Christoph Niemann is a Berlin-based artist and freelance illustrator. During his studies in Germany in the late ’90s, he worked as an intern at Pentagram with Paula Scher in New York. After completing his studies, he went back to New York and started his successful career as an illustrator. He regularly designs covers for The New Yorker and New York Times Magazine among other amazing graphic design work. He created The New Yorker’s first augmented reality cover (see below), authored many books and created a children’s app. Apart from being interviewed on numerous podcasts and doing a Ted talk, Netflix made an entire episode about him on the Abstract series. Niemann has an amazing sense of humour, that you’ll find not only in his work but also in his interviews or talks.
Despite all his success, he talks openly about his anxiety and what life is really like as a professional artist. In his talk for 99u Niemann talks about “The 3 Fears Every Creative Faces“, which might be very relatable and relevant for a lot of us, even though we are just starting out. With witty humour, he shares his three worst fears of not being good enough, not surviving on being a creative and being out of ideas. He explores these fears, what feeds them and how to deal with them so that they won’t impact his creativity. Niemann reminds us, that feeling grumpy or anxious and being full of self-doubt is completely normal during a creative process, especially when you have to meet a deadline. He suggests to just embrace those feelings and listen occasionally to your harsh inner critic in order to find out what to improve. The solution he found for himself to conquer the “I’m-not-good-enough-fear” is to view making art as a craft and working hard to improve your skills, which, I think, is especially true for us students. To get the creative process going when he worries about being out of ideas, he forces himself to take time out to just play around. Niemann suggests applying the 20% rule, meaning that 20% of your creative time should be just goofing around with little or no relevance to your actual projects. I shared this because I admire how openly Niemann talks about his very personal struggles of being a creative. I find listening to him talk about his fears very helpful, especially when considering that freelance or employed work as a creative, such as illustrator or graphic designer could be a future option. To me personally, it means you can be successful despite your anxiety.
I hope you enjoy listening to this talk 👇 as much as I do!