Interview with Holger Oehrlich, CD of Jung von Matt


Mercedes, Nike, Nikon, GE, ebay, EDEKA,…. the list of Jung von Matt’s clients is almost endless. For more than 20 years now, this advertising and communication agency delivers unique concepts and outstanding publicity campaigns to the world. And that has many reasons…one of them is Holger Oehrlich. He is creative director of JVM in Stuttgart (Germany) and we are very happy to have him for an interview. Enjoy reading and get inspired.


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1. Hi Holger. What is it that makes Jung von Matt so successful, that the biggest brands in the world want to work with you?

How can I answer that, without sounding kind of weird?
I think it takes a consistent attitude and the will to always come up with creations as well as possible. Our motto „we stay unsatisfied“ hits the nail pretty well. We keep questioning ourselves to improve ourselves. And this works for more than 20 years now. Many of our clients are working with us for many, many years and some of them since right from the start. Our agency gained a lot of trust here over the years, this is why clients allow bolder concepts more often. And on top of that some of the most brilliant creatives I have ever seen work here at Jung von Matt.

2. Jung von Matt has many international studios. Do they normally work on different projects or do they cooperate somehow? Or are they actually responsible for a particular field?

On the one hand each of our studios has got his own costumer base. But on the other hand there are client briefings, which require ideas from all our studios. For example, almost all of our studios worked for the latest Mercedes project, due to the huge amount of work and budget. And of course, we help each other out within lacks of capacities.

Depending on needs and tasks, we offer additional support for agencies that specialized in a subject area. We have specialists for Corporate Design (Jvm Brand Identity), Music (White Horse Music), a pure digital department (Jvm / next) or even for sports sponsorship (Jvm / sports).

3. Is it difficult sometimes to judge your colleagues work without hurting their feelings or their designer dignity? How can you learn to make „the right“ decision?

Yes, it really is hard sometimes to dismiss a concept or layout. If someone puts a lot of time and effort into his work, he surely is emotionally attached to it.
But as a creative/ concepter you definitely have to free yourself from such things…because at the end, all that matters is the result and the idea with the biggest relevance. But since I see myself as kind of a instructor with some more years of experience, I give reasons and arguments for why something is good or less good – cause people need to learn.

Making the right decision is depends on many factors. To know the client, his product, his brand and especially his vision is the most important thing. Interest and curiosity. Experience. And at least your inner voice. I hear some kind of „click“ inside of me, when we worked out something great that will work. Something we like.

4. How do you keep yourself and your department „happy“ when it has been stressful again? Do you have any kind of special rituals or something?

After we have won a pitch or a stressful phase for example, we do have breaks – that means we all go out for dinner, some drinks or we even party together.
I also give people extra vacation days. A ritual of ours is the „after work“. Many of our studios have that. That means at Friday evening we shut down or computers, grap a beer and have some nice and easy talks.

5. What is the biggest difference between a director and a designer? Does every designer with enough experience automatically have what it takes to be a director?

A creative director has got a more managing function. I design less and less. There are examples, of course, but the whole purpose of a CD is to guide people and to refine their work and results. That requires a lot of time and shrinks my „creation part“. But I do not really miss designing. It is really varied and a lot of fun to see what comes out at the end. I rather show the direction, settle the concept and take care of the presentations.

I don’t believe that each designer has what it takes to be a director – and that has nothing to do with his or her actual creative potential. You have to love to deal with people, like to take responsibility and you need to able to take back your own creative impulses. And not everybody wants to do such things. Unfortunately, in Germany it somehow is a career thing too. Some think they need to become CD to have it in their CV. To me it was kind of the other way around. At some point it wasn’t necessary for me anymore to design by myself. I found it surprisingly inspiring to motivate other creatives and to experience even more diversity.


6. In your opinion, how important is good freehand sketching these days in everyday work?

Sketching – to my regret – came off way to much back in my education days, what certainly had to do with the education range itself. The spectrum of a designer today is certainly wider than 20 years ago.
I do not expect a „Da Vinci“, but it definitely helps a lot to be able to check an idea visually. Sometime a couple of lines are already enough. And therefore a piece of paper and a pen still is the best tool.


7. What software do you prefer in your studio and why?

I like Photoshop the most. I think it is because I am a visual being. I think in pictures, movies, stories. And therefore this tool is perfect. I just like creating new looks and doing experiments due to this program.

8. Who inspired you when you were a student?

Back in my days („cough“) David Carson was very big. I loved is experimentation, the trashy, uninhibited, the brave. But who I liked most was Vaughan Oliver. He actually designed every record of my favorite label 4AD. His design studio was v23 in London. I literally smelled like wide world and making beautiful things.

9. MAC or Windows?

I used to have a PC once, when I studied Product Design, so I can do CAD and such. That was a grey-brown-yellowish box. There was a „Turbo“ button in the front and when I pushed it I was never really sure if anything actually happened. It was incredibly ugly. That has affected me to this day. So I like MACs, and not only for optical reasons 🙂

10. Do you have a tip or advice for all the students out there, that you would have loved to hear back in the days?

No matter what field you are in – look out for the best addresses. There is always a reason in quality why someone is ahead of others. Even if it means you have to move away. The early years are pretty crucial for your portfolio. Quality has nothing to do with the size, with the number of employees. Anyone who has been in a „less good“ agency, usually gets no chance to make something qualitatively better, not even if he changes the agency. You can only be as good as the agency you work for and learn best from the best. Later, it is harder to get around.

Thank you Holger for your time and for sharing your experience with us. It is very intersting to hear about design processes from a non-designer point of view.
Check out the Jung von Matt website here and make sure you watch all the impressive videos there!


Special Give Away for all creatives!

We raffle an „art helps“ book by Thomas Lupo, sponsored by Jung von Matt. If you want to see some A-Class graphic design, just leave your opinion about the interview below or “like” and especially share our facebook post about this interview here, to get the chance to win. We will contact you, if you are the lucky one!

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