Tobias Rechsteiner is a graphic and type designer living between Basel and Berlin.

Hello Tobias how are you?

Hi there. I am sitting on the balcony and am drinking coffee, so I’m perfectly fine!

Can you introduce yourself?

I am a graphic designer/type designer working freelance and together with Daniel Eytan Schneider I co-founded a small digital agency based in Basel. In 2009 I graduated from the Bern University of Arts and worked for three years part-time at the University and part-time under the name together with Reto Moser. In 2012 I moved to Zurich to join Eclat a branding/communication agency for three years. So last year I quit my job and started to work freelance again. Now I am living part-time in Berlin where I am also doing a Master of Business Administration in Management and Innovation.

Where does your interest in graphic and type design come from?

It probably all started really with graffiti. You only have a small amount of time to somehow communicate your name and to make your message at least readable for the small audience that are other sprayers. So you begin to think a lot about letterforms, the message behind it and the way you apply the text. So it’s actually not so much different from my daily job. Only the canvas and the looks changed. During my studies I then began to create typefaces together with Reto Moser. One of our projects was the first draft of what has now become GT Eesti. At that time there was no one at the University who could teach us type design in depth so we were looking out for like-minded people to discuss our designs. Luckily we found Thierry Blancpain and Noël Leu for our self-help group. This group also laid out the foundation for the type foundry Grilli Type.

The one thing that keeps graphic design interesting for me is the luxury to always learn new things. When you’re working for a lot of different clients from different fields you always have to learn about their worlds they are working in. Because of the last few years, I know now how radiators are built, how an equity fund works, who helps Ugo Rondinone to build his installations, and how mummies come to be. And so the solution for problems that clients have always changes. The great thing about my job is that I’m actually paid to learn.

Would you like to explain to us one of your projects?

At the moment I spent a lot of time working for a big exhibition in Berlin called The Dark Rooms that took place at the Willner Brauerei on the 3rd of September. I developed the whole identity around it and used it also as a platform to develop a typeface for my own use. The typeface is still work in progress so the way it looks now can change again as I am adding and subtracting things so it fits my needs.

Do you have a favorite typeface to work with?

Not really one specific typeface but of course all of the typefaces by Grilli Type and the whole catalogue of Optimo where I did my internship in 2007/08. Optimo has such a high standard when it comes to type design that always baffles me.

But in the end it depends on the project which typeface I use and as every type designer, I love to create custom typefaces for the projects I’m working on.

Is there any designer you appreciate a lot?

There are a lot of designers I admire but always for different reasons, so it’s hard to pick just one. I’d say that I’m still very much influenced by Gilles Gavillet and David Rust. They had a way to always work with so much precision and attention to detail for each project. They look at the content first and then give it a unique form. Of course Gavillet & Cie, as David sadly passed away in 2014, still continue to work on such a high level, also because they have among others such a great designer as Vincent Devaud.

Is there a book which opened your eyes about design?

I’m just reading a book called “The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly that isn’t really about graphic design, but gives a glimpse into the technological future of our world and the way our classic working models will shift and change, which will, as the title suggests, inevitably also change the way graphic designers will work and organise studios/agencies. We will probably see a lot more decentralized networks that join forces to work on projects than just classic agencies, which I hope, will also lead to better commercial work.

The last word…

According to the Duden the last word in its dictionary that isn’t an abbreviation is “Zy­to­go­nie”. A strange and funny word to end a dictionary and an interview.

Pictures & projects by Tobias Rechsteiner.
— EESTI – Type Design
Two fonts designed in collaboration with Reto Moser
— GT HAPTIK – Type Design
Design of GT Haptik in collaboration with Reto Moser, 2014
— SAM DZONG, EIN DORF ZIEHT UM – Editorial Design
In collaboration with Micha Huebner and Tina Braun
— MANNSCHAFT – Editorial Design
In collaboration with Eclat (Fiona Good, Felix Flemmer)

Interview: Dennis Moya and Tiffany Bähler, 09.16