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Luise Gnizak

Designer // Design Fellow DWP 2020

Photography by Ashley Courter

For the first time, Design Portland opened up a design fellowship at the end of 2019, inviting designers to apply for the chance to set the visual tone for the 2020 DWP festival across all print and digital touchpoints. The funded opportunity is a seven-month engagement to support the design efforts required to bring the festival to life across various channels. Luise Gnizak won the gig.

This German native and Portland transplant is a graphic designer and art director, whose own studio—Studio Werken—has done work for art and cultural institutions worldwide, like the State Museum Stuttgart, Botanical Garden Berlin, National Exhibition Hall Bonn, Portland Kinderschule, and others. Luise is big into dissecting information and finding visual solutions for organizing it, so she was a pretty perfect fit for the DWP role. We asked a bit more about how her European roots influence her work and what she’s most looking forward to tackling for the festival.

How did beginning your career in Germany inform the way you approach your work?

When I started on my graphic design path more than 15 years ago in Germany, I was most drawn to the transformation of ideas and concepts into simplistic and holistic forms. Through the diversity of mediums, I set a focus high on function, order, and accessibility of information. I think a lot of it comes from my personal need to find clarity and direction in chaos, but also from being inspired by visual identities with a strong take on wayfinding and cohesive information design.

Coming to the U.S., I experienced a fast-paced and more iterative process. Working in the U.S. is almost the opposite of how I worked before. I break everything down and assemble one or two functional solutions. Here, we find multiple solutions as quickly as possible and then iterate on those solutions. This creates space for rethinking, exploration, and playfulness in the design process.

Having been able to study and work in both countries in different languages and cultures provides many fascinating perspectives and tools to draw from.

What's currently inspiring you?

I mostly get inspired when I see people overcome their habits. They understand a need, define a goal, and work hard to not let go of it. Being offline and “screen-free” nowadays is very inspiring, too.

How would you characterize your design style?

I try not to think of it as a specific style. With every task I’m given, I pay attention to the stories and manage them in the most respectful and thoughtful way. My goal is to reach high visibility through finding bold core elements that help to structure information and draw people’s attention.

Every element I use in the design then revolves around that story and describes “a character in the play.” My job is to reduce redundancy and information that distracts from the story. After editing, I often work with the littlest amount of elements by using expressive shapes, typography, and color. I then scale elements to apply them into the required media.

What kind of contributions do you want to make through design?

I want to use my interest and passion for design to help create a way to amplify people's voices and stories, connect people, and help shape memorable experiences. This is what I try to achieve with Studio Werken. I was fortunate in my past creative years to be a part of cultural and community projects that have great messages to share.

We are now in a time where a lot of previously held back, yet important, voices in our communities are coming to the surface and merging out in the open. Graphic design can help make this visible. I think there is also a need to be very considerate in the placement and pacing of information. Designers have a responsibility to respect all consumers’ information.

Why did you apply to DWP's design fellowship, and what are you most excited to do?

A version of Design Week Portland takes place in many cities throughout the world, and it bundles a lot of potential ideas into a dedicated frame. It's a great spot for a designer to be in and is a great space to share your work with others. I see DWP as an opportunity for me to contribute to the space and to collaborate with great talents. Together, we are helping open up a niche to make the process accessible and inclusive for everyone.

In the context of information and media, I feel most excited to develop an identity that spreads cohesion. Scaling information and design from a small, two-dimensional space to a larger, three-dimensional space is an interesting process and a great opportunity to navigate the chaos of information.