Let us introduce you to the talent behind the design of the Berlin Summer University of the Arts 2023: Paul Pacher. Paul is a Master's student in Fons Hickmann's Graphic Design class at UdK Berlin. Before moving to Berlin, he completed his Bachelor's degree in Information Design in Graz (Austria), where he is originally from. After studying architecture for a year during the pandemic, he decided to delve deeper into graphic design—with a focus on printed and digital media such as books, visual identities, websites and motion design.

In 2022, Paul won the annual poster contest for the upcoming Summer University. In March 2023, his design was selected as one of the winners of the 100 Best Posters competition 2022. We've asked him about his work, his inspirations and the idea behind the "summer clock".


Hello Paul! Let's dive right in … Which three words best describe your style as a graphic designer?

Holistic, systematic, sensitive.


What does this imply for your approach to design projects?

The systematic has a great impact on my designs. I start by developing a system and then proceed to work very intuitively in the design process and execution. I can easily transfer the initial idea to any format. The subject for the Summer University is a good example for how I try to make a visual identity work as a system.


Did your exploration of architecture have an influence on your work?

Extremely so, yes. Especially the way in which architects approach problems, which can be more complex than in graphic design since there are other challenges to deal with. It was an enriching experience—not only to study architecture, but to delve into the discourses and the social environment that surrounded me. 


How did you develop the idea for the design of the Berlin Summer University of the Arts 2023? What were your first impulses, what did the creation process look like?

I always start with comprehensive research and a contextualisation of the content that is to be communicated. What kind of institution do I design for? How does it describe itself, how is it described by others? What designs have already been created? At some point, I came up with the image of the sundial as a suitable projection surface. Then I transformed the sundial into a format and started playing with it. That is to say: At first I do a lot of research and thinking, but this soon turns into a creation process where I experiment and intuitively arrange design elements. Eventually, a functional grid emerges. In the case of the Berlin Summer University, the "summer clock" serves as system and basic subject. I expanded this grid in order to depict the aspect of mobility, which also characterises the summer programme: terms and images appear on the projection screen of the animated design, transporting the workshop contents.


"Translational Acts" will be the overarching theme of our workshops in 2023. How does this idea translate into your design?

Design itself is always a translational act: as designers, we translate a certain concept or content into a visual language. This translation can be more abstract or more concrete. The information that is to be communicated about the Summer University is very concrete, which—in addition to the systematic approach that I use—resulted in a very clear visual language. 


­How would you define "good" design? Do social and political questions like accessibility, inclusivity or sustainability play into this?

I once tried to define "good" design as the best possible improvement of the status quo. This might sound like a narcissistic hypothesis but it’s meant as a reminder to take a closer look at what consider an improvement. Sometimes even a supposed step backwards can be the improvement we actually need. For me, it's not about creating categories by which we decide or measure what good or bad design is, since these parameters are either subjective or simply too complex to be applied normatively. A lot of factors are at play here which influence the outcome and can vary a lot from person to person, or from context to context: time, financing, personal demands, personal abilities, personal resilience … . It's more of an attitude that you display when you try to embed your own work in a larger whole. My ambition as a designer is to find out how good design can be sustainable or socially relevant.


So do you, personally, feel a sense of social responsibility as a designer?

Definitely. I think every person has social responsibility, especially if you are privileged enough to study at an institution like UdK Berlin. We should use our artistic potential to scrutinize social issues and seek answers.


What are you currently fascinated with and how does it nourish your work?

I am getting more and more involved with sociological issues, which changes the way I design as well as the way I approach my social environment and community. My social environment is, in turn, what influences me and therefore my work the most: the conversations that I have with people around me, who are motivated and who use their energy to contribute to a bigger cause.


Perhaps this past summer has presented you with inspiring conversations and people? What do you enjoy most about Berlin summers?

In my experience, the "summer slump" that is often notorious elsewhere simply does not exist in Berlin. Summer slumps have their advantages, as they allow you to slow down for a while, but they can be very frustrating as well—trust me, I know this from my hometown. In Berlin, you don't have to go on vacation at all, you can just spend the summer here: at the lake, in the park, at the university, at concerts, at events …


… or at the Berlin Summer University of the Arts.


Thank you for the conversation, Paul!