“Very well-laid-out designs are always going to be better in print”

He runs the celebrated multi-disciplinary Bureau Borsche. Get to know ingenious designer Mirko Borsche. 

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Every weekend people throughout Germany wake up to a piece of art delivered directly to their homes. Zeit Magazin, the weekly insert to Die Zeit, is a beacon of hope for all print enthusiasts who appreciate the value of what happens when great design is presented on paper. For a decade now Zeit Magazin covers have been a gleaming source of inspiration for designers across the globe, regardless of what kind of design field they are in. We sat down with the beautiful mind behind it all, the inimitable Mirko Borsche.

How did it all start for you?
“My mother used to be a model and my father a photographer, who mostly did advertising, so I kind of grew up at the photo-shoots. I got kicked out of school when I was about 13 or 14 and I had to go another school by train and every day I saw graffiti from the window of the train. So I started doing that. My parents wanted me to get an education as well so I studied graphic design. At that time it was much more hands on – drawing and painting stuff. I was attracted to that.”

Is graffiti something that still inspires you today?
“Not really but I learnt a lot from it. When doing graffiti you are always working together with other artists. It’s just like working in design. You have to work with others, learn and improve from the team.”

Bureau Borsche has been around since 2007. What did you do before starting your own business?
“I began working in advertising and did that for eight years before I got fed up with the industry. I then began working with Jetzt Magazin, a weekly youth magazine and did that for three years.”

Cool. However, there is another weekly magazine that really put Bureau Borsche on the map…
“We have had Zeit Magazin as a client for a full decade now. I think that’s something to be proud of. It’s a well-known product and the fact that they still like my work after ten years is amazing. To be able to keep up the quality and still surprise the client over that period is worth having a party for (which of course we did).”

For a full decade Bureau Borsche has created jaw-dropping designs for Zeit Magazin.

Zeit Magazin is a household title for magazine designers all over the world. Tell me a little bit about that project?
“Two things have made it successful: First, it is weekly so we have to improve every week. We have to be creative even if we are sick or hung over. It’s tough but also very good practice. Secondly, I don’t have to travel to Berlin and Hamburg to meetings with Die Zeit and Zeit Magazine any more. I did it for years every week and got fed up with it. Now I don’t have to come any more; we do telephone conferences instead. It’s rare for a designer to get that level of trust.”

In what ways has the crisis for print affected the way you personally take on a design project for a magazine? 
“My approach to this is that real quality is something the Internet just cannot deliver. Very well-laid-out designs and quality texts in print are always going to be better than the online version.”

As the daily papers lose ground, ambitious niche publications are growing rapidly. Why do you think this is? 
“Yes, I have noticed that trend in Germany too. I think it’s mostly the big newspapers that will suffer. As an example, Die Zeit is still growing and has kept growing since we started working with them, so that’s amazing.”

When did you go from making magazines to design in a broader sense?
“I love the magazine as a media but there is only a limited amount you can do. And then people asked for logos, corporate designs and online media so we began doing that as well. Today magazine design makes up around 40 per cent of what we do. The rest is web and corporate design.”

“Zeit Magazin is weekly, so we have to improve every week.”

Mirko Borsche

Tell me about Bureau Borsche. How are you set up?
“We only have designers working at the agency: five fulltime workers and three interns. We all sit around one big round table so we can talk about our work all the time. It makes work fast and interesting. The idea is to make the whole office like a dining table. The best conversations are always in the kitchen.”

What’s the secret behind the success of Bureau Borsche?
“We don’t have any secrets. Creativity is something you can learn. Creativity is something you can work hard on. That’s what we do – we work hard and we try hard.”

Take us through “the Mirko Borsche process”. How do you go about creating your designs from A to Z in a project? 
“There is no standard. Every project is different. You have to find a unique solution for every client. Personally I don’t like to sit in front of the computer all the time. I like to start designing once I have an idea. Before that I don’t need the computer.”

What separates great design from good design?
“Good design is something you see and can like. Great design touches you. Great design is something you remember for years and years.”

What are the latest trends in design in 2018?
“As globalisation and gentrification continue, all designs tend to become more and more the same. I guess it is because everyone reads the same design blogs and follows the same Instagram accounts. The scenes still exist but the styles are all mixed up.”

What emotions do you want to evoke in the people who come in contact with your design?
“Irony and humour are very important. I want to entertain people. Best case, they laugh. Worst case, they don’t like it.”

Which subculture has had the most effect on your aesthetics?
“Either Hip-hop or New Romantic from the ’80s. Hip-hop partly because of the graffiti scene but it also influenced my style of clothes, my way of being and so on. New Romantic was something completely different. A dark wave culture. It’s great to have experienced both.”

How important is inspiration to you and what is your primary source of inspiration?
“My inspiration comes from reading and from taking in the daily news. My inspiration also comes from my social life. I am a very curious person. My friends hate me because I ask them too many questions. It keeps me busy and it brings me to new ideas. But it’s no coincidence that my son, who is 18, hasn’t told me about any of his girlfriends yet. He knows I would kill him with my questions.”

Finally, where do you hope to be personally and professionally ten years from now?
“I hope I won’t be working in ten years’ time. Agency life is something you can only do for a certain length of time. It’s impossible to keep up with the young, cool people in this world in the long run. I think there is a certain age when you should stop or teach instead. I don’t want to be that old man trying to be hip.”

Inspire contact

Charlotte Lagerwald
Iggesund Paperboard
Mobile: +46 73 077 05 59


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