Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Interview With Graphics Designer And Fine Artist, Anja Mohn

Anja Mohn is a mixed media artist who currently lives in New York and runs www.amartandgraphics.com. Anja studied Fine Arts in Karlsruhe, Germany with the British sculptor Michael Sandle and Japanese sculptor Hiromi Akiyama and graduated with MFA from Parsons School of Design in New York. 


Her artwork has been exhibited at a variety of New York City Galleries and art fairs as well as internationally at various galleries and museums including the Center for Contemporary Art in Moscow, Museum Haus der Kunst in Munich and the Roland Apold Gallery in Switzerland.


In 2004, Anja Mohn set up AM Art & Graphics, a New York City based Graphics Design studio that serves small to medium sized companies, organisations and individuals from a wide variety of fields. Here I interview Anja about her work, the inspiration that lies behind her ideas and how she got into Graphics Design:


After looking at some of your mixed media fine art work on your website. I particularly liked "Eye, 2000". What was the inspiration behind this piece? 
Most of my artwork happens in the process. Things that I have collected, sometimes years ago, or have developed during the work process on different artworks come together in the studio. This is where poetry happens: the unexpected connections between those things. Content, emotions, experiences, the observed and memories find their way in and reappear in these connections. In case of the work ‘Eye’ it was the water glass, the photo of the eye, which stemmed from a completely different idea that I was working on at the time. In the initial artwork, the photo, printed on silver gelatin, would disappear during the course of an exhibition. The work touches on our perception of memories, time and loss: the present moment that we never can hold on to and the constant change we must experience.

Eye, mixed media photo object, 2000

With your mixed media art covering elements of multimedia and photographic objects, where do you get your ideas and how would you describe your style of work?
The ideas come from life, daily experience and observation of inner and outer phenomena. As an artist I have spent a lot of time searching into the subconscious, dream and emotions, short: the inner world. But observation of the outer world is a large part of my work as well: studying nature, taking in the chaos of the city, the noise of our modern life. All this corresponds to the inner, there is a constant dialogue between the inner and outer world, and this is my field. I listen to this dialogue. I am a Romantic in that regard. Novalis said: “The outer world is the inner world in secret form.” Through close observation we can learn to decipher it. Form does not have content as an addition, it is content. There is no difference between the environment for example, and a human face. You can read all of its the history in it, their story.  Formally I am a minimalist though. I like to keep it simple and clear, no embellishments. This is where often times tension arises: a cool form, but behind it awaits emotion. An art critic once called my style emotionally loaded minimalism. This may sound like a contradiction, but it is actually what I do.

How did your career move into Graphics Design and how did you advance to where you are today with your own design studio? 
From the beginning I have constantly ventured into new media. I initially started out with painting, expressionist landscape painting, and soon wanted to combine several perspectives into one work, which brought me to sculpture and I did stone and wood sculptures. However, using one solid material felt inappropriate to express anything of our fragmented world, so I went on to creating mixed media sculpture, combining different materials like metal, plaster, found objects etc. Aiming to document my own work lead me to photography, which soon showed up in the work itself. From there it is not far to video, the moving image, and to sound, which ads another sensual experience to the work. Venturing into graphic design happened for the same reason. I eventually came to explore new media and wanted to see what I can do with them. People also started to ask me to create things for them, logos, posters and business cards. One major reason, however, why I came to graphic design was a change in me. Before I came to the U.S. I was a very introverted person, who spent many hours alone in her studio. NYC does not allow you to be introverted though; you would not survive. As my life opened up, I enjoyed more and more collaborating with people, and to use my skills to realize their vision. This is a new challenge for me, and I love challenges. Doing design work gives me an opportunity to create work that has a direct purpose for another person in their daily life. Life and art move closer together, so to speak, and historically artists have worked in all those fields and did not separate between Fine Arts and Applied Arts.

What inspired you to set up AM Art & Graphics?
A friend actually inspired me to do it. She said, Anja, why don’t you start your own business? This thought had until then never crossed my mind, but it stuck with me and I eventually was excited enough about it to make that step. The day after I incorporated I had my first large contract.

Describe a typical day at work for you. What software programs do you use to carry out your Graphics Design work and where do you look for inspiration?
A typical day at work usually starts with communication and marketing. In the morning I communicate with my clients about current projects, changes that need to be made, and answering questions. I recently set up all the social media sites and I have gotten involved in them. I have found them to be a great tool to connect to people from around the world. To carry out my design work I use whatever medium fits the purpose best; it can be a hand drawn sketch when creating a logo or illustration, computer generated drafts for print design or digital presentations. And occasionally people request me to do hand drawn and hand colored illustrations for them. My most frequented software programs are Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. The inspiration for my design work comes from the client. People are most fascinating. When working for a client, I try to grasp who they truly are, what they want to accomplish through their project and what their vision is. I collaborate with them, they are involved from start to finish to ensure they will be satisfied or more than satisfied.

What are some of your personal favourite projects you have completed and why?
Some of my favourite projects are: The PowerPoint presentations and print design work I have done for the Tourism industry. The tourist branch lives off images, and that is one of my specialities: working with images. Tourism has such great pictures to offer, be it landscape, food, architecture, art, lifestyle or culture; you will always have amazing pictures to choose from. 
   
‘Castles, Parks and Gardens in Germany’
PowerPoint presentation, created for German National Tourist Office, New York
Another favorite project of mine is a promotional film, also created for the tourist industry.  The project was such a wonderful experience, not only because of its topic, but also for the great collaboration we had. I selected a team of a 5, a videographer, a composer, a graphic animator and a narrator/voice over. Everyone worked so well together. Great collaboration definitely is an enhancing factor for each project.  

‘Come to Central Europe’, Promotional Film, created for European Tourism Association. (Click to Watch Video) 

Another project I enjoyed a lot, was being Art Director and Photo Editor for a huge website project about German-American Heritage. The website is currently being re-designed and will be back online soon. For this project I was dealing with about a thousand images that I had to select and place. The site covers everything from German inventions, famous personalities of German heritage, and history of emigration to German festivals and recipes. Stay tuned for the re-launch date, which is coming up soon.

‘400 years of Emigration and German Heritage in the U.S.’,
Art Direction and Photo Editing; Client: German National Tourist Office New York


  1. Typography tends to play a big part in design, what is your favourite typefont?

As I love simplicity and minimalism, I also love simple fonts. I cannot point to a particular font that I would use more than another one, since it depends on the project, which font fits best, but naturally I prefer sans serif fonts. As mentioned, it depends on the client; whatever fits his or her purpose and objective that will be it. 

Do you have any favourite designers that inspire you?
There is a lot of designers I admire: the Bauhaus movement, of course, and Milton Glaser and Chermayeff & Geismar, to name a few. They inspire me. One of the most important inspirations and who has been my mentor in art for years is British sculptor and former teacher Michael Sandle. He has encouraged me a great deal throughout my career, because choosing the path of an artist is not easy.

One Final question. What tips do you have for the novice designer?
My tip for a novice designer would be: be true to yourself and believe in yourself, follow your dream and have a long breath. Be patient and have endurance. And most of all: keep learning and advancing! Never rest on the point that you have reached. Push your limits, keep challenging yourself.

I'd like to thank Anja, for taking the time to answer my questions for this interview. If you'd like to learn more about her work you can check out her websites below:


Websites: 
Design: 


Fine Art: 


Youtube/Interview: 

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