Oliver Weigner, otherwise known as Ice Cream For Free, is one of my favourite contemporary designers. He consistently creates beautiful graphic work using montage, collage, and digital media. Oli's work has sensitivity and an overriding personal quality to it which is stunning when you consider that his client list includes Adidas, Wired magazine, and Computer Arts magazine.
As well as the quality of his work I'm also inspired by Oli's work ethic; often working over eight hours every day in his Berlin studio. He's currently working on a book for a German photographer as well as numerous ongoing side projects. I'm happy to have been a contemporary of Oli since he set-up Ice Cream For Free in 2005 and I'm happy to present this long-overdue interview.
What originally made you want to become a graphic designer?
As a kid I started to portray animals from my biology class book and created collages of my Fischer Technik manuals. Most kids are doing this stuff, but I didn't stop and without really noticing it, I became a graphic designer.
Do you have formal art training and, if so, would you recommend it to others?
I studied visual communication in Wuerzburg, Germany. I learned a lot about typography, balance, rules, colours and forms, and how to combine elements. And I got in touch with design history like the De Stijl and Bauhaus era and designers like David Carson. This fascinated and influenced me a lot. For me this was a good way to figure out my talents and transforming everything in a more professional manner. But I wouldn't say that this way is a must to become a graphic designer or illustrator, but it could be a big help.
What inspires your work?
A lot! The way to my studio, my closest friends, partying, and other designers, but especially Berlin with all it's beauty, kookiness, happiness, and insanity. And of course exhibitions are important. It's really inspiring to see what's going on in the art scene. Another important influence when I'm sitting in front of my computer is music. For me it's really inspiring to listen to music. Furthermore, music and graphic design have a lot in common.
Could you describe your process a little bit? Your work has the feeling of being made by hand.
Actually it's a lot of Photoshop. Sometimes parts are made by hand, but mostly the results are computer generated. Anyway, your impression of being made by hand is right. That's a part of my style. I always like to make things a bit rough and create a kind of hectic experience.
Do you consider graphic design to be about problem solving?
Yes, I think graphic design has a mission and problem solving is maybe the most important one, but some people think graphic design is only about problem solving and I wouldn't agree with that. There are more issues in a more indirect way. It can make people think or be angry or happy. It can move things without directly solving a problem.
You once told me that you work around seven or eight hours every day. Is that still the case?
I perceive my job as a normal job, so around eight hours is the minimum most people work every day. In my case it depends on the situation. This summer I tried to spend as much time as possible with my girlfriend, but I should definitely work more than eight hours a day.
Where do you work?
I was lucky enough to get a nice studio space in Kreuzberg, the east part of Berlin. It's a pretty nice old factory building and the creative home of lots of artists of all kinds.
Do you consider Berlin a good place to work as a designer?
Berlin is just extraordinary and different. The Berlin design, art, fashion, and music scene is pretty active and striven and a lot of international and intercultural influences are coming together. So it's still a great environment for every kind of creative people.
How would you describe the art scene in Berlin?
I'm not really into the fine art scene and more into the graphic art scene, but I think over the last years, both fields have come together more and more. The whole scene is pretty energetic and it's impossible to keep out of all the street art and galleries all over the city.
Which other artists and designers do you admire?
There are a lot of great studios in Berlin at the moment. Just to name a few: Hort, Colors And The Kids, Haw-Lin, or Robert G. Bartholot, who is my favourite photographer and a great guy. Outside of Berlin I really admire: Oh Yeah Studio, Mario Hugo, Serial Cut, Mogollon, and Hvass & Hannibal. Besides that there are some awesome fine artists out there. I really like: Cody Hoyt, Anselm Reyle, and Olafur Eliasson.
What are you currently obsessed with?
I'm pretty much into Breaking Bad. Walter White will rule the whole world I think. And last week I started with Game of Thrones. As for music, I still listen to Mogwai and Sigur Rós every day. And I'm pretty much obsessed with the girl Coco.
You can find the Ice Cream For Free website HERE