In Collaboration With: Bram Romkes

Bram Romkes is a graphic designer based in Amsterdam, currently finishing his degree at Gerrit Rietveld Academy. Focusing on a mixed media approach that combines analogue and digital techniques, his diverse body of work ranges from creating graphics and illustration for music artists and fashion brands to photography and animation.

Following the collaboration we did with Bram, we spoke with him in order to share his story with you, and get his take on the experience of working together.

Is being an artist your only job? If yes, what prompted you to take your childhood love of graphic design from a hobby to a job?

My job is graphic design. I started drawing at a young age, either with pencils on paper or digitally in Microsoft Paint. I then transitioned to slightly more advanced programs and eventually ended up working in Photoshop in 2007. This was before I was fully aware of the actual job, being a graphic designer. WhenI got older, I realized that people actually make money from messing around inPhotoshop.

This is when I decided I wanted to be a graphic designer, I finished high school and started studying graphic design.

Who/what are your most important artistic influences?

It’s usually quite mundane, living life in general. Another ideological inspiration to me is “sampling” in music for example. The idea of recontextualizing existing media and bringing in a new layer of meaning by doing so.

In that sense the source material I work with is influential to me, that’s what’s steering me in a specific direction. I usually mess around until an interesting element pops up, I then try to hone in on that aspect and polish it in order to bring it to the forefront.

In the case of this collaboration, I worked with photographs I took but the process remains the same for the most part.

How much do Amsterdam and its culture influence your style of work?

Most people I work with are from Amsterdam so their content exists in the context of Amsterdam. Their creative output drives my graphic design since my design is very much about their creativity. Their content is the content I’m working with, so that’s a very important factor.

What is your artwork exploring, underneath everything?

My personal work is really about exploration. Emphaizing unseen aspects of everyday life to a degree. It’s also very much based on the tools I’m using.The grid of a printer, the slightly dusty surface of a scanner. These are all “filters”I’m dealing with, and I try to embrace them.

In that sense, I’d say my work is really about those filters. I often feel likeI’m not doing much, I let the tools do the work for me to a degree. I’m just the one setting things in motion and hope something cool takes place. My best work is often the work that kind of happened “on its own” without needing much guidance from me.

What have you got planned for 2022? Any upcoming projects you can share with us?

I will continue to work with the same people I have been working with, but we’ve all grown since last year. Our projects will be bigger and better, we’re definitely working on a larger scale now.

I will also continue to put out personal work, but I don’t know what that’s gonna look like yet.

What are your thoughts on sustainable fashion? Is sustainability something that is important to you?

I’m a huge proponent of sustainable fashion and high-quality fashion in general. Those two often go hand in hand. It’s very important to me since it’s such a wasteful industry. At the same time, it’s an industry I’m deeply in love with so it’s important to be conscious of the real impact it has.

What about Irina’s work inspires you? What made you collaborate with her?

I think Irina and I share a similar sense of style. We often agreed with each other without the need to explain why. I feel like we pushed each other when working on this project.

The collaboration explores the subject of surveillance. What are your thoughts on digital surveillance? Do you see the positive impact it has, and can it outweigh the disadvantages?

I think it’s a really complex issue. Like most technology, it can be used in different ways. Some I agree with, some I don’t.

How did you interpret the collection inspiration of surveillance and dystopian society in your graphics?

I really like the concept of surveillance in regard to fictional universes. Sci-fi explorations of the theme. As a graphic designer, I’m lucky because this theme also inherently comes with a cool visual identity. The project is rooted in a visual tradition created by graphic designers and artists that came before me. I’m just adding to this lineage.

Surveillance cameras come with camera interfaces, we associate them with distortion and low-quality footage. This is right up my alley and very much the same thing as I was already doing on my own. Exploring these “filters”. Whether it’s the filter of a low-quality surveillance camera or the filter of a cheap printer that’s low on ink.

What is your favourite item from the collaboration and how would you style it?

My current favourite piece is the digital-camouflage jacket/backpack. I’d style it in a futuristic way, I recently got these trousers by EngineeredGarments with cargo pockets all over them, that would be a good match. I could also see the jacket going well with some very technical-looking sneakers or high boots! Just imagine you’re the star of an upcoming tech-noir movie. The real-life equivalent to something like Tron or Blade Runner.

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