Designing the beauty: Interview with Janneke Schrey
Janneke Schrey (b. 1986, Germany/Netherlands) is the heart of 1605 Publishers, its creative director. With a strong interest in fashion and a background in Design and Photography, she has always been fascinated by the art of any form. "The fondness for architecture and design runs in the family", she explains.
When she was 17, her future career path was already crystal clear. "I wanted to be a graphic designer, so that's how I ended up at Grafisch Lyceum Amsterdam (now Mediacollege Amsterdam)". Following this path, in 2019, she started working alongside her already favourite photographer, Bastiaan Woudt. It was a pivotal moment when two entrepreneurial and artistic minds merged. In 2020, together with Bastiaan, she founded 1605 Publishers: a platform focused on creating, conceiving, designing and publishing high-quality art books and representing the work of talented artists within these publications.
And today, we sat with Janneke to talk about her career, ideas and plans.
What can inspire you to design the next masterpiece?
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working", says Pablo Picasso and I cannot agree less. Of course, how I find my inspiration is different every time. The process depends on how busy I am or what's on my mind at that particular moment. For instance, during the design process of Kacper Kowalski's book, I found the flow when I was home alone at night. I could feel the ideas coming, so I immediately put the music on, made myself rum on the rocks (laughing) and started designing. You cannot sit there and order yourself: "ok, design something!", because you need to feel the flow. Especially when you're doing this work for someone. Then you must enter that person's state of mind and collide two worlds together.
My style is minimal, with the tendency for clean, black-and-white images, but I need to get out of this box from time to time. Otherwise, the work gets repetitive.
You would never see me designing work that is bursting in colour. Frankly, I would love to try just to get out of my comfort zone. For example, books by my favourite duo Albarrán Cabrera are out of my black and white focus but I love them. The work by this Spanish duo is in colour, yet it is still abstract, the quality usually assigned to the monochrome palette.
I also like Paul Cupido's work. He knows how to use colour very well. I would say, that he is drawn to an autumn palette of muddy green, indigo, golden yellow and burgundy red. Luckily, we have the whole library here at 1605 to be inspired with. It always helps a lot to see how other people do it, so you can maybe choose how not to do it or gather useful ideas. I am particularly inspired by the raw style. Back in the day, I used to work in fashion and have been always inspired by the work of the Belgian designer Martin Margiela. He uses raw materials and transforms them into high fashion items that look elegant yet simple. It's extraordinary.
Where does your love for minimalism and fall colours come from?
I think I was born with it. I never liked bright colours. According to my mum, even as a child, I would appeal to wear minimal black and white outfits.
So then, maybe the taste is coming from your parents?
Maybe, My mother is an interior designer and my grandfather was an architect. We had a lot of artistic influence at home.
Don't tell me you never wanted to have a Barbie in a pink outfit…
Would you believe that Barbies were too mellow for me (laughing)? I also grew up on an island with a younger brother. Our entertainment was fishing and swimming!
And back to book designing… Is there an artist whose book you would like to design?
Because of my love for minimal aesthetics, soft colours and personal stories, I would love to design a book with the work of Annemarieke van Drimmelen and also, Miriam Tölke. And we are escaping a bit from photography, then, definitely Margiela. I would love to design a kind of book which combines art, fashion, concept, and design under one roof.
What's your advice for someone who wants to become an art book designer?
Let the images of the project speak for themselves. The images should be the key point and you, as a designer, have to elevate the artist's work. Your job is to make it better without influencing it too much. And you can do it in many ways… choosing the right sequence for the images to compliment each other and create a strong story is only one of the possibilities. It has to be a combination of the two worlds because, without the design, the book is boring, but you can't have a design without good quality work. And of course, don't make it all about design, if the work isn't asking for it.
Each book you design is different (in terms of approach & style). How do you decide this?
For instance, the book by Babs Decruyenaere, which I am currently designing, has been an unusual and peculiar experience since the beginning. It consists of many transparent layers where each page complements the other. The artistic practice of Decruyenaere involves making sculptures out of natural elements like stones and rocks. Here, I needed to think and communicate this sculptural aspect of her work on paper. And so I searched online, checked several books and eventually came up with my original plan. I have like 120 books on my desk with posted notes and all kinds of good ideas - everything helps when you are searching your flow.
Is there something that you would never design?
I would never design a magazine/catalogue for a pharmacy or a supermarket. Not my thing! (laughing). Apart from this, I don't have any specific restrictions. As long as the work fits my aesthetics, I am all in.
I would even love to design something out of my comfort zone like, for instance, a book in the style of Antoine D’ágata. It is on my list to be a little over the edge and do something rawer. Artistic but maybe slightly shocking. Tasjaki by Henrik Purienne is a good example of what I would love to do, something uncomfortable yet soft and romantic. This project I would also rather do in a role of a photographer, not a designer.
And what, in your opinion, could kill the design?
The wrong choice of paper. I personally really don't like shiny paper as it gives it more of a catalogue vibe. I love matte uncoated paper and this is what we work with at 1605 Publishers. Also, I think an overcrowded design can kill the work. Unless the project requires this kind of approach.
What is the most important thing to consider when designing a book?
Always consider the artist's vision and establish trust. Because can you imagine giving all your work to someone who will kill it and cast a shadow on your name? (laughing)
What determines a specific design style in your case? What is your signature?
Minimalism and perfectionism, for instance, I am very picky with the tone of the paper. My work is clean and airy with plenty of white and black spaces around the images. As I have already mentioned, my personal preference is black and white work, but I do appreciate fall palette and nude colours.
In the past, you worked closely with fashion. How, in your opinion, do fashion and art relate?
Yes, a lot! It depends on the type of fashion, of course. But if we are talking about runway fashion and concept stores, then yes, 100%. On catwalks, the models present collections that are purely conceptual pieces created to show the artistic vision.
What is the distinct design style of 1605 Publishers?
It goes in line with my signature style: minimal, black and white, elegant, classy, yet contemporary. Here at 1605, with the team, we think and act out of the box.
How did you start at 1605 Publishers?
It all happened organically. The photographer Bastiaan Woudt wanted to establish a publishing house to publish his books. He also started an inspiring social media platform focused on the "are, bure, boke" photography style, which in Japanese means - "rough, blurred and out-of-focus." However, I suggested that we can make it bigger, creating not only a publishing house but also a platform that can involve not just photography but also design, architecture and painting. Apart from this, we also had an idea to create an online and print magazine where we will feature our art gems. Well, since we had the idea, we only needed to start the brand around it. And that's how we got here.
Right now, I am so grateful to be where I am - working in a beautiful studio with a supporting team and people who give you freedom and space to create something you love. And we want to continue designing even more books, create designer book-related pieces like bookstands and bookmarks, participate in art book fairs, do pop-up events and organise signing sessions. We want to shape the universe dedicated to art. So our audience can be inspired by what we do. And if we have that, there is nothing more to wish for.