Sander Vermeulen, design director at Base Design, Brussels, Belgium.

Hello Sander, how are you?

I’m fine, thanks. Starting some new projects, which is always exciting.

Can you introduce yourself?

I’m from Brussels and have been working as a freelancer since 1994. I started as an illustrator, being the son of a respected illustrator I was constantly being compared to him which was kind of annoying because he is much better than me…

In 1997 Jean-Marc Klinkert and Olivier Lamy contacted me to start a small graphic design studio called Mastic. They both worked mainly with type, and with me being very visual it seemed like a good match. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that well because their fascination for typographical details quickly contaminated me. I evolved to a more type-oriented designer, but 3 designers with the same function wasn’t that interesting anymore. It ended in not-very-interesting compromises and frustrations.

From 2005 till 2011 I designed all the printed matter of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, which was a great experience… but after six years I needed a new challenge.

After sixteen years as a freelancer working mainly in the cultural sector I proposed my services to BaseDesign. I started as a senior designer, became Design Director, then Creative Director and am now again Design Director. What didn’t work at Mastic seems to work very well at BaseDesign. Collaborating with people from other domains or designers with different interests has enriched me and my work. Besides that, working at Base has given me the opportunity to work on projects on a more global scale, which in return allows you as a designer to reach a broader audience.

Where does your interest in graphic design come from?

I grew up in a very graphical world.

Can you describe to us how you work at Base Design?

We very much value the human aspect of our work: we don’t want to design for designers, we want to design for people, and with people! In the same way, we don’t design for brands, we design for people interacting with brands. I like to think we are where design bumps into pop culture.

We would like to know your thoughts about the meaning of what is a designer and what is his role?

I think on the one hand we have an important role in the comprehension and aesthetics of our society. At Base we try to make the complex simple and the informative entertaining. That being said, we know that 90% of the people won’t see the difference between what we consider good or bad design!

At Base we are convinced that brands are like people. Brands today can surprise and delight, but they can just as easily betray and disappoint. The relationship we have with brands has become much more human. We no longer judge a brand solely based on how it looks but just as much on how it acts. Graphic elements can help you strengthen your brand identity, but it’s the entire brand experience that will eventually define your brand image in the mind of your consumers. Brands today need to be honest and responsible. If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.

Can you tell us more about the Haus Der Kunst identity project?

This is indisputably the most fascinating project I had the opportunity to work on. Intrigued by the paradox between this 1937 building, an icon of ideological power, and Haus der Kunst‘s flexible and adventurous programming we proposed the concept of elasticity. Based on this idea we focused on the qualities of flexibility, resilience, and adaptability.

Secondly we created the baseline “Stretch your view”. A 3-word summary of a 6-page vision, an inspiring promise. According to Haus der Kunst director Okwui Enwezor: “The relationship between form and content, between a solid, unyielding shell outside and the greatest elasticity inside, is what should characterise the work of Haus der Kunst.”

Thirdly we developed a stretchable system that allows you to look at things from various angles and perspectives by moving and changing position, by linking what you know with new ideas, viewpoints, and topics you didn’t even know you were interested in. We proposed Haus der Kunst to become a curiosity sherpa.

“Man’s mind stretched with a new idea, never goes back to its original dimension” — Oliver Holmes

Do you have a favourite typeface?

No not really, I like so many. In general I use more than one typeface in a project, therefore I’m especially interested in the dialogue between typefaces.  Like so many designers I like Helvetica but on the other hand I clearly don’t like it since I have only used it once in the 20 years that I’ve been designing. In the end it seems I always end up choosing a variation. Today I like Lettera-Txt. I’m curious to see what tomorrow will bring.

A designer that you admire?

Again not really, I like so many. I’m constantly impressed by the work of others. I like to get challenged by the quality of others that pushes me to work harder. It certainly isn’t always a designer, but are often artists, architects, gabber music, the NYC hardcore scene or plants.

What would you recommend to a young designer?

Know that the biggest talent you could have is the drive to work very hard and constantly wanting to learn.

Which books are on your bedside table?

I’m dyslexic, I don’t have any books on my bedside table.

The last word…

Thanks Ligature for being interested!




Interview : Dennis Moya & Tiffany Bähler — 06.15

Credits : Haus der Kunst / Fondation Louis Vuitton / August Orts, Correspondance / Andy Warhol’s Interview / Done at and in collaboration with Base Design, © Base Design.

Graphic Design