Interview with Mads Jakob Poulsen… Designer

How about starting off by telling the NAPP members a little bit about you?

I am a graphic designer from Copenhagen, Denmark. I live and work in New York where I am a Senior Designer at Wolff Olins, making cool stuff. This means making inspiring identity designs and packaging in the world of branding.

You have recently moved from Copenhagen to New York to further your design career. Have you had to make any changes in the way you work or create?

Wolff Olins is definitely a very collaborative place, both in the studio and in the world, with whomever we might see as a good partner for specific projects. This has opened up a lot of doors and is really just an inspiring way to work.

Why did you decide to focus on design? What inspires your designs? Who inspires you?

It came very naturally to me; I’ve always been inspired by everything visual, colors, letters, compositions and product design. Everything inspires me, literally. My eyes are open everywhere I go, sometimes I have to force myself not to be on the lookout for inspiration. Take some hours off. Being a designer really is a full time job/hobby.

You have a great eye for typography… what would you recommend for designers who want to become better at this?

Thanks, experience I guess – I love typography, even though I am very picky about what typefaces I use. Be aware how much power is in typefaces. A typeface can literally change the mood and meaning of the text you are setting. That’s why I don’t want the typeface to get in the way of the idea.

Papyrus or Comic Sans… which is worse? 😀

No comment.

Do you do a lot of sketching and designing on paper and then bring your designs into the computer, or do you prefer to work straight into the computer? What percentage of your work is done in Photoshop?

I do a lot of sketching, I try and carry notebooks with me all the time or I doodle something on my phone if I get an idea with no paper near me. Best ideas come from something that’s easy to draw, so it’s definitely not about being super great at drawing but just getting your ideas out.

Photoshop for me is great for making your ideas understandable for a client. Most work I do starts by hand, then maybe goes into Illustrator and/or InDesign, whether it’s an identity I am working on or a packaging design. When it comes to finish in photography and presentation I move to Photoshop – the final makeover bringing the work to life.

What is your favorite product that you have helped design and why? What product design do you wish you had been on the creative team that developed it? What is it about that design that captures you?

Wow, that’s a hard question, I think I am most proud of the more iconic things I have worked on, the Widex package that went viral as YouTube featured it was a fun project. And I love that 80,000+ people have watched a video with a package design for hearing aids in it. Also the Current TV identity and Copenhagen Parts, again very straightforward designs that people can (hopefully) relate to.

I definitely wouldn’t mind to have worked on the FedEx logo, a classic that still has great impact, even though the identity is just that logo used way too big (it just works!)

I love product design, I would love to be a Creative Director working with great product designers. (I currently do not design in 3D software) Out of everyday products I love my Tivoli Audio Songbook that wakes me up every morning – great minimal yet friendly design with a tactile twist – pure and fun at the same time. I also Love (capital L) all the PlusMinusZero products by Naoto Fukasawa.

What has changed in your style or technique when compared to where you were say five years ago? What has been the biggest influence in that change?

Definitely experiencing that sky is the limit moving to New York, working at Wolff Olins where colleagues as well as clients are great inspiration. It’s really motivating being surrounded by people that believe they can make a difference in the world.

You have done design work for companies like Belkin and Current TV…what new design challenges would you like to take on in the next 5 years, and why?

As I said, I do love product design, so it would be great to integrate more of this into my work. I am also doing little side projects playing with the visual language. So instead of waiting for the perfect client that fits with a visual idea I have, I just might design something instantly just to put it out there. Like I did with the conceptual identity for Anonymous. It’s almost like a visual discussion, not about right or wrong.

To find out more about Mads and to see more of his work goto