Interview with Marina Becker

Every year we run a poster design competition for the Berlin Summer University of the Arts. In co-operation with Prof. Fons Hickmann, we choose the best poster designed by one of his graphic design students. We talked to this year’s winner Marina Becker (25) about her poster concept and work approach. 


Marina is originally from Munich where she got her B.A. in Communication Design. Currently she is doing her M.A. in Graphic Design at Klasse Hickmann (UdK), working for the branding agency KMS Team, as well as a freelance designer.


How did you discover graphic design?

My art teacher at school showed me Photoshop when I was about 15 years old, and it was so much fun that I only wanted to work with Photoshop instead of drawing in the class, which of course I was not allowed. So I started to play around with the programme at home, just for fun.


What was the very first piece of design you created? How do you feel about it now? Do you still like it?

My first design project was a little book about Saul Bass – an American graphic designer and Oscar-winning filmmaker – that I created in the first-semester typography class. I think Saul Bass is great, and even though I’m laughing about the design now, I can still look at this book and not feel bad about it. But speaking generally, that is always the case with the designers: you can't objectively assess your work because you've seen it hundreds of times before or been sitting in front of the laptop for too long without looking at something else.


Do you have a personal design motto?

“Successful communication depends on how well we listen, rather than how well we push our opinions on the person seated before us.”

— Kenya Hara


What’s the most challenging part of graphic design work for you?

Sometimes I reach the point in the project when I get stuck with it and can't proceed. Say, when I've tried everything, tweaked the design but it still doesn’t look good. Overcoming the point of approaching disappointment and continue believing in the concept of the project is the most difficult part for me. Although in the end, if I’m satisfied with the final results, I get the feeling of having learned something new.


How would you describe your style?

Bold, colorful, functional.


What's your favorite kind of design project to work on? What gets you really excited and why?

I enjoy working for cultural projects, e.g. museums. This type of work requires cooperation with the artists as well as understanding their needs and what they want to say through their work.


What has been your best project and why do you think so?

During my Bachelor's degree program, my fellow students and I worked on a university magazine. Each semester, a new issue was published that focused on a new topic. We worked together on the concept, design, pictures, and organized events like exhibitions and release parties. We were trying to write on topics that were important to us, e.g. diversity of gender and sexuality and how it was represented in our university. I can’t say it was always easy because we had to deal with quite conservative people but it was worth it. Learning with and from other students is probably the most important thing while you’re studying.


How do you go about starting a piece of work and how does your workflow look like?

I begin with the chaos and then try to organize it.


Do you experiment a lot? How?

Usually, in the beginning, I have an idea or an image of where the project should end up visually. If it doesn't happen, then I experiment as much as possible first. E.g., I create mood boards and try to systematize them. It often helps me to find ideas but as I'm pretty impatient, it’s not the easiest part of the job for me.


Where did you take inspiration for the Berlin Summer University 2020 poster? Could you walk us through the concept?

When I think of summer, I immediately imagine the sun, palm trees, and positive feelings. I thought it was a good idea to communicate these feelings to the audience, so I went to the botanical garden and took pictures of some palm trees. Then I edited them to make them look more graphic and finally combined them with a bold yellow font reminiscent of the sun.


If it wasn’t a career in design, what would it be?

Gastronomy was always my second passion! If I had the courage and strength to work every night, I would probably open a little bar with good drinks, live music, and some space to dance.


If you could be any font / typeface which one would you be and why?

I think I would be a variable one – bold in winter but easily switching to regular in summer (laughs).


Can you draw? Do you wish you could?

Unfortunately, I am not good at drawing and was always jealous of the people who were good at it. I find it fascinating when someone can draw freely using their memory and imagination. It is so much easier to explain ideas and express yourself if you are a good drawer.


What’s the best piece of advice you have heard (teacher, colleagues, friends) and would repeat to others?

A friend of mine once told me "Design is our job and our passion but if something doesn't work out, do not let it get you down. There are still more important things and problems in the world." That’s what I'm telling myself every night before the deadline.


If you could describe yourself in 3 words, what would it be?

Relaxed, ironic, open-minded.


Thank you, Marina!

Photo: Tatjana Hub
Photos: Marina Becker