Find your design passion and never work a day in your life

Designer Lukas Haider on his passion for music and choosing a design job you love.

Graz-born multidisciplinary designer Lukas Haider wears a lot of hats. A graphic designer, photographer and also a cinematographer, he's toured Austria with his VJ collective Videokatapult and produced artwork for world-famous bands.

He's also enjoyed a successful freelance career – working with the likes of Red Bull and Unilever – and built a solid in-house career, too, at Vienna-based studio GREAT. All by the age of 24.

His portfolio is impressive. Elegant branding sits alongside grainy album artwork, custom geometric typography and textured photography.

The design work is powerful and contemporary, and has caused more than one big-name brand to take notice. Wrapped up in it all is Haider's passion for music, as he explains…

You started by creating artwork for 'be-friended musicians'. Were these existing friends?

Logo and merchandise products for the Austrian metalcore band Forever In Decay

When I was younger I actively played in bands and was well-connected with other artists in the field. I also used to attend many of my older brother's concerts, where I would sell merchandise and things like that, which, in turn, got other musicians interested.

At around that time my design work slowly began to find some recognition, resulting in my first real client projects. Of course these musicians weren't any big names in the music industry. They were all pretty much just garage bands starting out, so they were glad to have a designer friend who took care of their artwork.

Some of your most experimental work is in the music field. What is it about music?

During the process of creation I enjoy listening to music where I feel inspired by the sound. I've always liked to transform different kinds of musical styles into visual artwork. What I enjoyed at lot in the beginning was the candid way I approached those designs.

There weren't many restraints or strict criteria that needed to be met, so I had a lot of creative freedom. I think the music industry generally provides quite a lot of space for unconventional design solutions and creative freedom.

Your work is full of unique textures and effects. Are you ever tempted by stock photography or other similar resources?

Haider enjoys the diversity that comes with working with different textures and effects

It's always important for me to use and combine elements I've created myself. I never utilise stock photography, Photoshop brushes and that sort of thing. I take photos and tape videos to incorporate into my design work.

What I enjoy is the diversity that this kind of approach brings. It definitely helps keep the excitement level up, I never really feel that my work is monotonous.

Geometric typefaces run throughout your portfolio. Where does your passion for typography stem from?

Elegant branding for Naked – aka architect and designer Otto Gahleitner – created at GREAT

Typography plays a vital role within my line of work and I agree it's not very hard to guess I'm into simple and clear aesthetics, and also the strong impact of geometric typefaces. But I also like experimenting with new typefaces. I love using type to convey a certain message.

Which one project best represents you as a graphic designer?

After graduating from university I moved to Hamburg, Germany, and worked as graphic designer at Visualism for clients like Eastpak, Wood Wood and Unilever. One of my bosses happened to be part of the DJ duo Adana Twins and to this day I still create the artwork for their regularly held Adana Night event.

The posters I create for Adana Night are definitely amongst my favourite projects. Besides the visual appearance I'm really fond of the adaptable design language I developed, which is always clearly recognisable.

You're now working as a designer at GREAT studio in Vienna. Why did you leave freelance life behind?

As part of GREAT, Haider designed a high-end art book for Chinese artist Ling Jian, transforming each page into an exhibition space for the work

After working as a freelancer for a longer period I felt like I wanted to be part of a team again, and at the end of 2013 I moved to Austria and started working for GREAT. The studio appreciates my visual style and allows me to be myself, which is nice.

Within the company I'm responsible for art direction and graphic design for print as well as digital projects. Among other things I've developed the branding for an Austrian bakery called Ciabatta.

I did the editorial design for an art book featuring the Chinese artist Ling Jian and also created the corporate design for a piece of furniture called Naked.

Your Ciabatta branding is pretty slick. How did you develop it?

Haider's branding for Austria-based bakery Ciabatta was created at GREAT. The design system subtly incorporates a bread texture and the letter 'C'

Ciabatta is the bakery's name and signature product – it tastes really good. We were asked to come up with a corporate design solution and, after some back-and-forth, we came up with the idea of incorporating the texture of the bread itself into the design.

The coloured texture is visible through their entire identity, along with stories on the product and its manufacturing. The logo, claim, texture and the letter 'C' as a branding element are used either subtly or emphasised, according to the medium and the type of use.

Tell us about Videokatapult. How did you come to be VJing around Austria?

I was part of Videokatapult, together with two friends of mine during our student days. We did live visuals for different artists in the electronic music genre – Erol Alkan, Moonbootica, PopOf, Dirty Disco Youth and FOOL, to name a few.

We were active regularly – around once or twice a month – across Austria, but we had to cancel this project at the end of 2012 due to a lack of time.

With all these different things going on, what about your work/life balance? How do you fit it all in?

A healthy work/life balance is important, says Haider

At GREAT we have an amazing work culture, which is one of the reasons I love to work there. We get things done but still work sane hours.

So when there's no important deadline ahead I actually have time for some other things and I'm also able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which I think is really important if you're a designer who has to sit in front of a computer all day long.

What single stage or moment during your design career stands out the most, or what are you most proud of?

Vinyl cover artwork done for the DJ duo Adana Twins' latest release Drive

It doesn't matter if I work for a small or a big client, creating a concert flyer or a 16-sheet poster, I always feel the same sense of joy when I first hold the finished product in my hands. It's very rewarding and it keeps me going.

I was really lucky to find my passion pretty early, which enabled me to turn my hobby into a career. This is the reason why I don't feel like I have to work. Just like Confucius said: 'Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.'

Where next? What's in the pipeline for the rest of the year?

Youth features some of Haider's trademark geometric typography and is a self-initiated project for

I'm trying to relaunch my personal portfolio this year – something I failed to do in 2014 – and I'm looking forward to many more exciting projects at GREAT and the growth that we're experiencing together as a team.

Words: Julia Sagar

This interview first appeared inside Computer Arts magazine. Save up to 59% on a subscription here.

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