Keeping things light - Issue 111 - Magazine | Monocle

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Outside the windows of Munich’s Café Hüller, the Isar is running a steady course. On a winter morning the scene is suitably sleepy but come summer the pavement teems with passersby as the whole city, including graphic designer Mirko Borsche, comes for a dip in the shallow waters. “I like this place because it’s so close to the river. I come here and watch people walk by,” he says, drinking a stiff espresso. “In the end my job is about designing for people so you have to understand their tastes. Watching gives you a good chance of doing that.” Given his inflexible habit of taking two-hour lunch breaks, there’s plenty of time for a daily anthropological study.

It’s hard to believe that the creative director of Germany’s endlessly inventive weekly supplement Zeitmagazin (who also helms a creative agency that works with the likes of Nike, Balenciaga and Rimowa) would allow himself such indolence. But there’s a strange double-speed to the way Borsche operates. “Work-wise, I live fast. But my private life is slow,” he says. Restlessness is, after all, one of the defining characteristics of his work: every year brings a major redesign for Zeitmagazin, while his experimental Munich events rag Superpaper gets a revamp every 10 issues. “Some designers have a certain style and always do the same thing – just a bit better every time. But I can’t do it. I get bored.”

This creative hunger is all the more striking given that becoming a designer was never Borsche’s plan. Graffiti was, for decades, his main passion and covert night-time activity. Moving to London to study graphic design was his first foray into the discipline, but one he quickly found his stride in.

Eventually, his evident talent, landed him jobs at respected advertising agencies from Hamburg to Amsterdam. Frustration with the industry later led him to the editorial side of the spectrum, with a gig as art director of the youth supplement of Bavarian newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. But his street-art past still influences his methods. “Doing graffiti, nobody knows that something is your work. There’s something enjoyable about the anonymity. It’s the same with Zeitmagazin,” he says. Perhaps something of the playfulness of graffiti has stuck in his visual references too. “A friend of mine says that my practice is about getting close to bad taste without quite going there,” he says, laughing. “In the end, I like entertaining people. Magazines are about entertaining. Graphic design is not a serious art form.”

The CV:

1971 Born in the Bavarian lakeside town of Tegernsee
1992 Moves to London to study graphic design at Kingston University
1999 Appointed art director of Jetzt, the teenage-focused supplement of ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’
2007 Founds his own studio, Bureau Mirko Borsche, in Munich
2018 Releases new identity for German luggage brand Rimowa

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