A Poster A Day with Alex Proba
A few weeks ago, Kickstarter Art Director Alex Proba exhibited her year-long project, “A Poster A Day,” at Space Ninety 8 in Williamsburg. Originally from Lüdenscheid, Germany, the ambitious young designer, illustrator, and art director worked in architecture and product design before making the leap to the start-up world several years ago. We stopped by the exhibit to take some photos and chat with Alex about her project.
GPers: We’d love to hear about your background. What brought you into design and, most recently, to Kickstarter?
AP: I was educated at the Akademie Mode & Design Hamburg Germany, where I studied Spatial and Graphic Design, and at the Design Academy Eindhoven Netherlands. I focused on Product and Furniture Design. In 2011, I moved to New York where I currently work as an Art Director at Kickstarter. Before that, I was a Senior Designer at General Assembly working on the online and offline brand experience, as well as brand identity. Prior to my jump into the start up world, I gathered experience at architecture and product design studios in New York, Berlin, and Eindhoven.
My parents thought of design as as a hobby—I didn’t. After graduating high school, the time came to apply for colleges and I had to choose my path. I chose the easy path at first—I was just too scared to fail as an artist or designer. I just couldn’t take the risk and apply for art school, even though that was all I wanted and I was confident in my desire to study design. Instead, I applied for medical school (dentistry). The moment I got in, I knew I had to stop and follow my heart and my passion. I didn’t want to be a dentist. I wanted to be a designer. I secretly applied to a private design school in Hamburg and that would make the decision I couldn’t make myself for me. If I got in, I would quit dentistry, if not I would continue with dentistry. Since then I have followed my design path happily, with no regrets—even though it hasn’t always been easy. Design is a hard and very competitive field. I always try to stay true to my beliefs and opinions, and I think that’s the only way to go the path.
GPers: What inspired A Poster A Day?
AP: “A Poster A Day” started rather spontaneously. I was working on a project and felt uninspired and stuck. Usually, I would take a break and start reading to get my creativity flowing again, but instead I started to play around with images. Without over-thinking the process, with no limits or restrictions. While having fun with shapes, lines and imagery, I realized how happy it made me creating for the sake of beauty. I asked: Could this become a new routine? To challenge myself, I decided to make one poster every day, with just one restriction—time. The rule is that I am not allowed to spend more than 30 minutes on each poster, as this, to me is the only way in which the project could succeed.
GPers: How has the process evolved since you started?
AP: As a designer, it is easy to spend a whole day tweaking just one tiny part of a graphic, and it’s also easy to never be pleased with the result. I knew that the only way the project could work would be to give a 30 minute time limit. It was challenging for me to do this at first, and equally difficult to incorporate into my daily routine. After 20-25 posters, I realized that the time and place in which I am creating a poster makes a big difference on the content. Today marks 387 consecutive days of creating. This project has become my visual diary, each day narrated through a poster. Making a poster is now the last thing I do before I head to bed. It’s like brushing my teeth.
GPers: Is there anything in particular that you draw from for inspiration—literature, hobbies, music, people, or something else?
AP: Most days, I don’t even realize that I’ve been inspired with so many different influences. Normally, I try not to think about the poster until the evening, when I come home after work and sit down in front of my computer—that’s when I start reliving my day, remembering moments, and drawing inspiration from it. All has to happen within those 30 minutes, of course.
I think you can find many many different themes and styles in my posters. But there are many days when abstraction guides my design, and for some it may be hard to imagine what my day looked liked based on purely graphical posters. But for me, it’s the alignment of occurrences that make me explore symmetry, geometric shapes, and patterns. Sometimes, it’s about extracting and not adding things to crystallize what I’ve felt and seen throughout the day. It’s giving the viewer a blank canvas left for their own imagination—and I do this very consciously. Other times, I don’t want to be too literal and give it all away. I am happy if the viewer enjoys the poster, even if I am the only person that understands the connection between my day and the poster.
If I now look back on the posters, I can recall exactly what happened the day of each and every poster. Previously, I wasn’t even able to remember what I ate the day before. The posters restore my past, and that’s magical and beautiful.
GPers: Do you have a favorite poster? A least favorite?
AP: I do have a favorite poster. It changes too. I had a lot of favorites, but I can say that currently it is Day 307. I find that it is so minimal but expresses a lot and it contains a dimension. I love that one.
GPers: Have any additional ideas come out of “A Poster A Day?”
AP: Oh yes! Very many. I am now at the point where I am learning how to manage my time best and do the best work at my day job and with my personal projects. “A Poster A Day” will always be my daily work out, where I create a poster every single day. But my fingertips are seeking for more. Currently, I am working on a book of the first 365 Days and, additionally to that, I am thinking of physical manifestations of some of my posters. I am eager to bring them to life.
GPers: In which direction do you envision “A Poster A Day” heading next?
AP: The new year has started with slight change for the upcoming 365 days. The new project now shifts away from my life and focuses on my community—I am now accepting stories from anyone and I create a very special poster for them. The next year is called Yours—A Poster A Day and to submit stories you can just got to alexproba.com/yours.