Appreciate art and creativity

"We are an aquarium - not an ivory tower"

Roger Spindler, how do I become an artist?
You don't just become an artist. Art is created through concrete action, talent and belief in oneself. You cannot come to our school and say: "Now I want to be an artist." Each artist is likely to find a different way to do this. For an art education you have to go to a university. We train people in creative professions.

What do you attach particular importance to in your training?
The school for design is primarily a vocational school. Our training and further education are part-time. Most people already assert themselves in practice and deal with the design issues with us. For example, a graphic designer for advertising technology comes here for one or two days to study as part of their training.

What talents does a person need to have?
In particular, a healthy curiosity. Our target group are young people who are “happy” and openly about the world, who question it critically and who have a flair for the visual implementation. They should have eyes for shapes, colors and our surroundings. They can learn creativity techniques to a certain extent. Curiosity, on the other hand, is not.

Does it take creativity to be professionally successful?
Absolutely! But creativity must not be reduced to what is in Wikipedia. The learners should develop their own concept of creativity, as this is constantly changing. As lecturers, we convey creative thinking and acting. Creativity has something to do with doing, experimenting and discovering.

Do creative professions have a future?
Certainly. The longer, the more creativity asserts itself in management in order to arrive at innovative solutions. Accordingly, we challenge the learners to look for new and unconventional paths. We are one of the few schools in Switzerland to work with “Design Thinking” as a didactic model in individual training courses.

What does “Design Thinking” stand for?
With this method, the learners first ask uncomfortable questions, observe closely and then form their own opinion. Now they create a prototype that they try out and optimize. The problem is recorded holistically and the solution developed from it is critically scrutinized at the end.

What do you attach particular importance to in class?
We try to link teaching with professional reality. We are an aquarium, not an ivory tower, which means we offer space in which I can move as a learner. I can experiment, fail and don't always have to sell. In industry, creativity often only comes into play when nothing works. That's exactly what we don't want. In the future, those who think openly and act quickly will be successful.

How do you rate the learners?
In addition to creative skills, it is important to us that you argue competently. Selling yourself well is a success factor. Ultimately, the mix between theoretical, practical and creative knowledge is crucial. If someone is an extremely good specialist but cannot deal with people, that is of no use.

How central is economic livelihood security in training?
This is less of a central issue in basic vocational training. In further education, on the other hand, for example in the communication design course - in addition to the design focus - entrepreneurial thinking is also an important aspect. The students have to understand what their creative output should cost. Last year the communication design students spent a week in Berlin. We acted as an agency and acquired a customer in the fashion sector. To do this, we developed a platform in which the various «players» of the fashion scene in Berlin can network. Our client is continuing the project today in cooperation with the Berlin Senate.

Do you have any other examples?
When studying media economics / management, at the end of their training, students put a media company through its paces for a week. You analyze according to the “design thinking” method. At the end of the week, the students present a future strategy for their company to the management and the board of directors. This is real - open heart surgery, so to speak.

Does the school bring the trainees into contact with donors?
Yes always again. The Bern music band Ocean came to us because they were looking for a cover for their new album. The band first played live in the classroom and explained their assignment. Each participant then designed a cover. In the end, the band chose one. At the school, the project is finished the moment we present it. The client implements this together with the student. In general, design and money go well together. And good art and design promote themselves.

How do you deal with people who fail?
Failure is often part of a design process. We have to support the learners individually here. Academization does not even stop at creative professions. Unfortunately, in November 2013, the Grand Council of the Canton “canceled” the one-year preliminary course. This is like a tenth year of school or an orientation year and goes back to the Bauhaus movement in Germany. The preliminary course was created there by Johannes Itten, a Bernese citizen. The classic preliminary course has now been replaced by the preparatory course for people with a Matura who want to study at a university of applied sciences.

Did you accept the decision like that?
When it became clear that, after the savings debate at the November session, we were going to be financially "on the collar", we thought about ways of expressing our concerns. Our learners should get involved in society. After all, we wanted to get to know those who will decide our future. The learners in the preliminary course and in the graphics class in Biel portrayed all the members of the council. The official council photos on the Internet formed the basis for this. Each learner sometimes worked on a picture for up to two days. Imagine young people aged 16 to 18 who voluntarily deal with political decisions so intensively. It cannot be taken for granted.

What is so bad about it that the one-year preliminary course is being abolished?
As a result, there is a latent risk that people without a Matura will no longer be able to enter individual design professions. The implementation of the austerity measure is only imminent. Therefore, we cannot yet fully assess the consequences.

Which criteria are decisive for success?
An important component is a good idea. Consistently pursuing this and designing it visually is what makes you successful. For example, Facebook was a great idea or Ikea. Unfortunately, bad ideas often prevent a creative breakthrough. Ultimately, creativity requires talent, tolerance and technology, that is, the correct use of tools or tools. There are also clear criteria for creative activities. This is how a website has to work, a text has to be legible or a photo has to show a situation. Designing begins with thinking, researching and developing a concept. That is professionalism in the design area.

What clarifications do the learners have to make?
You have to ask the right questions. Who is the target group? What is the topic and usage? What is the competition like? Then the creative process begins, which then leads to a result. Failure could mean that I got lost, the writing is illegible or the design language does not work.

Who decides about success?
In the end, the customer decides.

To what extent does your school generate added value for the world of work?
When it comes to design, the economic discussion always comes right away. Today creativity is an economic factor. According to a recent UN study, the creative volume has grown from 227 billion US dollars to 424 billion US dollars over the past ten years. After all, that's 3.4 percent of total world trade. Today, the creative industries are also a relatively large sector in Switzerland. I am convinced that Switzerland in particular has the potential to do this. The freedom that is possible here means that projects can be optimally designed. This is exactly what creative companies such as agencies, graphic artists or ceramists need in order to realize their great potential.

What advice would you give to a young generation Y person who wants to make art their profession?
Experiment, try out, push boundaries, fail and start over. Creativity requires concrete action. It takes curiosity and the will to get started. If someone wants to become a musician, he has to play.

Which artists do you particularly appreciate?
Surely the graffiti artist Bansky. His street art appeals to me purely in terms of concept. Then the Swiss typeface designer Adrian Frutiger, who developed the typeface of the same name in 1975. At over eighty he is still very interested in creative processes. And of course Apple's British chief designer, Jonathan Ive, who ingeniously implements the combination of people and technology.

Is art work or work art?
First and foremost, art is hard work. In contrast to creative works, art does not necessarily have to sell itself. Creative work has a clear goal and a benefit. Our creative works do not necessarily have to be exhibited in the museum.

Roger Spindler, 52, is a trained typesetter. He has already completed his apprenticeship at the School for Design in Bern and Biel, where he has been working since 1986. For eight years he has headed the department for advanced professional and advanced training.