Studio Deutsche & Japaner sounds like Dolce & Gabbana and what the two of them do have in common definitely is a lot of style. The Mannheim-based studio has proved its puristic and playful style while working for the likes of Jay Z, Nike or Saint Laurent. A holistic approach to a wide spectrum of creative fields as well as the worth of collaboration is essential to the designers at Deutsche & Japaner. We met Julian Zimmermann of D&J for an interview talking about sources of inspiration, teamwork and current projects. Also, catch Deutsche & Japaner at Forward Berlin!


What does Deutsche & Japaner stand for creatively?

We are driven by an interdisciplinary design approach based on a core of identity and branding work. Aesthetically we are trying to reinvent our language constantly while keeping our puristic, sometimes playful tone.



What is good design for you?

Good design brings something new into the world. A new aesthetic, a new level of consistency, a new quality in detail. It should start with an idea or a thought to create a foundation for visual expression. Stylewise, we think good design means creating sustainable experiences with a zeitgeist flavor. If you hit this spot you are up to date but never outdated. A perfect balance of both.


The agency is an all-rounder: You cover a lot of fields from graphic design to interior design or art direction. Do you think it is necessary to have a bigger picture in mind and know various disciplines of the design field to create something great?

No, it is not necessary to be an all-rounder to create something interesting. In our case it is the natural mix of the team members that makes the group so diverse. Opposite: If you are diving into a special field very deep and become an expert, the chances are higher to create something relevant because less creatives can follow your level of skill and passion in your particular field.



When do you find yourselves confronted with the boundaries of your work?

We often reach the limits of our own abilities and then work with specialists to improve our approach: Photographers, programmers, copywriters, product designers. This is a lot of fun for us. You can learn a lot and make great friends.


Where do you get inspiration from?

That is very subjective and is different for every team member. Mostly art, design history, nature … but the key to inspiration is to sharpen your senses, walk the streets with your eyes open and learn to recognize the subtle hints that you can get everywhere and from everyone.



Deutsche & Japaner create campaigns for international clients like Nike, BMW, or Saint Laurent. What has been your favorite project throughout your career?

Hard to point out the one and only favorite as there are so many facetes that make a project special. The client, the task, the outcome, … a very important project for us was the work we did together with Willo Perron for Jay-Z. We still remember this with a smile on our faces.


You recently created the “Women by Nike” campaign. Can you tell us about the concept behind the project?

We worked together with the Nike design team led by the great creative director Maria Vu. She wanted something visceral, something that brings joy and a new freedom of expression to the company’s communication. A key element of the concept was the term “touch”. Touching elements, touching parts of the typeface, the touching swoosh, touching imagery. Follow your guts.



When kicking off a big project like that, how do you start?

We are a diverse team and everybody has a different background and skillset. That’s why we are kicking off every project with the whole team as everybody brings a new perspective and way of thinking to the task. That is very fruitful and inspiring.


What makes you work most effectively? What’s the driving force in your work process?

Again: Teamwork. Also deep in the process the team is the key for progress. Everybody knows the moment of being stuck in a thought or layout. Asking the others for their opinion always helps and make things better. Golden rule.


Creative work is known to be accompanied by a lot of questioning and doubts. Do you think those doubts are necessary in order to keep on pushing?

Yes and no. It is good to push things to the limit, therefore it is obligatory to question your result constantly and proof where you can push it. But this process should be driven by positive thoughts. Doubts are connected to fear, fear kills creativity. You should never be ashamed or afraid to talk about an idea, even if it is weird or stupid. Maybe it is not weird, but great. We are trying to create an atmosphere in the studio where everybody feels safe and comfortable to express even the most fragile but genius thoughts.



How will the future of the design industry look like?

Hard to predict. Technically, digital media, 3D and AI will conquer all areas of the industry. We hope that this will not make designing too mechanical and that we can return from remixing to the roots of design, which means really dealing with a problem or a subject or a form or a material. Designing means studying and developing something new.


Deutsche & Japaner are one of our key speakers at Forward Festival Berlin this year. Get your festival or livestream ticket now!