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Designer Dialogues: Mats Horbach

18 June 2019

Floor Frings being interviewed by Mats Horbach, ©Anniek Mol
The creatives of Sectie-C, an Eindhoven based design hub, initiated BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE, a magazine that portrays different creative makers in their workplaces while interviewed by colleagues. What fascinates, inspires and drives them to do what they do? Especially for, BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE edited the interviews into interesting short stories. In this article, we’re talking to designer and Editor in Chief of Blank Space Magazine, Mats Horbach.

What is Blank Space Magazine and who is behind it?

In Blank Space Magazine we interview designers on why they do what they do. We started with a group of creatives from Sectie-C: photographers, text editors and designers. All the photography, stories, design and production regarding Blank Space Magazine have been done by people from Sectie-C.
Therefore, for the first issue of the magazine, we chose to solely interview designers with a design studio at Sectie-C. We were very curious about all the stories that are hidden in all these studios (ed. all the short of the first issue can be found here). Now, for the second issue, we also want to look at other creative communities in Eindhoven to see what the influence is of these communities on the designers over there.

Why did you decide to make a second issue?

At the moment, we are very busy working on the second issue. The reason why we want to publish a second issue is the same as the reason we started the magazine in the first place. I find it extremely interesting to talk with other designers about: Why they do what they do. We don’t focus on what the designer produces for a change, because that conversation is more common. At exhibitions, design fairs, or in design magazines, it is all about the final design and the designer. Even when the designers show the process behind their work, as can often be seen at Dutch Design Week, you see a curated version of the process.

As a designer you are trained to almost always be in a presentation-mode. With a lot of care designers think about the way their projects should be presented. Everything that is shown to the outside world about their work, or about themselves as designers is therefore very controlled. Because of that, we barely talk about: Why do you do what you do? Why do you think your work should exist? This is interesting, because most designers have an unbelievably strong drive to create. To create you have to have a strong vision on what do you want to add to the world. With the conversations in Blank Space Magazine we zoom in on this intrinsic motivation and what it means for their practice.
Corrandino Garofaldo and Joan Vellve Rafecas interview Michiel Martens and Jetske Visser (Martens & Visser) in the first issue about why they have decided to work together as a duo, and I talk with Job van den Berg about his love and fear of chairs.
The most important thing of Blank Space Magazine is that we look at the designer. What is their story and what kind of choices did they make in the development that they go through.

Tessa Koot being interviewed by Anne Ligtenberg and Mats Horbach
© Saskia Overzee

What did you think were the most interesting things from the conversations in the first issue?

I found the conversation Thomas Dal had with Paul Heijnen very interesting. I don’t really know Paul, but I know his work very well. Especially then, it is very interesting to read how strategically and well planned he is building his own design studio. He has a clear five and ten year plan, and knows what kind of work he has to make at a given moment in time to get the assignments that he wants.
The story of Niels Hoebers is also a good example. He explains, in a conversation he had with Martijn van der Ven, which choices he makes for his studio and his development as a designer, and the consequences of these decisions.
From these interviews you get a clear picture of the search of designers for what they want to create as well as the question whether it is relevant for others. Each creative person deals with this and it is a very interesting conversation to have. The people behind Blank Space Magazine felt that there had to be a stage for these stories.

Do we see your focus on backgrounds of the designers reflected in the design choices for the printed magazine?

Definitely, Anne Ligtenberg and I have done the graphic design for the printed magazine and we have chosen to use this to strengthen the character of each interview. For example, Tessa Koot is a strong personality so we made her text bold and gave the questions a much lighter font. We also played with the layout. For the interview with Martens & Visser we amplified the stillness in their story and photography, and we reflected the playfulness of Job van den Berg in the placement of the photos.
Also, we have deliberately chose to avoid product photos. The photo shoots took place during the interview, because we wanted to show the background of the designer and not a curated and cleaned-up studio.
The nice thing of being creative ourselves is that the designers trust us to use their content with great care. This made it easier for them to show us see the backside of their practice. In this way, other designers and people interested in design get a look into a usually almost always hidden world.

Esther Jongsma and Sam van Gurp (VANTOT) being interviewed by Mats Horbach
© Manon Vosters

Can you already tell give us a sneak peak of what we can find in the second issue?

In the second issue we’ll interview designers based on Sectie-C, but also designers who are situated on other, similar creative hubs in Eindhoven. In the conversations we'll focus some more on the value of the community around the designers. For example, I interviewed Esther Jongsma and Sam van Gurp (VANTOT) on how they started within a collective and on their current role on Sectie-C.
Andre Wiersma has been interviewed about his influence on all designers whom have graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven. Floor Frings (Mato Architects) talks about why she has chosen to have her studio surrounded by designers and Anne Ligtenberg interviews Mieke Meijer about the group of design studios that are based on Strijp-T.
In the coming weeks you’ll find the short versions of these interviews and more of Blank Space Magazine issue #2 here at The second issue is being produced as we speak and will debute at Dutch Design Week 2019. 

Want to stay up to date about Blank Space Magazine? Follow Mats and his colleagues here.
Interview: Anne Ligtenberg | Photography: Britt Roelse, Manon Vosters, Saskia Overzee, Maarten Coolen | Tekst editor: Mats Horbach