really shifted to the art world. I’m really interested in modern and contemporary art as well as the different aspects of fashion. It’s exciting what’s happening at the moment.
So… you have previously referred to yourself as a hyper-functionalist.
(Laughs) Oh yeah.
Can you explain a little about that notion?
Well I’m always trying to create a system or a visual approach to something that is really logical or functional. I’m a passionate believer in perfectionism. I think everyone in here (the studio) would agree that I’m a perfectionist and I try to deliver things which are at a point where I just couldn't do it any better.
Does that perfectionism spill over into your personal life? Are you a hyper-functionalist at home?
I wouldn't say so. I like functional furniture that’s for sure, and I like clean things, but I’m not overly structured. My girlfriend is a textile designer so I’m also highly influenced by her. There’s a certain amount of warmth which I like to have myself surrounded with. In our house there’s only one painting on the wall by London based painter Christopher Grey, he gave it to me as a gift about two years ago at my birthday. I really admire him, he’s an awesome painter. The rest of the apartment is just white, with pretty high ceilings, so there’s a lot of space to think. Back in the days when I didn't have a smart phone I used to stare at the ceiling to get my ideas in the morning. I still do, but these days sometimes you have your cellphone in your hands too early, you’re woken up by it and then you check your emails.
I do that as well, it’s a bad habit.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I really like going to exhibitions. I don’t attend openings so much because I think they’re too busy, I like to have time to actually look at the pieces. There’s a lot of gallery openings in Berlin, Nadine (Goepfert, Till’s girlfriend) likes to go to the openings but I’m the type who likes to go later. I try every weekend to see at least one exhibition, sometimes two. Other than that I spend a lot of time digging for music.
Yeah, speaking of music, you’re an incredible DJ.
You’ve obviously been playing for a while, can you tell us a bit about the role music has played in your life.
The earliest thing I remember playing was California Dreamin’ by The Mamas and The Papas on my parent’s record player when I was three years old. I have a really strong attachment to that song. Very early in my youth, like ten years old, I found graffiti and hip-hop. That was in ’95, when the internet just came about, so there was no Youtube. I started going to record shops and I bought my first vinyl at around thirteen, which is also when I started DJing. First it was German hip-hop, then I completely switched to American. When I started studying I tried to explore some different music scenes too, there was a phase where I listened to minimal techno and a lot of electronic music, but everything somehow related back to hip-hop. I don’t really play publicly but there’s a few parties in Berlin where I DJ regularly. Every three months or so I’ll play a small club where there’s about five hundred people. I find it’s a lot of work though because as I mentioned before, I’m a perfectionist, so it takes about two weeks to create a mixtape that I feel has the right selection and technical qualities.
The FvF mixtape is incredible, it’s obvious a lot of time and effort went into it. The cuts and beat juggling are amazing.
Yeah I’ve been doing some actual turntableism for quite a while. Juggling, competitions and scratching, stuff like that.
Let’s talk about the people you like to be surrounded by.
My biggest influence, and the person who I’m around the most, is my girlfriend Nadine. We’ve been together for about seven years. Pretty much as soon as I moved to Berlin we met. She’s a huge influence on me, and on my work as well. Then there’s everyone in the studio of course. Johannes, Timm, Manuel, the team here in the studio is really incredible. In general I work quite a lot so I like to spend my free time with people that I like, love and admire.
What is beauty to you?
To me it’s not about superficial beauty but the beauty of an idea. If it makes you smile or tickles you in any way I think that is beautiful. A thought can be more beautiful than any superficial design or object. For example I feel beauty when I look at the Black Square by Malevich because it has such a radical idea behind it. It’s just a black square of paint on canvas but during the time it was created it expressed such a massive idea and that is why it’s beautiful to me. I refer to that painting a lot because I feel it’s such a strong example of radical change in art history that was achieved solely by an idea.
That’s a great answer. Finally, what kind of legacy would you like to leave on this planet?
I’ll answer that differently. I don't want to do any harm to the world, that’s for sure. I will try to leave the planet as I found it or better. (Laughs) Like they write in a toilet or something, "Please leave this room the way you found it or better." I’m trying to be cautious about not wasting too much and keeping nature as it is. At the same time, maybe I can put something back into the world too. Maybe I can create a few sparks inside people with the work I do. That’s the best thing you can hope or ask for.