The Brand Identity: Hi Ken. How’re you?
Ken Hegemann: Hi Elliott, I‘m fine – thank you! How are you?
TBI: I’m great, thanks for asking. How did you get to where you are today?
KH: When I was a kid I always drew a lot. From an early age, I was heavily influenced by music and film – and I’m still to this day. So I always did a lot of drawings and illustrations of the things I liked. And eventually, as I got older I started doing a little bit of graffiti and things like that. That was the time I started connecting my passion for illustrations and drawings with a fast-growing fascination for the different shapes and forms of letters, numbers and words.
After I finished school I studied communication design at Peter Behrens School of Arts: HSD in Düsseldorf. My early mentors there were Prof. Victor Malsy and Prof. Holger Jacobs. I learned a lot about typography, branding and identity and eventually quit drawing so I could fully commit to graphic design with a strong focus on typography.
After finishing my studies I moved to Berlin and worked as an Art Director at Heine/Lenz/Zizka for about three years. At HLZ I worked for cultural clients and museums but also for commercial and corporate clients. I designed a book with Peter Zizka, met some great people along the way and – again – learned a lot, especially in the fields of conceptualisation and actual workflow. Since May of last year, I work as the creative director at No Service 24/7.
“From an early age, I was heavily influenced by music and film.”
TBI: Can you tell us more about No Service 24/7 and the team there?
KH: No Service 24/7 is a brand agency. The agency was founded by Moritz and Luca, two old friends of mine from my hometown Cologne. We do branding and brand development for a wide variety of clients from the fields of fashion, music, tech-start-ups, finance and placemaking. We also work for long-established family companies and on self-initiated projects in the area of art and culture. Our team consists of art and client directors, designers and strategists. We are constantly improving and working with interdisciplinary teams on various projects right now.
TBI: How does your current position differ from the role you had at HLZ?
KH: At HLZ I started out as an art director. I didn’t have the level of responsibility that I have now at No Service 24/7. I had to learn a lot and mainly took care of how things looked or how they worked. I could only focus on the design part of a project. And although there’s always a conceptual practice to the job, it is not always to the same extent. So I listened to briefings instead of doing a lot of the groundwork myself and give briefings. At HLZ it was nice to try out a lot of things and get to know different approaches to design and to each individual project. Now I have to organise a lot more, sit in meetings a lot more, take responsibility for the team and the work and actually sell it. And I really enjoy that – being responsible for a project from start to finish now, instead of just delivering a specific part of it.
“We don’t want to think of digital solutions as an adaption of more traditional design disciplines.”
TBI: How is the studio’s principle of designing for digital-first incorporated into the design process?
KH: We are working in a more digital environment now – so we don’t want to think of digital solutions as an adaption of more traditional design disciplines. If required, digital applications should be the core of a solution. The needs and standards are constantly changing and we are trying to adapt that into our way of thinking about the design process. We want to try out different things and use new and evolving tools that allow us to get better and deliver prototypes and soft solutions in a more efficient and modern way.
TBI: What do you have in the works in the studio at the moment?
KH: Because of strict NDA‘s these days, I can’t go into specifics, but I can tell you that we are currently working on a campaign for Spotify, we are doing a re-branding for one of the biggest pop-bands right now and we are also working on something special for a german sports car manufacturer, which is pretty exciting.
“My approach is always concept-driven.”
TBI: Looking forward to seeing those projects. How would you describe your approach to design?
KH: My approach is always concept-driven. It doesn’t matter if I’m working on a campaign, an identity, a strategy or a logo. I always try to understand the core of things in close cooperation and dialogue with people (friends, family, partners, clients), organise all the information, develop a story and refine it to a clear visual language in regards to content and style.
At No Service 24/7, we often do workshops with clients before we go further into a project, to build a deeper connection and understanding of the subject and establish a feel for each other. That essentially builds a solid foundation for the visual work we do. To me, it’s all about reliable derivation. That‘s what makes everything we do less about a matter of personal taste and feelings but more about consistency and logical consequence.
And although I trust the process, I try not to relay to heavy on facts and figures. I also try to trust my senses and intuition. That’s often the only way something unforeseen, unexpected and surprising can happen, which adds some level of sensual depth to a project.
TBI: As a creative director, do you prefer to guide or enforce?
KH: I definitely try to give guidance and endorse people’s ideas and approaches. I want to get everyone involved, share their thoughts and get better as a team. In the end, there has to be someone to make a decision, define a direction and piece everything together, but that doesn’t mean you should enforce people to do certain things. It is important that the vibe feels right and everyone feels free to speak their mind so we can have a genuine discussion about each subject. To me, that’s essential to make everyone feel part of the process and ultimately equally responsible to get the job done.
TBI: Can you tell us more about No Influence 24/7?
KH: No Influence 24/7 is a consumer insights lab for a younger audience. What started out as a hub for basically young influential kids quickly became this research lab and think tank for a global youth community. We work together with brands like Nike or Highsnobiety to do research for certain areas of sports, lifestyle and music and develop a contemporary perspective on certain aspects of it. Especially in the fields of lifestyle, No Influence 24/7 helps us to develop a deeper understanding of certain things and back up our intuition and ideas by solid research and information. Sometimes the No Influence community even helps us to find the right minds, people or cast for a specific project.
“It really came out the way I imagined it.”
TBI: Do you have a project that you are most proud of from your career so far?
KH: I‘m really happy about the recent work I did with the team at No Service 24/7 for the fashion brand CLOSED. The whole process from start to finish was just great and it really came out the way I imagined it. So that was definitely one of my highlights within the past year.
TBI: Who do you look up to and feel inspired by in the creative industries?
KH: Within the context of design, I really look up to the work of Meiré & Meiré – especially from an editorial design perspective. I’m also inspired by the work Experimental Jetset is putting out. But it’s actually lots of different things. I recently went to a Wade Guyton retrospective at Museum Ludwig in Cologne, which had a lasting impact on me. I am inspired by the overall visual style and quality of movies A24 is putting out, I love listening and collecting old Blue Note Records and I admire the photography of Jack Davison. A couple of weeks ago I saw Burning by Lee Chang-dong for the first time in a small cinema here in Berlin which – before it became a cinema – was an old slaughterhouse. That viewing experience and the movie itself inspired me. So it’s lots of different things really.