Julia Born lives and works in Zurich after she spent 20 years living abroad. Since completing her studies at Amsterdam’s Gerrit Rietveld Academie in 2000, she has worked on various projects between Switzerland, Amsterdam and Berlin. Her practice focuses on editorial design for a variety of cultural clients, including the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Kunsthalle Basel, the ICA Miami, the Guggenheim Museum New York and most recently the documenta 14 in Kassel and Athens. The work, developed in close dialogue with institutions, curators and artists, includes books, magazines, exhibition design, identities and more.
Alongside commissioned work, Born has continuously collaborated on investigative projects with other designers and artists, including photographer Uta Eisenreich, fashion designer JOFF, and choreographer Alexandra Bachzetsis. These projects often revolve around questions of language and representation.
Born teaches graphic design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, and is a visiting lecturer at various art and design institutions throughout Europe and the US. From 2003 to 2007 she has been a jury member of ‘The Most Beautiful Swiss Books’ competition. On the occasion of the Inform Award for Conceptual Design, she produced a solo show of her work as well as the catalogue, Title of the Show, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Leipzig, Germany. Among other prizes she received the Jan Tschichold Award in 2011, awarded by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture.
Can you describe your approach or methodology to design?
Did recent technological changes impact your work? If so how?
Technological development is meant to continuously improve and speed up working processes. I realize however that I am unconsciously searching for obstacles and excuses to slow down that process, perhaps to counteract the pursuit of ‘efficiency’.
How does your work environment look like? How does your work environment influence your creative outcome/designs?
I have two tables and two chairs that I use in turns, a big bookshelf on the wall opposite me, and many boxes stored in places that are out of my sight. There is a small kitchen and a big couch in the studio that I share with other people. I travel a lot.
What inspires you? Can you describe an event that recently inspired you?
– Last weekend I saw Martin Margiela’s 1989–2009 retrospective at Palais Galliera in Paris. I was deeply impressed about the way he managed to translate highly conceptual ideas into garments, turning the fashion system inside out.
– The collaboration for documenta 14 with Paul B. Preciado – philosopher, curator and transgender activist – taught me to fundamentally question our thinking and functioning in categories and hierarchies.
– Roberto Bolaño’s epic novel 2666 is one of the most important lessons I received in editing, constructing multiple storylines, jumping genres, idioms and eras, culminating in an unresolved ghost ending. Characters are introduced, disappear and later on reappear in a mirrored, slightly altered version of the same narrative structure. The title of this literary labyrinth is meant to represent a time so far in the future as if it has to remain almost unimaginable.
Are there important designers for you today? Why?
It’s usually the designers who don’t consider themselves as such.
With what company would you like to work with?
I prefer to work with people rather than companies.