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

A few questions for Mike McQuade

We continue our series of chats with the talented designers we're fortunate to work with on our guides, with this insight into the mind of Mike McQuade. A resident of Chicago, it was Mike who made the Windy City more lovely than ever in Hello Chicago and more recently he brought his magic to The William Brown Project Around Town: New York City

What is your favourite journey?

Tell us your three favorite places? 
Rome, Chicago and my studio which is also my home.

Where would you most like to live?
In the middle of the countryside with a house attached to a barn converted into a print/design/art studio.

Who are your design heroes? 
Right now? House Industries, Charles & Ray Eames, Alexander Girard.

Worst Advice you've ever received? 
"Don't give this project 100%, we just need to get it done."

Worst Advice ever given?
"Go with your gut" (not for everyone).

What's your least favourite smell?
Burning incense.

What would you never do again?
Judge something/someone before knowing.

You can keep up with Mike's amazing output by visiting his website.

Posted in Illustration, Meet the designers, Mike McQuade

A few questions for Matt Chase

When Matt Chase finished work on our wonderful map of Copenhagen we asked him to tell us a bit more about himself. We knew we'd like what he had to say after reading his bio, and his love of barbeque only confirmed it.

What is your favourite journey?
I'm thankful to have logged a few notable voyages, but the journey home is always the best, I think. Home being where you're from, originally. It's funny how that word changes as you get older, too — when you're a kid, it just means a house on a street somewhere. It's where you wait for the school bus, it's where your basketball goal is, where your mom force-feeds you vegetables. Then you hit a certain age, where suddenly you're moving around every few years, and it becomes more of a feeling than a real place. It's nice to get a taste of that every once in awhile.

Clockwise from top left: Mykonos; UCSB campus; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Hammerpress; downtown KC; Oklahoma Joe's barbecue

Tell us your three favourite places?
1. Mykonos, Greece. When I was in high school, our art teacher arranged for a small group of us to travel abroad for two weeks—we snaked through Italy, Greece and Turkey and spent a few days on a boat in the Aegean. Really incredible experience, but of all the places we stopped, I distinctly remember a night in Mykonos, sitting outside of this little bar (we may have circumvented the school's drinking policy once or twice or thirteen nights in a row), watching rickety sailboats float in and out of the marina and thinking, "I could live totally live here forever."

2. Santa Barbara, California. Last November my buddy and I toured the coast, driving Highway One from San Diego up north to Monterey. He was checking out grad schools so we spent a day on the UCSB campus, which is tucked right in between the hills and the ocean. It's one of those rare places where you could hike a mountain in the morning and surf in the afternoon, with just a bicycle to get you around.

3. Kansas City, Missouri. You heard me correctly, yes. I can't really explain it, but it's always kept me in some kind of mystically alluring grasp. I lived there a few summers between university semesters and, try as I might, I simply can't recall ever having a bad time. A lot of people don't realize it, but the arts district of Kansas City has more galleries per square mile than any other neighborhood of any city in the country. For a midwestern city especially, there's a hugely progressive cultural movement, great music, and lauded barbeque joints lurking around every corner.

Where would you most like to live?
I'd settle for any of the above. But assuming for the sake of this question that those are off-limits, I might pick Florence, Italy. It was my second-favorite of the stops we made on the high school trip. The architecture is overwhelming—it sort of feels like you've stepped back in time.    

Who are your design heroes?
In no particular order or chronology: Rodrigo Corral (& his sometimes-partner-in-crime Ben Wiseman), Hey!, the team at AnagramaJames JoyceStudio8Saul BassPaula Scher.


Above: a selection of Saul Bass' movie poster graphics (source: Fragment)

Worst advice you’ve ever received?
I had a creative director try to tell me once that collaboration doesn't yield ideas, that working alone off in a corner somewhere is the only way you'll ever do good work. Had a tough time subscribing to that.

Worst advice you’ve ever given?
Whilst playing GoldenEye 007: "Just use the Klobb."

What's your least favourite smell?
Cat urine is pretty foul. There are some alleys in New York that rank up there, but I can only assume that's because they are full of cat piss. 

What would you never do again?
When I was about eight, I attempted a back handspring off my parents' couch and broke three of my fingers. So I guess that.

See more of Matt's wonderful work at chasematt.com and of course here.

Posted in Illustration, Matt Chase, Meet the designers

A few questions for Nate Luetkehans

It is our great pleasure to work with so many talented designers and illustrators, many of whom we only know through the magic of email or telephony. We thought it would be nice to get to know them a bit better, and so with that in mind we introduce an occasional item in which we turn the spotlight on those individuals without whom...

First up is Nate Luetkehans, a San Francisco native who made navigable and beautiful the complex maze of Rome. We asked Nate a few questions to which he has graciously sent these responses.

Tell us about three of your favourite places.
1. North Beach, San Francisco for visual inspiration. I love the design and typography all around this area. The neighborhood has some of my favourite — and generally awesome — metal letter signs (the Condor, the Crowbar) and painted buildings (101 Records) in the whole city.

2. Cat Sanctuary, Rome for the cat and people watching. I can't even count the amount of time I spent sitting around this piazza while I studied in Rome my senior year of school. Cat Sanctuary is properly known as Torre Argentina, and its ruins are believed to be the remains of Pompey's Theatre, the spot where Julius Caesar was actually killed. Today it's full of Rome's stray cat population, and is refuge to hundreds of friendly cats.

3. Olmstead Point, Yosemite for the view. My first visit to Yosemite was amazing, and it's crazy to think that this place is just four hours away from where I live. I spent a week here last summer and can't really describe how epically beautiful it is.

Where would you love to go but haven't had the chance?
All of my travel up to this point has been to larger cities, so if I had the chance I'd really love to go and spend time in a rural, Miyazaki-esque, area of Japan. I'd also settle for Disneyland.

Where have you been, and never want to return?
It seems like I should really answer this question with the name of a city I've traveled to, but I don't know that I've ever been anywhere I'd never give a second chance. I have, however, gotten my hair cut at a particularly bad barber that I can't say the same thing about.

One of the advantages of email is that we've avoided the humiliation of mispronouncing your name. Just so we're prepared, would you spell Luetkehans for us phonetically.
It's much easier to pronounce than it looks — it's Luet (Loot) ke (Kuh) hans (Hahns).

You can see more of Nate's work here, and we very much hope on future Herb Lester projects.

Posted in Illustration, Meet the designers, Rome


Our guides are printed in England on 100% recycled paper