DMG group creative director Birger Linke believes you can never run out of problems to solve. And that is the primest of fuels for creativity.
Birger admits he would probably be a pilot if he hadn't chosen to follow his heart and dive into graphic design in Hamburg, quite some time ago. He now works with a passionate team of creative professionals, picking up design awards all around the world and showing how important it is to solve problems through creativity.
For this Member Spotlight, we are taking a look at the work of one successful professional and his team. Their secret? Never stop being curious.
How did you get into the industry?
In high school, I've been good in arts. So I studied Graphic-Design in Hamburg, took up internships, later freelanced. In my last year at uni, I worked 4 out of 5 days at Springer & Jacoby, and just transitioned into full-time once I graduated.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
What was supposed to be a half year overseas experience turned into 18 years in Asia. First Singapore, then Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, and now Beijing, where I look after VW China.
With my own design consultancy I focus on projects in the healthcare sector, with the latest being a reusable mask made of a patented textile that eliminates viruses (including Covid 19) upon impact – picking up design awards around the world at the moment, including a coveted Red Dot.
I also partnered with friends to set up Lynxsonic, where we design headphones with incredible noise cancellation. The project got funded successfully on Kickstarter last year, and we're now selling on Ebay.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I'd be a pilot.
While I hold a Private Pilot License, my eye sight wasn't good enough to fly commercially for Lufthansa at that time. But in the end, I got to design the identity for Changi Airport Singapore, making it on board via their shopping bags.
Can you explain your creative process?
Define and understand the problem. Question everything you know about it. Find an innovative solution. Then make sure it gets executed perfectly.
How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?
Technology has provided new ways to interact. Data has provided new ways to reach and connect. We use it. But it has not replaced the need for an idea.
Similarly, technology now enables work from home and zoom calls when physical distancing is required. But it does not replace the need for being present in one room, exchange ideas, argue and fight, to create that spark that leads to new ideas.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
Wherever I am, I walk through the streets and neighborhoods with open eyes. You always discover something: An inspiration or insight, a solution, or a problem to solve.
The letter ones never run out.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
Winning awards is nice. Winning them across disciplines is crucial though, as it demonstrates that it is more important to find a real solution to a client's problem, than to be locked in on the media. But I'm more satisfied when the work truly connects with people.
On a big scale, Coke's communication in China for the London Olympics in 2012 got the country behind their athletes, with almost 200 Million users creating beats to support their heroes overseas.
On a smaller scale, we collaborated with home-grown toy company Stikfas and created a limited edition series for a recruitment drive of the Republic of Singapore Navy, that was so sought after that the packs sold on Ebay for hundreds of dollars. On top, it was awarded Best of Show at Asia-Pacific Adfest.
Similarly for a charity concert with the London Philharmonic: for the sponsoring beer brand we designed a bottle that – when drunk to a certain level and blown into – played the piece of music the orchestra played that evening. It didn't just create an awesome atmosphere at the event, but was also so popular that beer fans from around the world got in touch to get their hands on a bottle.
Reading all the excited comments in the chat groups on the world's 1st WeChat ad and game for BMW that brought users back to their childhood days by recreating the arcade game Snake with real cars, we knew we stroke a chord with the audience.
How do you recharge away from the office?
Staying in Beijing has been a blessing in disguise. While friends left the country when the pandemic hit China, the situation here was pretty much under control after two months.
It is still difficult to travel to other provinces, but Beijing is surrounded by amazing mountains, rivers, and rural villages, that allow for awesome weekend get-aways to recharge – of course wearing a mask along the way. Feel free to follow me on Instagram to see more of that.
What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
Of course it's tough at the moment. But don't give up. Being in this industry has always been about passion.
Show initiative. Connect with people. Show them what you can do. Maybe a project or opportunity comes along, and you'll be remembered. While I can't offer a job at the moment, do send through your portfolios or questions, and I'll try to help with advise or contacts.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
Ideas (that solve problems) are what we bring to the table.
While we've seen the rise of procurement, decision-making by committee, and short-term thinking, the pandemic maybe leads to some realization and the push of the reset button. I've seen it happening already.