Could you be a bad designer? — Interview with Eike König (Berlin)
After a good long party, Eike crawled out of bed to talk about happiness, acceptance, and the need for satisfaction. And this package of positive energy definitely knows what he‘s talking about - from Hort to heart.
Eike, you have achieved a lot but at the same time you seem quite relaxed. Surprise me: what‘s your relationship to perfection?
I think that it has changed in my life. When I was young I was trained to look for perfection. That was part of my education. I was searching and trying to reach perfection in whatever it was. Trying to reach perfection is something like an engine, and a lot of people use this engine to grow, to go wherever they want to in the search for perfection. Then I grew up and found out that I would never reach perfection. And that‘s pretty cool that you don‘t reach perfection and perfection is something that can be an engine, or a very bad engine. So right now my life is in balance between the search for perfection - whatever that is - and to let perfection go, forget about it.
My relationship to perfection is that I accept I‘ll never be perfect. Neither you or anyone else will. The idea of perfection is a little bit like of god, something spiritual you cannot reach. By accepting my imperfection I became freer. But at the same time you have a problem, because if you accept you‘re not perfect, then you can always use it as an excuse.
Is perfection needed in any way?
No, perfection is not needed. A lot of people have this as a goal, to reach perfection, but a lot of people are never happy when they never reach it. So I think that this is the biggest problem. I know a couple of companies with philosophies like, ‚Failing is not an option‘. Sounds pretty cool but at the same time it’s totally wrong, it’s so inhuman to say this. Then there‘s this German company that says ‚Wir sind immer unzufrieden‘, meaning “We are never going to be satisfied”. But at the same time I’m really happy that I have these moments in my daily life when I can say ‚Oh, wow, I’m really satisfied…‘ and that’s part of a good life, to also accept satisfaction. Satisfaction in imperfection.
What helped you to get rid of the need for perfection? Did something particular influence you?
I think it‘s an experience I had on my own. Finding out that your skills and possibilities are limited. This is pretty tough for a personality who‘s always wanted to become the best. Look into myself, the search for perfection is like an engine but its not something that I would really like to reach. What is behind perfection? I can spend my whole life putting my energy into making things perfect. There are a lot of people who really focus on this, like artists who search for the perfect black. But as I said, when I tried to connect the idea of the search for perfection with my personality, I found out that I‘m going to be a very unhappy person. And I don‘t want to be an unhappy person. That‘s why I said‚ Ok, there is this imperfection and in this imperfection I’d like to a happy person‘.
When I was young there were a lot of people telling me what perfection was - you should do this and do that and then you‘ll become better. But growing older, I've found there are things I can learn by myself and not through other people. I found out that what is perfect for other people isn't perfect for me. So that was a change. I'm still listening to people, I'm not totally ignorant, but I'm trying to connect to my own personality much more.
Okay, so you were a perfectionist but you purposely abandoned this nature in you. Are you still continuously fighting with it, or did you just learn another way of using the same energy?
To be honest I’m getting more and more lazy. The older I get, the more relaxed I get. It‘s not that I don‘t care about it anymore, but sometimes I‘m thinking it's not the most important thing. I just put my focus on something different, like accepting bad ideas. It's a natural thing to not be a genius, you‘re not someone who starts thinking in the morning and the first thought is a great idea. I‘m not like this. So accepting that a good designer can also produce bad work is very important for me, because that makes it easier to live.
When I was much younger, especially when I started studying graphic design I was like ‚I want to be the best, I want to have great ideas, I want to be a great and well-known designer because of what I’m doing. There was a lot of fear of never reaching this. I had a lot of moments when I was fighting with myself, seeing that I’m probably not the one who I want to be. But now it‘s a little bit ‚egal‘. But that‘s also good.
Would you say success is perfect?
No. Success seems to be a signal. Perfection is always the end of the road. And success means you‘re on the right road. Success is still nice, it’s still very sexy. Happiness… Happiness… is... perfect. Yes! Happiness is perfect! And you can be happy without anything, without success. So success is not perfection.
Perfection is the image given by our society of what we should be and at what point do you start thinking of what you want to be?
You accept the rules or the ideas of perfection through a society because you grow up in the society, but later on you learn that being in the society doesn‘t mean accepting everything. You can still be a part of society without being like the society. And that’s a good thing. I think we need some ideals when we are very very small. We learn a lot of things from our ideals, like our mother and our father. In a way they show you perfection or the imperfection of their own life and that‘s where you learn from. That becomes your ideal of perfection. And from there you take your own steps and go your own way.
I want you to show me something perfect!
I think it is easier to show you imperfection! But let me see… The most perfect thing, here right now is this. (Holding a black and white picture of a laughing old man) Do you see it? That‘s my daddy telling a joke. They visited me in Berlin and we made a boat tour. He made a joke and my mother was sitting next to him (showing a picture of a laughing old woman) and she was laughing. That was a perfect moment. A very perfect personal moment.