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Klaus Hesse of Hesse Design on Communication Design

From Waste Paper Baskets to Communication Design: 25 Years of iF Awards for Hesse Design

Solid, innovative, beautiful – and award-worthy: Keywords when it comes to describing the success of the communication and brand campaigns, created by Hesse Design! 25 years ago, the studio, based in Düsseldorf and Shanghai, received their first iF DESIGN AWARD – unusually in the Discipline Product – for a waste paper basket. Right after that, they seeked their true path: The world of high-class communication design. 25 years, 41 iF awards and numerous campaigns later, we proudly congratulate on this special iF anniversary!

We talked to owner and founder Professor Klaus Hesse about Covid-19, the past, present and future – and the meaning of a design community.

Klaus Hesse, Hesse Design

Klaus Hesse, Hesse Design

Prof. Klaus Hesse, born in Elberfeld, studied photography and typography in Wuppertal. He worked as art director in Hamburg, Munich and Düsseldorf. Since 1988 he is design director and co-owner of Hesse Design in Düsseldorf and since 2016 also in Shanghai. Since 1993 he was also professor for conceptual design in Dortmund and Essen. From 1999 to 2020 he has been teaching at the HfG Offenbach University of Art and Design, where he headed the School of Art as dean for many years.

Prof. Hesse, first of all: What has motivated you to "remain loyal to iF" over the years and regularly submit projects?

There are not so many truly international design competitions with such a qualified and independent jury. The iF DESIGN AWARD is one of them. In any case, we attach great importance to regularly facing the judgement of the iF jurors with the output of our studios in Düsseldorf and Shanghai.

In 2005, Hesse Design received 10 iF awards! If you travel back in time: How did you experience this time? What meaning did the awards have for you and the team?

Nothing has changed for us in the importance of international awards from renowned design competitions. Then as now, we value independent assessment of our projects, also in the interests of our team and our customers, who have placed great trust in us. I think we owe this to all those involved.

In the end, we pay more attention to how people think. We are careful not to follow certain models. For us, design is always about developing something independent out of the task at hand.

Hesse Design received its very first award in 1995 for the Waste Paper Basket in the discipline Product, until Communication took over the leading role in 2003. How would you describe and justify your (and Hesse Design's) enthusiasm and fascination for communication design?

From Waste Paper Baskets to Communication Design: 25 Years of iF Awards for Hesse Design

Klaus Hesse: "If you look closely you will see that the "Waste Paper Basket" is made of recycled cardboard. We had designed this waste paper basket primarily to be able to store the numerous DIN A4 printouts appropriately for reuse. Our medium at that time was of course paper. It was also ingenious that we could send this waste paper basket folded in a B-4 envelope. In the end, this was a by-product of our core task of developing and implementing visual appearances. We have remained true to this to this day and have expanded to include digital forms of expression. Our first website went online in the early 90s. The very different tasks and industries are always fascinating. It is always a great feeling when you discover new possibilities. With every job we learn something new."

Design awards - from jury session to award gala - are always global networking events. How important is it for designers to network and exchange ideas with other creative people?

It is important to see how other designers think and design. That's why the iF DESIGN AWARD is naturally also very interesting for us. We are of course delighted every year about the many outstanding and surprising contributions and of course about being part of it. In the end, we pay more attention to how people think. We are careful not to follow certain models. For us, design is always about developing something independent out of the task at hand. But I think my colleagues in the communications industry see this in a similar way.

  • 01/05

No one saw Corona coming. Many smaller agencies are now reaching their limits. Can an agency prepare itself for such situations in any way? How?

Actually this crisis no longer has any influence on how we work. Of course the virus has an impact on the order situation. The world seems to stand still. For years we have been working internationally networked, mostly in home offices. Everyone involved has known and appreciated each other for years. Our comrades-in-arms live and work in Brazil, China, Germany and Mexico. It is a network of excellent specialists that has grown over the years. One trigger for this was certainly my university activity at the University of Design Offenbach, which has contributed to this internationalization. Early on, we began to coordinate many things online. It's a pity that at the moment we can only present our results via video conference. But even that actually works very well.

How do you and your team members look into the uncertain future?

Of course, everyone is upside down. But we love our jobs like crazy. Even before, we didn't get out very often when we were working intensively on new challenges. Of course, we really miss the meetings with our friends in China and South America and with our customers. We all trust in science and will be patient accordingly. We are still more concerned about climate change and especially racism.