A Conversation with Designer
and Artist Marta Klopf
By Alla Drokina
Designer and artist Marta Klopf hails from Milan but found her artistic footing in the U.S. Since attending the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, she has worked on countless projects and collaborated with well-known creatives across several industries.
A few of her favorite projects to date include political campaigns in both the US and Austria, community-based projects in New York with design studio Partners & Partners (for NYC Department of Health, Center for Urban Pedagogy, and Fast Food Justice, to name a few), and Let's Tech, a science and engineering platform for kids.
Her passion lies in the conjunction of art and communication in order to showcase meaningful issues and incite change. Below, Marta and I speak about her foray into art as a career, graphic design in the digital world, and future endeavors she is eager to take on.
Your art is so interesting and cool. How did it all start? What was some of your early work like as an artist?
I know there's a lot of people who know when they're kids, 'Oh, I'm so passionate about art; I'm good at drawing; I'm going to do that.' It wasn't like that for me. I enjoyed drawing, but I also enjoyed a lot of other things. I was always unsure of what I wanted to do.
Then, there was a point in high school when I figured out that I could channel my passion for drawing with my need to communicate with other people. I found out that design combined those two things. And you could work with creative people and channel your creative side, while also doing something to help people communicate better. That's kind of how it started for me.
I was living in Italy at the time. I decided to move to the US to go to college for graphic design - which was a choice that had a lot of people saying, 'You're from Milan. There's a lot of design schools in Italy, too.'
But what I liked about the U.S. was, or the U.S. university system, was that you do a lot of internships; you're always connected to a lot of creative people. You kind of get introduced to a circle of creative people, which is really helpful when you're starting to get yourself into a network, basically.
So, you found out that the U.S. offered you an easier way to network and more opportunities than maybe Milan could in terms of that?
Yeah, I feel like Americans are very passionate about things and also very career oriented. They seem to channel all their energy into building good networks and resources. And I found that really inspiring.
And, since then, you've just been in Minneapolis, besides right now being out of the U.S.?
Yeah, I was in Minneapolis for university, and then I was in New York for work.
I know you mentioned that graphic design combined both of your passions, the communication aspect and art aspect, giving you a platform. Which brings me to ask you about the Minnesota College of Art and Design taking over the college's main gallery and voicing concerns, can you tell me a little bit more about that?
It was a really cool project that was made in collaboration with the Guerrilla Girls, which is an activist artists duo. That is still really popular. And they always make activist art and design. They focus on a lot of issues, primarily in the art world, about representation of women. They're a really cool group, and they collaborated with us. We did a workshop at first, and then everyone had the opportunity to produce work for the exhibition.
One issue that I was always really passionate about was gun control, especially when I was living in the U.S. Because it's a new concept for me. I came from Europe, where it wasn't necessarily as much of an issue as it is in the U.S. I felt really strongly about it.
I made a publication that talked about the issue of gun control and how other countries approach a solution. And, it was featured in the exhibition. It was awesome.
What has been your proudest accomplishment, so far, as an artist?
I wouldn't say that it's a single project or a single thing. I think the proudest is when I can keep doing what I do. That's what makes me proud. I had an idea and a passion. And I followed it, and I'm able to make a career out of it. I think that's the best part.
Yeah, the fact that it's your passion, and it's actually sustainable for you, and that you're continually finding work. That's incredible, and the creativity that fuels your work, as well, which is not easy.
I would say it's about creativity, but it's also about discipline. There's a lot of creative aspects to design. But there's also the discipline, you have to sit down and you have to make the work after you've had an idea.
You have to also communicate well with a lot of people that aren't part of a project. Usually you're not a standalone artist, generally. But it's still creative and challenging. It challenges us.
I was really excited to read that you worked in collaboration with designer Lena Hoschek. How did that meeting come about?
I was working for an agency. So, I have to say that I was working with a really talented art director. They had been collaborating for years before I came into play. When I started working with them, I had the opportunity to jump in and take over this project.
It was really fun to make patterns for Lena or help with her vision of the patterns. She had the idea, and we made it a reality. It was really cool, because then you see the clothes on the runway, and you're like, 'Oh,I did that. I helped make that.'
What's one of your favorite ways to use graphic design?
I think the most fun for me, personally, is everything digital. Websites are my main focus and source of enjoyment, because they're so dynamic. They have to be kind of timeless in a way that they're usable.
But, also, you get to push the boundaries of what's new, what's exciting, and what's happening on the internet in a way that you're not really allowed with print. Because once things are printed, they're there, right? They're done. They're finished. They're fixed. You can't change it.
But with digital, you always have the feeling like you're in this dynamic world. I really enjoy it. And, also, I feel like nowadays, the digital world is where most people do a lot of things. They learn, they go buy things, they go check out a website for a brand.
What are you currently working on? If you don't mind disclosing that.
I just finished a website that was launched last week. It's brand new. It's called Let's Tech. And it's a website that's made for kids aged 10 to 18.
That is a really, if you think about it, broad age range, because a 10 year old is not going to like the same things as an 18 year old. But it basically is aimed at drawing them into the world of science and engineering.
It has a lot of cool science videos. It has guides on how to get into certain engineering professions. It, also, has role models who are women in the engineering field and includes interviews with them. I feel like it really pushes kids, and especially girls, to go into those professions.
It was a lot of fun to work on. It was really challenging because of the age difference, and to make it cool for both a 10 year old and an 18 year old. And, also, I think it's a really great mission.
I enjoy making work that helps people in some way, whether that's learning or directing them to resources that are going to improve their life. It was a great project to work on.
How did collaborating with other people on this project work?
I was the only designer. I did that as a freelance project. There was a developer that brought the website to life. And it's a sub brand of a big electrical engineering company here in Austria. So we had people on their side, helping with the content and kind of guiding the project basically.
For the future, is there anything you're really wanting to work on or push yourself in a certain kind of way?
I guess more than a specific project, I want to focus on taking on projects that are similar to the one I just talked about - where you're really, in a way, helping people's lives more concretely than you think you're able to through design.
For example, the website really has an impact on people learning. I find those projects, for me, are the best, so I want to do more of them, do more of that work that has an impact on the communities that we live in, and the world we live in, and do more socially conscious work. I think that's definitely something that I want to explore more.
Maybe because of the pandemic, I don't know if it was the same for you, but having to only focus on work, when we were all at home all the time made me feel more like I wanted to make an impact with my time and in my work.
Whereas before, life was always busy and always on the move. We kind of had the time to step back and take a look at our work. That's something that really came up for me that I wanted to do more of.
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