Interview with Felix Pfäffli

Felix Pfäffli is a graphic designer based in Lucerne, Switzerland. He founded Studio Feixen in 2009 and was inducted into the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) in 2013 as its youngest-ever member. His work includes projects in various design areas. Whether it’s graphic design, interior design, fashion design, type design or animation, the only constant remains the in-depth examination of color, shape and typography.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure. I am Felix. I’m a designer. Live in Lucerne, Switzerland. I'm always very busy. It’s rarely calm in my head. When I'm not designing, you can find me in a museum in the mountains, on the tennis court. And not to forget: I also spend a lot of time on the sofa.

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in graphic design?

I didn't really decide that myself. In the end, the people around me shaped me more than I thought about myself and made a concrete decision. My father was an artist and drawing teacher. My mother is a philosopher and passionate painter. My big brother is an artist and studied graphic design before me. Right now he has an exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Luzern. Visiting his exhibition or anyway to watch him sharpen his work inspires me more than anything else. My mentor when I was young and now a good friend is Erich Brechbühl, a great graphic designer. We work in a shared office and this working side by side and discussing together is of course incredibly inspiring and shapes me every day.

How would you describe your design style?

Contemporary Swiss Pop Style.

What is your creative process?

I just let go.

How much does your city and surroundings affect your creative output?

An interesting question. In fact, my environment influences me a lot. Of course it's more the people and less the city. But yes, relatively early on I asked myself whether Lucerne was the right city for me. And actually I think the city is perfect for me. Lucerne is incredibly quiet. One could even say boring, but that would be neither fair nor correct. There is little but a pleasantly high quality of culture that I like. It seems to me that many creative people are drawn to big cities because of the wide range of offers. I need exactly the opposite. I get distracted easily and already have a lot on my mind without any creative input. I also travel a lot for work anyway. And in Lucerne you don't run the risk of sinking into nightlife or just consuming culture and not finding time for your own work. Years ago I was in Tokyo with friends for four months and I didn't work for a second and only visited museums and bars. That was of course a great time. But in the end I love my job and want to spend as much time as possible designing things and figuring out where this work takes me. This is my adventure. However, Lucerne offers something completely different. It is beautiful here. In 30 minutes you are at the foot of a mountain and a few minutes later you are in the middle of brutal nature. 

What do you struggle with the most in terms of working and living in a city like Lucerne?

I have no problems here. Or how should I put it. I do not care about the all the problems that obviously exist here. To be honest, I often feel like a complete alien in this city. But I'm used to it. Lucerne means Central Switzerland. Politically, socially about ten to fifteen years behind compared to the standards I would like to see. But I'm not dependent on this city. In no way. My work takes place internationally. I no longer have any collaborations or customers here. In six months, my girlfriend and I will be moving to the sea for a few months because we are interested in how it feels there. Nevertheless, we are building our future here. Lucerne is my home and it will always be of great value to me. 

What are your city’s biggest challenges?

I once spoke to the mayor at an arranged meeting between creative industries and politics. I mentioned that the city to me doesn't seem forward-looking and not up-to-date in terms of city planing at all. Just Imagine a very bad blind date. Surprisingly, his answer was that first; he thinks I’m right and second; There is no department in Lucerne that really thinks about such questions. End of dialogue. That's how it works here. There would be a lot to do. But of course you would have to be interested in it and find out what is happening outside of Lucerne. Lucerne is beautiful. But unfortunately not progressive at all.

What are the solutions that your city needs to implement?

I think it would be incredibly valuable if the government cared as much about the people who live here as they do about tourism.

The responsibility of the council in every city is to provide a solid foundation of design, art and cultural facilities, is that evident in Lucerne?

Yes of course. This is Switzerland. It's kind of mandatory here. Unfortunately, cosmopolitanism is not necessarily included in this package. But to answer the question: Yes, in Lucerne you can really benefit if you want to. The facility, the possibilities, everything is here. Don’t worry. 
But still one has to mention that there is a pretty clear financial overhang to the dusty high culture. Of course, everyone over the age of sixty benefits immensely from this. Lucerne is the perfect retirement home. But I still think it would not be wrong to think about a new, fairer distribution of financial resources or, of course, the support and promotion of diversity in the culture and art sector. 

Do you think it is also the responsibility of the artist/creative to improve the quality of people's lives in their city?

No. Not really. I think the creative people don't have to do anything. On the contrary, they should do whatever they feel like doing. But of course it is often the case that this "simply do what you feel like doing" is very enriching for a society. 

What project have you done that you enjoyed working on the most and why?

Uff, I’m sorry but it's impossible for me to decide. I love my job and every project I take on is an important part. At the moment I'm working on a book project, an art in architecture project, a furniture project, a comic project, an advertising campaign, a typeface and a teaching aid all at the same time. For me, it's not about the individual project, but about dealing with design in all its forms. Designing things somehow gives me inner peace.

If you could add or change something about Lucerne, what would that be?

I would add a hidden door to the center of Tokyo.

If you could choose any artist/creative to collaborate with, who would that be and why? 

I'm not the type to define any wishes without concrete possibilities. If you take on things too hard and try to get a grip on the future, you often miss a lot and life is angular and uncomfortable. I prefer to see what is possible and stay in the flow with reality. That's a lot more fun. I'm sure I'll meet the people I really want to work with anyway. I'm also sure that these real people and the things that happen through them are much more interesting than anything I could think of right now.

Can you tell us about any current or future projects that you are particularly excited about?

Sure. I’m really looking forward to the next few months. In two weeks I'll be in Poland to accompany my biggest art and architecture project so far. A mixture of street art and street signage. After that I'm in Paris to design a metro station. And in the following month I travel to India to see my furniture designs in reality and to develop them further in cooperation with everyone involved. All of these projects are very exciting to me in their own way and I can't wait to meet the people I'm collaborating with.
What do you do to switch off?

I don't know if that's what "switch off" means. But sometimes I really don't have the energy to create or do anything anymore. I really don’t like these moments. But then these activities usually help me: Doing nothing. Looking into the void. Reading newspapers. Watching some really irrelevant movie. Answering simple emails. And if it gets really bad: Cleaning the apartment.

What does home mean to you?

Family and Friends.

Sometimes people relate a specific smell to the city they live in or the place they grew up, does Lucerne evoke a personal smell to you?

I think it's the lake. Or everything around it. There really is nothing better than taking a dip in the Lucerne lake and looking at the mountains in summer. That's unbeatable. There is a very specific smell that arises when you lie on the hot stone after swimming and slowly dry in the sun.

What do you hope for your city in the next 20 years?

Some days ago I ate the finest bacon of my life and it was vegan. I really hope the future will surprise us just as positively.

If you weren’t living in Lucerne and could choose any city to live in where would that be, and why?

I'm quite happy the way it is.

Felix Pfäffli - miztape

lucerne by Felix Pfäffli

A selection of places in Lucerne recommended by graphic designer, Felix Pfäffli. See Felix's citylikeyou profile page here

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