Introducing Mister Adam aka Adam Oostenbrink

Mister Adam (aka Adam Oostenbrink) is a graphic designer and printmaker exploring different graphic techniques like screenprinting, linocut, risograph and letterpress. His type-o-graphic style is unstrained, colourful, lively and outspoken.

We are very excited to share with you the creative process behind Adam Oostenbrink's fantasic work

What is your main practice? Did you study at University? (if so what in ?) 

I have studied Graphic Design at ArtEZ Universtity of the Arts in the Netherlands, after that my professional career started by collaborating with a former classmate, we designed flyers and posters for Paradiso (a famous club and concerthall in Amsterdam), and we designed lots of books.

Now I work solo, and although I still call myself ‘graphic designer’, my practise has broadend, I teach design-practise, I do freelance design work for agencies, I do handlettering, produce hand printed limited edition assignments and free work in my studio/printshop. So my practise is quite broad, and I like that, there is so much to discover. And it’s nice to have clients in different places during these strange times.

How did you get into graphic / illustration design? 

My mother was an artist and my father was an architect, there was a lot of art around in my parents house. My grandfather was a quite succesful artist, as a child I loved to hang around in his atelier. So I guess that’s the foundation, I come from a creative family. Also growing up in the eighties the (political) poster was an important medium, that kind of radical graphic design was everywhere, oh yes, my father was collecting Klaus Staeck posters, that must have left an impression as well.

You have lots of beautiful screen prints, do you have a favourite? 

That’s a hard question! Every single poster has its strong elements, but in every poster I make there’s an aspect I don’t like. If I would have to choose it will be a poster I screenprinted just for fun, I made only a few and it says GO! SLOW.

I like the message and I like the way it’s excecuted: the bold and bright neon GO-letters are disappearing behind a white layer printed on the white paper. Also I like the way it has come to being: I printed GO! on a few posters for an exhibition/installation. I wasn’t happy about this exhibition (long story) and after it was over I put the posters in a drawer and forgot about them. Two years later they appeared, and when I saw them I had this spontaneous idea, so I printed a few and gave them away to some of my Instagram followers.

Moral of the story: don’t try to hard, haha! And don’t throw away work you don’t like, it might give you some ideas later.

Do you like any other print method? – if so which ones? 

Actually I like almost every manual printing method around, because printing is a slow process in which you still can make decisions about the design, so the outcome can be a surprise. That works for me. And I like the imperfection of handprinting. There’s inks that don’t get along, or my prints are off register, when you look up close to my prints, they are never perfect.

What I recently have discovered is to combine printing techniques, especially screenprint and letterpress work well together! The waterbase screenprinting ink versus the glossy transparent oil-based letterpress ink gives the print a very nice finish.

Any advice for anyone that is thinking of starting their own independent brand?

Maybe what I mentioned above: don’t try too hard to be good. Make sure you earn some money on the side and just make stuff when you feel like it, or have good idea, that leaves out the pressure and expectations. And be patient, good things take time, you will get there, but you have to persevere.

What is your favourite design? Do you have any favourite designers?

My favourite design is simple, organic, raw and maybe naive. I always go back to the source to look for inspiration, artist and educator Sister Corita Kent, french graphic collective GRAPUS, the immortal John Lee Hooker, American Wood Type, dutch designer Jan Bons, Cuban and polish movie posters from the seventies, the Paradiso posters by Martin Kaye, that kind of stuff, old stuff actually. 

Those are some of my favourites, but I also like modern designers that work in a traditional way. People that re-invent a certain craft, people like Anthony Burrill and Dafi Kuhne, or illustrators like Zeloot, Henning Wagenbreth and Max Kisman that have a bold style.

What inspires your designs, do you have a creative process you go through? If so what steps does this include?

My designs are influenced by things mentioned above, but I also get ideas or get motivated by looking at the work of my friends, being around students or collegues at University and teaching also inspires me.

But I am not an artist, I am a designer and my creative process starts working when I get an assignment, or when somebody asks me to join a project or exhibition. Especially when they tell me the restrictions, thats when I get creative, I feel quite happy within the restrictions actually. And often one thing leads to another, within one project I think of many solutions, and since I can only use one solution, I take some of the other ideas into my own projects. That is often the start of something new.

Do you have favourite themes you like to focus on?

I don’t have a certain theme, but I am in love with letters and words and sentences (their rhythm, shape and meaning). And I like to play with these words, and the letters, and create something new out of it. Make the word extra powerful, fool around or maybe confuse the reader, or should I say the spectator? At best my work is happening somewhere in between reading and looking.

Any big plans for the future? Any cool collaborations lined up that we should watch out for?

I still have a few things to finish, half-finished prints, and some ideas on the shelf but no big plans. In the future I would like to make bigger stuff. Bigger than my posters usually are, for example build a poster installation. Or maybe start painting murals, but that’s quite a leap.

More concrete: I am looking forward to participating in a workshop hosted by swiss designer Dafi Kühne this november. If you don’t know about him you should really check out his work. He’s a special example of a modern designer re-inventing the craft (of letterpress in this case). I am sure this will have some impact on the way I look at things, or at least I hope!

We hope you've enjoyed reading all about Mr Adam as much as we have!

Click here to browse through his amazing prints.