From Kolding to Kreuzberg

It’s 18 November 2016. I am on the train from Berlin to Denmark, on my way home to visit my father. Most of Berlin Mitte is cordoned off because of Obama’s last official visit as the President of the USA. Both my father and Obama have been inspirations in my life and career choices. My father was a typographer and brought home my name in old-fashioned lead types as well as paper in large sizes and different qualities from the printing house. He built a work table for me, which took up most of the space in my room, where I could express myself with grand gestures. Even before I knew what graphic design was I loved letters, typography and arranging text and images.

It is thanks to Anne that I decided to study at Design School Kolding. She was enrolled in the Textile Department, and she invited me to visit the school. It was an intoxicating atmosphere. Imagine that it was possible to work in this way – in a huge workshop in an old factory, with loud music and coffee and develop fantastic projects together with other soon-to-be designers. I wanted to study and work like that, too – only with visual communication.

The school was very focussed on workshop activities. We tested countless materials and techniques a la the German Bauhaus school and learnt to experiment to reach the results. A great way of learning.

During my fourth year all the school’s departments were going to be assembled under one roof in the current building in Kolding. The school was going to have a new name, and a new visual identity had to be created. We were four students who were asked if we wanted to solve the task in collaboration with the design company Kontrapunkt. We moved to Copenhagen and moved in with Kontrapunkt. The new name of the school became Design School Kolding. We worked on all aspects of the design process, from the development of the name and the visual identity to printing of signs, meetings with the school as well as presentation of the entire project for hundreds of designers at the school. That was a brilliant way of being plunged into reality.

Subsequently two of us – Hervé le Gallo and I – were going to prepare for our graduation. We decided to collaborate. Along the way we were offered a big design job and we started our own company, Tank Design. The company existed for two years after which I started on my own.

I focussed on the art and museum world, and for many years I have worked with book design for artists and art museums. I find designing books that reflect an artist’s or an exhibition’s universe deeply inspiring.

In 2002 I met my life partner, Jørgen Smidstrup, who was also a designer with his own company. In 2008 on the Lower East Side in New York we experienced the New Yorkers weeping for joy and dancing in the streets the night after 4 November when Obama was elected president. Obama’s election slogan was YES WE CAN, and we decided that we could, too, so we started our joint company, Lower East.

We work with visual communication with clients from the areas of art, culture, architecture, teaching and startups. We work broadly with book design, web design, development of visual identities etc. We teach a course called “How to communicate your new business”. We work with clients in Denmark, Berlin and Switzerland and we travel a lot and are happy to travel to obtain exciting assignments.

In 2013 we opened Lower East Lab in Berlin, Kreuzberg, in a 2200 sq. ft. old printing house where we express ourselves with loud music and good coffee and develop ideas and projects. Here we have workshops and co-working space. We are a training facility for interns, and we encourage our clients to come and work with us. It’s our dream to continue developing Lower East Lab as a vibrant space where design is the starting point and where play, openness and exchange of ideas are the precondition.

Thank you to my father, Anne and Obama – and to Design School Kolding.