What a great pleasure to work on this project ……
Lorena Mirbach specializes and excels in type-based design. Based in Hamburg, Germany, this talented designer creates exquisite logos, calligraphy, and typographic fonts. So, unlike many other artists who depend on existing typefaces to create their designs, Lorena is likely to create a custom font that is uniquely suited for the design at hand. The proof of her mastery lies in her beautiful samples, so we are including plenty of them in this post. At the end of the article, be sure to check out more of her work by clicking on the link provided.
Dave Hile: Hi, Lorena. Can you share with us a bit about your background? When did you decide to become a designer and what led you to your area of specialty — logos and typography?
Lorena Mirbach: I was inspired from the beginning. Since my early childhood, I’ve spent a great deal of time in Venice, Italy. My father is Venetian and a large part of my family lives there. Among them are a number of artists, including sculptors, musicians, and painters. Of course, the city too is inspiring with its architecture, its special atmosphere, and its unique beauty. So, both these factors were equally formative in my becoming an artist.
Later — as a student — I developed a great love for typography. For me, type is not just a functional transmitter of content, but rather it reflects emotion and character through its typographical characteristics and shape. It’s almost magical, and in my opinion, a similar magic characterizes a logo, whether as a word or pictorial mark.
DH: It’s apparent that type has been a passion for you from the start. Can you tell us about other influences besides your childhood and upbringing — either artists working today or from the past — that influence the work you do?
LM: In the 1980s, I was fascinated by typographers and brand designers whose key tools were very basic — their minds and hands. Standouts include artists like Neville Brody, Jay Vigon, and Richard Seireeni. Others I consider to be “genuine” calligraphers include Niels Meulman, Martin Andersch, and Jean Larcher.
Today there are of course a large number of lettering artists who create extremely inspiring works, even though the possibilities offered by the tools of the computer can occasionally obscure the actual quality and beauty of the hand-created line.
I should also mention that there are many superb type-artists on the creative websiteBehance (of which I’m a part), although to be equitable, I won’t single out any individual designers there.
DH: I agree with you on that last point. As a member of Behance myself, I have been inspired by all the great talent on the site from all over the world (and in fact, that’s how I met you).
Can you walk us through your creative process? You have a very broad spectrum of styles in which you work. Is your process similar or different for each engagement you take on?
LM: I believe whether you’re an illustrator, a typographer, a packaging designer, or whatever discipline you work in, the process behind a project is usually similar for most creatives. You begin with a briefing from the client that hopefully inspires your ideas and helps define a design approach. Next, you weigh your options and create initial layouts. You then select your favorite design roughs and finalize those for your client presentation. At least that’s how it usually works for me.
DH: You’re right. That’s pretty much how the process goes. Now let’s focus on a specific project. I’m particularly impressed with the work you did for the bar Florida Smokehouse. Explain the restaurant and what the client was looking for in terms of their logo. Also, for that project, you created a great many design options. I‘m wondering if you showed them all to the client? At Hile Creative, we find that if we give our clients more than three or four options, it can actually make the decision process overwhelming for them.
LM: Oh, that project. Super start with a nasty end. Here’s the story. Through a fellow member of Behance, we were hired and briefed to design a logo for a bar in Gainsville, Florida. The establishment was to be a “smokehouse” in the saloon style typical of that region, with very masculine decor and historical photographs on the walls. It was aimed at being an entertainment hub with gourmet comfort food, live music, beverages, and a fun social atmosphere. It was requested that the logo express a historic feel with an upscale look.
Well, we developed a whole series of different logos. Normally we show far fewer variations to our clients, since we too are aware of the confusion that can be caused by too many designs, but for this project, we went all out. Then we utilized our “inner circle” of peers for a “global poll” on the best design option and selected the best of the best to present. So far, so good.
Now, the “nasty end”! After presenting the initial design phase, we contacted the client several times, but he never got in touch with us again. I just hope nothing bad happened to him.
DH: Ouch! I think all creatives have experienced similar tales of woe sometime in their career. Your experience was particularly difficult because you were working with a client outside of the European Union. My company has experienced a few occasions of the “mysterious disappearing client” as well, but we don’t dwell on them and we find most people are honest and trustworthy, so we move on
That project was for a U.S. company, so tell us about the kinds of clients you serve and how you market yourself. Are most of your customers European, or are you able to regularly provide services more broadly?
LM: I receive most jobs from design and advertising agencies, with only a few straight from companies or private individuals.
Regarding marketing myself, I’m fortunate in that I hardly ever have to advertise because my work tends to be generated by word of mouth. My clients are chiefly German and Italian, but I’d like that to change. I just hope the Smokehouse experience is not symptomatic of business relations outside of Europe.
DH: As long as you work with reputable businesses, it shouldn’t be a problem. Also — I wanted to ask about how you structure your business routine. What is a typical day like for Lorena?
LM: Let’s see, I warm up with green tea, stir my paint, set out my brushes and work till the job’s finished. And regarding routine, there’s no such thing as a typical day.
DH: That’s one of the things I like about my job, too. I come into work in the morning believing I have an agenda, and as the day unfolds, it never ends like I think it will. Every day is new.
Now, could you tell us about creating an entire typeface? We have already talked about your process, but I have to believe that creating a whole typographical alphabet is a unique challenge.
LM: Almost everything I do is based on the same design principles I mentioned earlier, both in terms of strategy and implementation. And yet the development of a typeface differs dramatically from all my other tasks. Of course you have the prerequisites like inspiration, creation, evaluation, reflection, optimization, and finalization. But the development of a typeface includes one further aspect, which gives the development process an entirely different dimension. And that’s the time factor. Scarcely any other project I’m familiar with demands so much discipline and staying power.
The process is organic and iterative by nature, so the more calligraphic and less constructive the face typology, the more frequently you need to go back and tweak already-developed characters to match the new characters being developed. Yes, it’s a r-e-a-l-l-y long process (that is constantly interrupted by the day-to-day business I need to attend to).
DH: So type design is about creative discipline, patience, and tenacity. And that’s what sets you apart. That’s not every designer’s cup of tea. Patience is a virtue many can’t claim.
Finally, I have to ask: What are you working on right now, and what would you like to do that you haven‘t done yet?
LM: Currently, I’m working on the development of more calligraphic typefaces. What would I still like to do? Uh, learn Japanese characters from a sensei in Japan! Or update the Coca-Cola lettering!
DH: That’s right — dream big, Lorena. Coke, are you listening?
LM: Thank you, Dave! It was a pleasure speaking with you!
To view more of her work, visit Lorena Mirbach’s page on the Behance network.
Last fall, mere months before iconic typeface and logotype designer Doyald Young passed away,Lynda.com produced a wonderful short documentary about him, in which Young tells his incredible rags-to-proverbial-riches story and reveals the principles behind his timeless, unique letterforms and logos. Besides being a design legend, he was also an epitome of the intellectual ideal of curiosity as powerful tool of creative growth.