We had the good fortune of connecting with Alexander Kohnke and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alexander, why did you pursue a creative career?
I have always been creative and have always enjoyed creative projects. The process itself puts me in a very focused and absorbed mindset that I enjoy tremendously. I like learning how to use new tools and exploring how they might apply to a project. I love doing something I have never done before. There is a great satisfaction in creating something that did not exist before. I have always come back to my creative work; it is something I was always confident about. I got an education as a designer starting in Germany and then at Art Center, Pasadena. It gave me a broad set of skills I could apply to a wide range of endeavours: graphic design, drawing, photography, printmaking, digital animation etc. From there I’ve been steadily exploring. Sometimes consciously sometimes unconsciously changing directions. I try to work on things that hold my interest, things I find important and valuable. I have tried to learn to listen to my gut more and my brain less. My journey has taken me from small branding shops to big advertising firms, interactive to print, design to fine art, Los Angeles to San Diego. What has endured through this process and what I am spending most of my time on currently is designing art books and my own art practice. I love how in many ways one feeds the other, and how a clear distinction is very healthy. My design work is purposeful and rewarding in ways the artwork could never be; the artwork on the other hand is free from external interference and guided mostly by curiosity. Even as artwork can inspire design, it also saves it from too much self-indulgence. Both have a very specific purpose, one found within, the other outside of oneself.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My work as a book designer focuses on the documentation, and preservation as well as making accessible other artists’ work. The books I design put the artists’ work front and center and support it with careful choices of everything from printing and paper to fonts and layout. I often consult in the photographing of the work, as well as in color proofing, choosing printers and even publishers. Books are a medium all their own, and what might work in an exhibition of an artists’ work may not work in reproducing it in printed form. There are a million decisions to be made and all of them will determine the success or failure of a good book or exhibition catalog. I am working on projects based all over the west coast, but I would love to foster more art publishing in San Diego. There are so many great artists in town that should have their work documented, discussed and published, and I’d love to be a part of making that happen.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Go paddle out at Pipes, take a hike in Elfin Forest, find some good food in the Conroy district and some art in Barrio Logan.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There have been a lot of people who helped me along the way, giving me opportunities, jobs and advice. Early on Rebeca Mendez (rebecamendez.com) and the ever-illusive Simon Johnston (simonjohnstondesign.com) for teaching me concepts I still use everyday, Liliane Tanner (lilitcalifornia.com) and later on, Tracey Shiffman my partner in crime at Shiffmankohnke.com. In San Diego the amazing Hugh Davies and of course Ginger Shullick Procella (@prudentaggression) for first showing my work, but most of all a shout-out to my wife Hillary Sunenshine (sunenshine.com), who has always believed in my work and encouraged me to put myself out there, who puts up with me asking for feedback even if I don’t want any, only to come around some time later…
Linkedin: alex kohnke
Portrait: ©Shawn Michael (@shawnsaintmichael)