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- Graphic Design

The Augsburg Brecht Festival

The KW Neun studio in Augsburg works in a wide variety of fields, but in the cultural sector in particular its twelve-strong team has by now achieved special pre-eminence. The Brecht Festival, for instance, commissions a fresh visual identity each year, and since 2010 the responsibility for finding an arresting new approach has lain with KW Neun. We interviewed the studio’s founder, Artur Gulbicki.


You just finished the visual identity for the 2018 Brecht Festival, which starts on February, 23. You must surely find it increasingly difficult to come up with a new design style every single year, especially given the festival’s quite narrow theme?

Bertolt Brecht is an amazing character – the unruly, unpredictable genius type from childhood on. And an enormously productive writer; read him at all and you’ll find a whole universe of themes and perspectives for the festival. And the new festival theme every year actually simplifies our task of finding a new design approach.

Your solutions have differed quite markedly over the years. Do you really go back to square one every time and start from there, or do you build on last year’s work?

In 2010 we started off with a formally strict design concept lightened by some whimsical touches, and for two years after that simply changed one primary colour in neon. But then it was time to move on. We opened up the concept, and from then on linked the design more directly to the particular festival theme for the year concerned. The new design every year has been a constant, and although we had a relaunch early in 2017 that will continue under our new artistic director Patrick Wengenroth.

Brecht Festival 2010
Brecht Festival 2015


To what extent do you get a free hand as designers?

Our artistic director determines the key content for the programme and starts things moving. We study the year’s topic in depth, develop the visual leitmotif and experiment with alternative graphic styles. In the project team we work alongside colleagues from the festival office and Culture Department, keeping them briefed about progress as we go and in turn getting important feedback. Two or maybe three development phases, and we have the finished design.



Brecht Festival 2016
Brecht Festival 2017


Many of your visual identities over the years have brought you well-merited awards in various design competitions. Does this enhance your status in clients’ eyes generally, or is it just a token thing, »nice to have«?

Yes, it has definitely helped build our reputation, and not only in the cultural sector. I have no doubt at all that it has opened doors for us there and elsewhere.



Brecht Festival 2018
Brecht Festival 2018


All the same: many of your clients are precisely from the cultural sector, and it’s not noted for lavish budgets. Does that limitation mean that, as a creative, you are forced to be extra creative in your thinking and planning – not least as regards production and implementation costs?

Often we have indeed devised ways to ‘work around’ a costs issue, or in some cases gone for an alternative production concept, to ensure that we still end up with something special. In the broadest terms we still finish on the credit side even if the budget was tight because, for us, working with other culture providers has value in itself. In their own ways, a theatre manager, a writer, a producer or an artist thinks just as we do in terms of concept, design, implementation; the dialogue brings benefits and also creates bonds. In budget terms, that certainly comes in on the credit side.




You must be something of an expert on Brecht by now … do you have a favourite quote?

I can assure you I’m no expert. But over the years I’ve become a fan, absolutely. My favourite Brecht quote was also the motto for last year’s festival: »Change the world: it needs changing.«



This interview was first published in novum 01.18 (main topic: »Theatre). Here you can also find interviews with Fons Hickmann and Mirko Borsche. Single copies: