Interview with Mattis Bettels

We've met the designer of the new poster theme for the BSUA 2022 and asked him about his design ideas and inspirations.

Hello, my name is Mattis Bettels and I am originally from Lübeck. Before studying visual communication at the UdK, I did a bachelor's degree in art history at the Free University of Berlin. Currently, I'm in the final semesters of my visual communication studies.


How did you get into Fons Hickmann's class? What brought you to the Berlin University of the Arts?

After I finished school, I always knew that I wanted to go in the direction of art or design. At that time, I did not dare to make a portfolio and reveal myself to a jury. In retrospect, however, I also think that maybe I was not ready yet. Therefore, I decided to study art history and do my bachelor's degree in that field. However, it was clear to me that I wanted to apply for visual communication. I then sent my application to the UdK while writing my bachelor's thesis. I have only been in the Hickmann class for one semester. Before that, I tried out other classes such as Illustration and Visual Systems but was drawn more and more towards graphic design. Here, I can better implement theoretical approaches creatively and conceptually, but I am still free enough when it comes to my preferences in design.

How did you discover graphic design?

I would say that it more or less came about and now I enjoy the mix of theory and exact but free design.

Do you remember how your first design looked like? If so, what was it? How do you feel about it today?

My first designs were doodles at school and T-shirt motifs for friends and me. I was always quickly interested in new things and simply tried out many things.

Do you have a certain approach to implementing new designs? Certain rituals in your work?

I always start by researching or looking through old records or mobile phone photos. Then I collect ideas and start designing. Most of the time I integrate too many ideas at the beginning and it becomes a big jumble. Then I pick out one idea and try to present it consistently.

If you could choose a design project to work on, what would it be and why?

I can't say, there are so many different media and topics that are interesting to me. At the moment, I find it exciting to work with fonts and to change fonts experimentally.

When did you realize that you wanted to work as a graphic designer? When did you first come in contact with design?

I never knew that I wanted to be a designer. I always tried out a lot and then kept moving in that direction. Before entering UdK, I couldn't even explain what graphic design exactly was. My first contact with design was probably at the dinner table as a child. My mother is a ceramist and we've always had dishes designed and produced by her. I would also assign this craft to the large field of design. That left its mark on me.

Can you tell us more about your design for the Summer University of the Arts? What were the thoughts behind it?

The idea behind the design was not necessarily to visualize the terms "summer" and "university" but to look for what else the Summer University stands for. In my opinion, artistic work often starts with an experiment, from which further ideas and concepts develop. This motif also emerged from an experiment: I created it using the technique of encaustic, which is new to me. I think that now it not only stands for summer and university but can also be used as a representation of the five concepts of transition, perception, exploration, communication and participation.

How did you develop the idea? What were your first impulses?

One of the first impulses was to implement the "workshop" theme. For me, the word "workshop" always has something analogue and handicraft-like in it, so I found it exciting to integrate this analogue element into my design. I have always found it interesting to experiment with analogue printing techniques such as monotype or linocut. For this design, I chose encaustic because I had an iron, baking paper and oil pastels at home and had enough time to try everything out during the lockdowns.

How much does the pandemic preoccupy you in your artistic work?

Thematically, the pandemic does not preoccupy me in my work. By the end of the last lockdown, I felt more and more demotivated and annoyed by my home space, which I also used to work from. I missed the exchange, truly.

What inspires you in your everyday life?

The great amount of design and artwork on the Internet, conversations about design with my friends. I like to go out for a walk around the city and take mobile phone photographs of any construction sites, signs or other things that stand out to me.

Describe your style in three words.

Experimental, conceptual and I sometimes try to break those two things and not be so serious.

What are you working on at the moment?

On my portfolio.

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

Print out things and do not overthink.

Thank you, Mattis!