International Poster Master: Felix Pfäffli

Every once in a while, I can feel myself becoming a little visually jaded. The nagging feeling that maybe I have seen everything already; perhaps we are all just re-churning ideas for poster designs and such from centuries past? With perfect timing, it seems that those are the moments when a vibrant new talent emerges to open my eyes to all of the possibilities still before us.

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Such was the case when Felix Pfäffli‘s posters showed me that fresh thinking around even a simple letterform could inspire the form to new heights. Starting with a minimum of tools at his disposal, often just type and color, Pfäffli creates playful and sophisticated solutions that are unlike anything I have ever seen. His complete reinvention of the Swiss school of poster design has been incredible to watch. Even more amazing is that he seems to only be getting started.

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Over the last year, it has been a joy to watch more and more people become exposed to his brilliance. I had a chance to talk with Felix about this surge of interest and possibilities, and what the future might hold. It was fascinating to talk to someone who finds themselves at a very different place in their career than even 12 months ago when I first spoke with him. The explosion of travel and potential clients mixing with a man determined to stay true to himself and his pursuit of his craft is inspiration. He’s someone who sees the possibilities (like this motion piece for Wired) in more expansive and experimental work.
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What has it been like being included on international juries and having massive exhibitions of your work and sketches?
You have to know, I’m doing everything that I do now just to get more freedom. Not to be in the spotlight. I want to work on large projects, but do so with complete freedom. Without limits. Of course, people can receive attention if all of their work is just making what they want to see, but I do not work the way that I do to find attention in this manner. I work so my work gets this attention. There is a big difference. I think that’s probably the reason why it currently works so well for me. People realize that for me, it’s about the essentials.

But there are wonderful side effects. You meet a lot people. You get to engage in incredible and lively discussions. Recently, I was in Mannheim, Germany, for a workshop and lecture. The students were super engaged. It’s nice to see how important this is to them. Actually, sometimes I wonder if I ever really learn to come to terms with the fact that I meet so many nice people, but only for such a short amount of time. This year I was in Japan, Russia, Belgium, France, Germany and the USA, and its just incredible to get a view of all these cultures. Sometimes it takes me a week to digest my experiences.
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What has been the most exciting project over the last year? Why?
This is a very difficult question to answer. Finally, I have reached a point where I am only working on projects that I find interesting. All other offers I refuse. I’ve always done so, but I am enjoying each new project and challenge more and more. Over a month ago, for example, I was In Los Angeles for two workshops at the Otis College of Art and Design. The results exceeded my expectations by lengths. You can find them on my website. But what was even more beautiful for me: I was able to organize money to invite four of my students from Lucerne to come with me. They had a great time and did not want to go back at all. Something like this makes me incredibly happy.

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What kinds of projects would you like to get involved with in the future, that you have not yet?
I guess I would like to change my focus a bit. More experimental. More scientific. In fact, I’m thinking about taking a break for a year. Not right now, but maybe a year from now. But don’t get me wrong—I don’t want a break to “hang around.” I feel like I need more time to boost my own projects. I have too much in my head currently. Too many ideas. I want to get rid of them somehow.

What has been informing your work lately—can be anything from music to literature to passing conversation to the work of the old masters or just anything?
No idea. Or thousands of ideas! But I can not easily explain. My work was never inspired by just something. Its always a strange mixture of content, feelings and coincidences. I could list so many people who have influenced me. For example, Herbert Leupin. In my opinion, his work is more interesting than the whole Swiss Style stuff everybody knows. He had humor. Or Michel Houellebecq. When a new book is in stores, I read it a day later. Or all the ancient philosophers. But ultimately—it’s just life. I just had so many good discussions last week I’m sure it will change something in my work.

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