022023: Manifestations of Romance

Me standing in a colorful room, taking my photo in the mirror, camera in front of my face

Berlin, 6:25 pm, new note: I am typing this in iA Writer’s “focus mode”, a tool that highlights only the very current section that is being edited. I never use it because focus, what even is that?! Haven’t heard from her in years. And you, dear reader, haven’t heard from me and this letter in months, either, so: Welcome back.

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Some smaller towns in Italy have so-called “Necrologi.” Big analog boards in the center of the town, or at relevant pedestrian crossings, that originally announced the passing of a parishioner. When walking through the cities around Amalfi coast this summer, I saw them. Posters informed passers-by about recent deaths, yes, but also about upcoming celebrations, concerts and the town’s goings-on. They were not advertisement billboards; they were very local, specific platforms for communities to share events of interest.

The famous Parisian bookshop Shakespeare and Company has been cultivating a wall of analog notifications for ages. On little paper notes, people share messages, stories, call-outs for other visitors to dig through and find each other. True love may or may not be found in those layers and layers of paper, but the board itself is a manifestation of romance that visitors long for. Paper as a real connection to a stranger.

And also: Do you remember BVG Augenblicke? Berlins public transport system, BVG, used to have a digital platform where people who shared a moment on the train—a smile, a gaze, a brief conversation with a stranger—could find each other again. Oftentimes, secondary romance is to be avoided (as it turns out less exciting as expected), but having the tools—both digital and analog—to give it a chance; it was magic. Technology was magic!

As a true millennial, I stopped believing in digital tools as true connectors for a while now. But I don’t mind it too much. I’m just over it, really. Like Jason Parham writes in his essay on wired.com: “It’s not that I consider myself too old for social media, or the pace and attention it requires. I’m just less interested in being everywhere these days.” Same, really. I still enjoy posting to my Instagram story from time to time or write a blog post when I have something to share or need to feel productive. It’s ok to realize that the magic has vanished. Maybe it’s to be found offline, on public notice boards and in book shops and on train rides and through the people I already know. Or within a little community of readers and friends like you—thanks for sticking around!

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The last issue of this newsletter was sent in May. Summer passed, the world still spins, sometimes and recently so furiously that it has been hard to manage. I hope you do, somehow.

One of my coping strategies: I keep writing my monthly lists. They keep up the feeling of being creative, or at least productive; it’s some output that comes around every month. If you’re interested in what’s happened during my summer, find some notes from June, or September, or simply scroll through this blog. I’m planning on sending them out as a separate newsletter in the future because who visits weblogs these days, really. I’ll keep this letter as an English format, though.

How was your summer? Where are you right now? I’d love to hear from you: What’s been keeping you spinning? I hope you’re well!

(If you enjoy content like this: I send it out as an irregular newsletter called Christel’s CornerSign up for it here.)


UFO-like house; a white capsule with round windows, with small people in front of it

Futuro by Matti Suuronen
in front of Pinakothek der Moderne / Munich.

Dog Person

Animiertes Gifs einer Zeichnung eines kleinen Pudels

I never really knew how to talk to dogs. They never seemed to get me, either. And they often felt a bit gross and dirty to me. I was a cat person. Cats are gentle and soft and calm, they don’t smell and they move quietly; always cautious, always in control.

But a while ago, a dog came into my life. She was young and nervous and constantly moving and breathing and freaking me out. She made me nervous, too. There was no calming purring sound, and I missed the soft fur of the cats I was used to. 

Over the last months though, we got used to each other. We shared the nervousness, and I know how to talk to her now. I know that she doesn’t really care for my gentle words—she wants to run and play and she wants to chew on rough toys. 

As I met a friend’s cat the other day, I noticed a difference. I lost my gentleness, I touched the cat too aggressively, I was—quite frankly—shocked about my interaction with her. It took me a while to slow down again. To be calm, to listen, to await the cat’s next move. But then I heard the soft purring, felt the soft fur against my hands, and it put me at ease again. 

I’m teaching that to the dog now. If she wants us to get along, she needs to deal with quietness from time to time. And I need to deal with action from time to time. We’re both getting better at it. 

012023: Dogs, Beans, and Red Badges

Me sitting in a big golden picture frame outside, in the back of the picture: a lake and tree

I’m currently on a train back to Berlin. My sparse data plan is already used up, and as the train’s wifi is not working, I am treating myself to five hours of flight mode. Over the past months or maybe even years, I became extremely sloppy with answering text messages. The little red badges on my phone’s apps kept multiplying exorbitantly—until I finally deactivated them. I used to be on top of my game and very active on social media, eager to connect to people and keep digital conversations going. I found it exciting, and I gained energy from the digital exchange. But looking at those 15 unread WhatsApp messages, 10 long Instagram direct messages awaiting a reply, and an email app very far away from “inbox zero”, I have to admit that I am not that person on top of their game anymore. I can’t keep up.

But I also have to say: I don’t want any of it. I want to be at the bottom of things. Endless conversation streams are almost as exhausting as endless meetings, endless classical concerts, and endless scrollable feeds. I prefer things to have a beginning and an end. A narrative, so to speak.

Just as I struggle with keeping a tidy inbox, I feel exhausted keeping up with current debates on technology. After Elon Musk bought Twitter and sent it down its hell ride, I basically left the platform. I do not miss it; those timelines and “digital products” in general have lost their joy and meaning for me. Therefore, I missed most of the early and heated debate on ChatGPT. I do find its rise interesting, to some extent. But I do not care about computer-generated vocals, or artificial radio hosts, or machine-written movies. There’s no joy in that; we’ll get bored by it quickly. I am more curious about how people and states will learn to live with these inflammatory tools, and I want to see them bring an actual positive impact to the world. Haven’t read much about that yet. Until then, I’ll mute the buzzwords. We still are in control of who and what we pay attention to—at least for now we are.

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On dogs. When spending time with the dog, I remembered the On Being podcast episode with artist and illustrator Maira Kalman. She describes dogs in the most beautiful way: “They’re heroic, and they’re comic at the same time, which I guess is my favourite way of looking at things.” In her book Beloved Dog, she writes: “They are constant reminders that life reveals the best of itself when we live fully in the moment and extend our unconditional love.”

On beans. I’ve been enjoying Kerry Cunningham’s newsletter Circle Back so much recently! She’s so funny! I loved this issue about Anish Kapoor’s new and sad Bean sculpture in New York from a while ago. Subscribe here.

On the blog: I keep writing my monthly lists. They’re a good processor of life’s events. Read all lists, or specifically January 23, February 23, March 23, April 23.

Briefly noted: My friend/colleague/accomplice Sonja and I will host our annual Writing = Design workshop at University of the Arts in Berlin this summer. It’s one week (August 7 – 11) of writing and exploring text, and if this sounds like it could be something for you: It is! English language, everyone is welcome, find all the details here.

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I hope you had a great start into the year and are enjoying some of the much needed spring sun that has been appearing every once in a while recently. Watch out for big red notification badges, turn them off, even, and go for a little walk. Greetings from within flight mode.

(If you enjoy content like this: I send it out as an irregular newsletter called Christel’s CornerSign up for it here.)

022022: Books from Boxes

Drawing of me underneath a lot of moving boxes

I am sitting in between towers of moving boxes, filled with my clothes, my books, my stuff – just so much stuff that needs to change coordinates with me. I am moving! Well, I did—that’s what I spent the whole November and December with. Packing things up in boxes is a cathartic process. I wasn’t able to get rid of as many things as I wished, but eventually, I took this as a sign that I am already surrounded by the things I love, and I want to keep them. Ok, most of them.

Finding space for all this life within a new place is a long and exhausting (and sometimes also expensive) process, and every once in a while, I need to remind myself that this is all fun and I am doing it for me and I finally get to decorate and design everything exactly the way I want to. I cannot help but wonder: Is it more difficult to chose a wall color when you’re a visual thinker; an aesthete? Shouldn’t it be easier? Maybe I am just a slow decision maker, and that’s ok, too. I’ll get there.

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As 2022 comes to an end, let’s briefly look at the hard facts and feelings:

I moved into a new apartment, which was an unbelievable (the apartment is perfect!) and stressful (I have not done this in quite a while!) process. However, I am here now, lurking out of all those boxes that still need to be unpacked. Home makes me very happy and thankful.

I had several teaching jobs in 2022: Web design at Merz Academy, my annual Writing = Design workshop week with Sonja, and a whole semester’s course at UdK on writing about illustration. All these jobs were completely different, but I got the chance to find out that a) I want to do more of it, and b) I developed a better understanding for how my style of teaching and working with students could work. Now, let’s see where it fits in.

In July, we founded our cooperative: Village One. Since then, we’ve been talking to other coops, thought a lot about our company approach, and obviously did some work, too: For example, we helped Neue Narrative to rebrush their website, we teamed up with Cobot to do a big research project, and we work closely together with Publix, a new house for Journalism in Berlin; building their digital infrastructure. I definitely enjoy the variety, but I sometimes miss the office buzz you normally get with a company. Working remotely and alone at home as a freelancer is fine, but teaming up with others feels different when you meet at the kitchen table. Anyway, a lot is planned for 2023 with Village One; follow us if you’re curious. We’re also looking for a designer to join the team!

I continued writing my little column for the form design magazine: This year, I wrote about the cloud (295), desktop publishing (296), buttons (297) and phone sex (298). You can see some videos about the columns on my Instagram, and buy the magazine online.

Both writing and drawing exercises felt a little thin this year. I miss it, but other big projects occupied my desk. However, I did write my monthly diary recaps on the blog (find them here) and I was involved in two book projects: For Lorenz Meyer’s “Kreuzfahrt durch die Republik” I drew cover + portraits, and for Gabriel Yoran’s new Genussbuch »Wenn das Leben dir Zitronen gibt, mach Dressing draus« I drew the cover and some spots. Next year, I want to make something just for myself. More depth, less instagram.

What else? I travelled places! I am not a traveller, it makes me nervous and I find it so exhausting that I forget about the beauty and the new input I bring home with me. I went to Vienna (I love you!), I spent my time in pools and restaurants in Greece, I went to Rome and ate all the things. It was nice. Let’s say it like that: I am not into traveling, but I do enjoy a nice vacation. Find me at the pool.

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As December’s days rush by so quickly, another year is put to the archives. Boxes, archives, folders – how are these the symbols of my year?! Sorry that this letter turned into some work-focussed yada yada, with little wisdom and no new year’s predictions from within my crystal ball. Current times are so wonky, I decided to avoid outlooks and be more here, in this tower of boxes—in this slice of air and time.

I haven’t written this letter in a while, but it feels good to be back at it. How has your year been? What comes next? Send me a reply, if you like, or we’ll find each other in other ways in the next year; it’s almost there. Another year, another round, make it count.

(If you enjoy content like this: I send it out as an irregular newsletter called Christel’s CornerSign up for it here.)

012022: It Takes A Village

a yellow curtain being pulled to the side

Coordinates: It’s half past midnight and I just switched the light back on to start typing this. It was one of those situations we all know: As soon as you put your body to rest, your mind starts wandering, walking, sometimes running. So did mine – and another issue of this newsletter was long overdue! So here we are: 0:24am. Welcome back!

Log book: Since the last newsletter, six months passed by. I kept true to my belief that one should only write something when there is something to tell, and the last months have been so full of work and projects and business that I didn’t know how to make shareable sense of everything. That’s why I sticked to the simple format of lists: I made one for every month of 2022 so far, and if you understand German, you can read them all in the blog. However, I actually do have some bigger news I want to share with you:

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I am co-founding a company! For the last two years, I’ve been enjoying my freelance life and all the freedom that comes with it, but I’ve been missing exchange and tackling bigger, more relevant topics with a team of smart people. Luckily, I found these people, I’ve been knowing them all along. For a while, we’ve been talking about how we want to work, what we want to work on, and how we can build a framework that provides a flexible, democratic work environment to design and build digital products.

That’s why we decided to found a cooperative: Village One. ✨ We signed all the paperwork on Friday, and it is all very exciting!

Why cooperative though? As it is owned by its workers, the format truly ensures that everyone can have a say and steer the company towards the right direction. The world and our society are battling so many crises at the moment, and as much as designers like to tell themselves that „design will save the world“ – it won’t, I’m sorry, not until we use our energy for the right things. Overcome capitalist thinking; putting the planet over profit; redistribute privilege; foster a calmer, better society; online and offline – that’s what we aim for. It sounds utopian, yes, but we have to start creating the right frameworks to steer the narrative. Harry Keller, one of my co-founders, puts it very well in his newsletter (which I highly recommend):

For a long time I’ve felt powerless and unsure what I can contribute here, but over the past months I’ve sat down with a few thoughtful people and we’ve sketched out a new kind of workplace. A place that embraces emergence over hierarchical planning, a place that’s owned by all its workers, embracing diversity and new perspectives, which is democratically governed, feminist, anti-racist, curious and humble, choosing cooperation over competition, operating as a distributed team with asynchronous workflows, enabling maximum flexibility for its people, empowering them to live the life they want.

At the moment, we’re a small team, but we’re very excited to get going with our first projects, build our own site, and get to know more people (maybe you?) that are interested in our idea. I’d be happy if you followed along; on twitter, on our mailing list, or just by reaching out (simply by replying to this e-mail).

You can read even more about it on our Village One site (more content to come!) and in Harry’s recent newsletter.

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We’re still busy getting everything up and running, but I wanted to have you all aboard already and share the news with you (and also the reason that kept me so busy during the past months). So, what else happened?

I wrote more columns for form design magazine about digital nostalgia: One about the Cloud, and the most recent one about Desktop Publishing. Ordering the printed magazine is highly recommended; the form team always manages to add a big variety of perspectives towards one topic; most recently: Generations.

During this summer semester, from April to July, I teach a course at University of the Arts Berlin. Together with the students, we work on a book about the University’s illustration class, and I teach writing techniques. Mark your calendars: The „UdK Rundgang“ is on July 22–24.

Also: You can still sign up for my one-week writing workshop Writing = Design together with Sonja Knecht from August 8–12, 2022, in Berlin. I’m already excited for it, it’s going to be fun!

On the blog: I’ve been listening to OTTO, Belle & Sebastian and Charli XCX a lot, I wrote about the annoyance of queues in Berlin, and about weird drinking glasses.

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Ok. That was a lot, take some deep breaths now. Six months of stuff, but I’ll let you go enjoy the sunny weather now. I hope you’re all well, savoring summer, soaking up the sun!

(If you enjoy content like this: I send it out as an irregular newsletter called Christel’s CornerSign up for it here.)

052021: I Need a Camera to My Eye

Photo of a black notebook

Sitting on the train back home to Berlin, after a week at my parent’s home: the idea of my own pillow, my own coffee machine, my own trip to the super market makes me cherish the fact that I am a grown-up; that I only slip into the child’s role for a couple of days a year. I am very thankful for having a family that I can visit over the holidays—we do not argue about politics or vaccines or the Christmas menu. But I am also thankful that I have a life of my own, a life I can design the way I please. That fact that I can do things differently.

As the cities pass by the train window, I flip through my phone’s camera roll. The past year felt longer than usual; whatever happened in the beginning of 2021 appears to be two, three years ago. What is left of it? My brain can’t slice the year up into months anymore, everything gets blurry, and a couple of snapshots throughout the year help to cluster moments and events and ups and downs. What is a good way to make sense of your personal past? I have a messy way of keeping track of life: During the year I switch between various notebooks and note-taking apps, write lists and memories, organize a digital calendar, but everything is all over the place and hard to delve through. As a visual thinker, my camera roll really is the one place that keeps everything connected: A quick glimpse into the past that holds feelings, places, and faces. I wish I’d be less awkward in taking pictures—after all, they’re my extended memory. The smartphone itself doesn’t make me a cyborg; the camera roll does.

Then again: I am still a hopeless romantic when it comes to hand-writing, diaries and notebooks. For 2022, I bought a thick daily calendar, with the great intention to jot down one or two thoughts every day. Inward and outward looking, getting closer to what happens, finding my own language for everyday life, and making it my own.

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2021 wrapped: I designed a poster for Berlinale Talents. Together with Gabriel, I published a small fun book. I’ve been to the sea side, and I walked on the frozen canal. I lived off orange cake and ravioli and fancy lemonades. I wrote a lot less than I wanted, but my blog is alive and well—I still wish we would all go back to blogging and ditch Instagram and its lousy companions. I discovered great new music; just recently: Haruomi Hosono and Gilligan Moss. I read 16 books, and wrote four columns for form design magazine.

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As for 2022: All will continue. Make it yours as much as you can. Another year, another round, make it count.

(If you enjoy content like this: I send it out as an irregular newsletter called Christel’s CornerSign up for it here.)