In Conversation With KesselsKramer
Amsterdam’s KesselsKramer are a legend. The 15 year-old creative firm is a master of subversion, and has had the balls to saw against the grain and break conventions in advertising and brand communication. The agency has nothing if not audacious principles, having once gone so far as to sever ties over an unfortunate name change with a client who factured 60% of their revenue. With a flourishing base in the Netherlands, the agency also has a satellite studio/shop in London called KK Outlet, a labyrinthine website (which is downright hilarious once you get the joke), publishes a host of cheeky and enjoyable books, and works with clients around the world.
We met half of the KesselsKramer’s namesake, Erik Kessels, twice this week at the Triennale, first at the new Graphic Design Worlds exhibition in which the agency had an impressive display, and last night at an open discussion forum he held for creatives around Milan for the occasion of the agency’s new book of collected works, “A New Kilo.” Following the agency’s first monograph at the conclusion of their first decade called “Two Kilos,” the book is an amalgamation of every work the agency has done – an honest everything-on-the-table approach, with no selective sprucing up. “A New Kilo”, five years worth of works, weighs one kilo, and with a grand total of three kilos of work behind them at a steady rate of one per half-decade, KesselsKramer is quite prolific. Although the discussion was brief, Mr. Kessels visionary irreverence and engaging personality was an excellent insight into the his remarkable agency.
Below is a (very) abridged version of some highlights from the conversation.
Are you bored of the word communication?
Yes. It no longer means anything.
How do you manage to be so different?
If you look at men’s underwear advertising, it’s always the same. If you look at a poster for a ballet show, it’s always the same. And this is quite nice, because when you have a job like that it’s very easy to do something original.
Why are you interested in making things… wrong?
Errors and mistakes are very interesting! Many of Vitra’s best designers were first architects who made their buildings, and then they asked them to make furniture. And they didn’t know how to make furniture, but they were willing to experiement and worked without any rules and made many mistakes. And now those pieces are the classics! It’s sometimes nice to start with no knowledge of something and dare to make a mistake.
So, you don’t shape your work around your clients?
No. We’re well known in the design and advertising worlds, but we’re not so well known to clients. Especially outside Holland. We even have a website on which you can’t find our telephone number.
Is it difficult for KesslersKramer to work with non-Dutch clients? The agency’s attitude is so off-the-wall and Dutch that it must be a battle to do business with, for instance, conservative Italian clients.
We actually do quite a bit of work with Italian clients… Diesel, Trussardi, and we’ve had success all over the world. Actually, we’ve worked most with Italian clients. But for some strange reason, we haven’t done any work with German clients!
Thanks Erik! And don’t miss KesslersKramer’s excellent work at Graphic Design Worlds, occupying the entire back left corner of the display space until March 25th.
Tag Christof – images courtesy KesslersKramer Publishing and KK Outlet