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With an interest in graffiti having paved his way to becoming a graphic designer, it’s not surprising that Benjamin Kohl’s textual, experimental lettering has generated so much buzz. Now living in Munich with his wife and two kids, he runs a studio by day and steals time in the evenings to work on his personal projects. Recently, after 12 years of focussing mainly on client work, he tells us he’s been rediscovering his ‘passion for illustration with a strong focus on typography.’ Curious to find out about the tools and techniques he’s been playing with during this period of rediscovery, we chatted with Benjamin about his recent work, as well as the process of honing new skills and experimenting with digital tools.
Personally, Benjamin tells us he finds the best way to go about improving your work is simply through trial and error. ‘Focussing on finding a solution for a specific problem always helped me to learn things quickly,’ he explains. This being seemingly a driving force behind his personal lettering projects of late, the designer notes that coming across Multicolour Eyedropper in Adobe Fresco has opened up a whole new world of experimentation. Multicolour Eyedropper allows users to quickly create their own brush tools in lots of different variations, and Benjamin often pairs this technique with dynamic lettering and textures to reflect the meaning or tone of a word, or matches the colours of emojis with the brush to bring them into the lettering mix. ‘Other fields that I currently find super interesting are 3D artworks created with the Shapr3D App or Cinema 4D/Adobe Dimensions, for example,’ he adds.
Working on his iPad in the evenings—usually after the kids are in bed—Benjamin enjoys the flexibility of being able to work in different spaces and draw inspiration from his various surroundings. Saying he tends to play around and experiment quite a lot, he tells us, ‘by trying out new tools combined with the expertise I’ve built up over the years, I usually come up with new ideas…I feel like using an iPad and the apple pencil gave me the most flexibility in terms of where and when I work on illustrations.’
‘Using different software—and especially trying out new things—has made me much more of an explorer than I was before,’ he continues. ‘Now, I’m always searching for new techniques and possibilities, which has enriched my work in my day job too. There’s now an incredible variance of apps/tools that deal with the same subject (3D, drawing, vector…), but these have different functionalities and possibilities…With learning new things, it has helped me to test tools in areas in which I already have experience. If you already know the basic functionalities, you can usually find your way quickly.’ And, to those working with new tools/software, he notes, ‘look at what the tool itself can do best, and try to create something with it.’
With technology moving as fast as it does these days, Benjamin says it’s difficult to predict what will be leading the way in years to come—though, he adds, it’s probably likely that tools for easily creating AI, VR, AR applications will be very important. Despite the unpredictability, he says the main thing is to centre whatever processes bring you the most joy within your practice; ‘Learning something new should always be fun. If you can’t find joy in what you are doing, move to the next tool/challenge.’