A few questions for Peder Bernhardt

We continue our sporadic series of Q&As with some of the designers we've worked with. Peder Bernhardt is the force behind Wish You Were There and The Look Of London. He also designed our lovely gift and gift subscription cards, as well as our stationery. We're delighted he was able to take the time to tell us more about himself.

What's your favourite journey?
I wish I'd been around the world a lot more, it's always inspiring to travel. However, I doubt that few things would be able to push from the tip of my list a trip to Hamburg I took a few years ago, with a little beat group I'm in. Not that we're big in Germany or anything, we went there merely for the sake of it. We just wanted to be able to say that we've played in St. Pauli, the dodgy district of Hamburg, just like so many of our heroes. Not even in our wildest dreams had we expected the old boss of the legendary and sadly long lost Star Club, Horst Fascher, not only to show up on the gig, but also to introduce us on stage. After the show we found ourselves outside the venue among old beat-fans and Star Club-regulars, discussing who had the better live act in 1963; Lee Curtis or Kingsize Taylor. Rarely has the smell of urine and numerous approaches from prostitutes been more appropriate and suitable for the atmosphere!

From top: The Star Club in Hamburg. Who was better; Lee Curtis or Kingsize Taylor?;
Horst Fascher among aspiring musicians.

Tell us about your three favourite places
To avoid a dreadfully long answer here, I think I'll narrow it down to one particular location. It used to be one of my favourite spots in Oslo, but sadly it will never be the same again. On July 22nd 2011 a disturbed extremist placed a bomb near the main entrance of one of the government buildings in Oslo. The building he intended to blow up was finished in 1958, and together with an addition from 1969 it created an urban space in the centre of Oslo which I used to include in my city walks as often as possible. The architect Erling Viksjø had a new approach to using concrete, combining its "poetic" qualities with strict grids and other characteristic features of 50s / 60s  architecture. The buildings have decorations (both exterior and interior) integrated in the concrete, by Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar (in collaboration with Pablo Picasso!) and others. I like to believe that the accessibility of these buildings – the fact that everybody was welcome to use the space around and between them – reflected some of the (perhaps naive) openness of the Norwegian society. Suddenly things became quite different, and now there's an ongoing discussion about wether the whole building complex should be demolished because of the damages caused by the bomb, and the demands for a higher level of security and closure. That would be no less than a scandal.

Top left: The government building in Oslo, as it was when competed in 1958; some of the original interiors showing decorative use of concrete; the 1969 addition, with the big Carl Nesjar / Pablo Picasso relief; the passage between the two buildings.

Where would you like to live?
At the moment I'm quite happy where I am, in Oslo with my little family. I could always wish for a bigger flat or a house, but with my low income and the ridiculous prices here, I'm actually very lucky to have a decent place to live!

Who are your design heroes?
Massimo Vignelli –  I especially like his editorial designs; books and magazines, but he has done loads of other great stuff as well, over a long period of time.
Bruno Oldani – a Swiss designer who moved to Oslo in 1958 and basically established the term "graphic design" in Norway. I was very lucky to work with him for a couple of years. He's a great friend, a mentor and a source for inspiration.
Les Mason. His legendary art directon of the Australian food magazine Epicurean was progressive and playful, full of wit and weirdness, and clearly a product of a a time where editors gave the art directors a lot of freedom.
Marcus Keef's strange, atmospheric and sometimes quite scary record covers.
...just to name a few.

Clockwise from top left: Oldani poster for jazz concert, 1965; cover for a book about abortion, Pax Publishing, 1966; poster for Kieler Woche boat festival, 1979; poster for own exhibition in Japan, 2006

Above: Epicurean magazine covers, 1970s

Marcus Keef record covers, 1970s. He's a photographer more than a designer really. Sometimes clumsy type actually disturbs his great sceneries and "infra-red moods" a bit, but still great atmosphere and nice subtle details. 

What's the worst advice you’ve ever received?
A very "David Brent-ish" guest lecturer in art school tried to teach us presentation teqhniques: "The contents of what you say isn't really that important, it's how you present it that counts!" It goes strongly against what I believe in, and also what message you should give to students. He should rather have encouraged us to be dedicated to our profession and what we do, not just tricks on how to disguise bad ideas as good ones... 

And the worst advice you’ve ever given?
My brother once asked me for advice on how to address (and impress) a girl he liked. He is still on his own.

Do you have a favourite motto or phrase
At work I try to remind myself that I'm a craftsman rather than an artist. David Hockney's saying "Art has to move you and design does not, unless it's a good design for a bus" could therefore be worth remembering when one is stuck on a project, and experiencing that every solution turns out boring. Boring may sometimes be just right.

You can see more of Peder's fantastic work on his site, and we hope on many more Herb Lester products.

Posted in Design, Hamburg, Illustration, Meet the designers, Oslo, Peder Bernhardt

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