Practice-oriented design studies at the creative hotspot

Sophie Langenbrinck (B.A. Graphic Design and Visual Communication) has almost finished her studies and will soon be starting her professional life in Cologne. In this interview, she looks back with us on her most memorable experiences during her studies, diverse and challenging practical projects, and her bachelor project "Talente in Rente".

Recent graduate of B.A. program Graphic Design and Visual Communication: Sophie Langenbrinck

Recent graduate of B.A. program Graphic Design and Visual Communication: Sophie Langenbrinck

What comes to mind when you think about your studies at HMKW?

I think that I actually think first of the people I have met at HMKW. Because the courses are small, you have the chance to get to know people much better and faster than at larger universities.

It was more like a school class: we had a lot of fun and supported each other. Then I think about the projects, the excursions and the practical work, for example, with the camera in the studio or outside. That I got an insight into so many areas and every project was an exciting new challenge. The balance between classical teaching in the course and movement, exploration and work in all kinds of places with all kinds of people was really good.

Why did you decide to study “Graphic Design and Visual Communication”? And what made you choose HMKW Berlin?

After graduating from high school, I took a gap year and was abroad because I wasn't ready to make that important decision. When I came back, I was starting to be pressed for time because of application deadlines. I then read through the content of various creative degree programs online and found graphic design and visual communication very appealing, as the field is rapidly and constantly evolving and is very broad. I also wanted to study in a big city, and the capital was always my biggest wish. HMKW Berlin advertised that the degree program is very practice-oriented, you work in small courses and projects are offered with various partners. I found that very promising, so I applied to the program.


Did you get any further work experiences prior to your current position that you would like to share with us?

No, unfortunately not. Since I decided to study very spontaneously, there wasn't much time to get a taste of the field. I only did a two-week internship at a creative agency in Munich shortly before I started my studies. It was very short, but I had the opportunity to look over everyone's shoulder and get an impression of the profession of graphic designers and the agency life.

Which seminar/project have you enjoyed the most so far?

There were many interesting projects. I liked the project workshop in cooperation with the organization "Gesicht Zeigen e.V." best. The organization works to combat racism, antisemitism and misanthropy. Our task was to design online campaigns for different target groups. Beforehand, we got to know the different projects of the organization. That was super interesting, because very different projects work with very different groups, such as children or students. In total, five great campaigns were created.

I think that the entire course did a great job here and went above and beyond creatively and in terms of group dynamics. I was part of the team for the target group "medium-sized companies". We created and filmed a live diagram in the university, in which the participants had to position themselves in the room in response to various statements. That was super interesting and a lot of fun. The result was also very well received by "Gesicht Zeigen e.V.".

What did you deal with in your bachelor thesis? How did you come up with the topic?

The product of my bachelor thesis is the XD prototype of a web platform for the further employment of pensioners. The idea is to make sustainable use of the expert knowledge of the target group. In this way, retirees are valued, further employed, challenged, and can supplement their pensions. On the other hand, individuals or companies can benefit from the specialist knowledge of the "retired talents" that would otherwise remain unused.


How did I come across this topic? I was working as a student trainee in a start-up company that provides mini-jobs to students via app. One day I was sitting in a café and two older women brought some cake. I thought to myself: Is there such a thing as a job agency for pensioners? I thought, there must be many people who want to work in retirement, either to stay active or to pass on their knowledge. And so the idea was born. I did a lot of research on the legal requirements, labor force participation and, of course, the digital skills of this age group. The result is a customer-oriented website that is as intuitive as possible and offers retirees from all disciplines the opportunity to pursue digital employment.

What is it like to live in Berlin? Was it easy for you to settle in? Would you like to stay?

Living in Berlin is great, for me it was definitely the best decision I could have made. Especially after leaving home, Berlin offers everything you can imagine to experience everything and develop through it. I think it was through Berlin that I really "grew up" and arrived in my life. Berlin is open and unlimited in all areas, but sometimes it's also a tough place to live. But that's how you get to know real life all the more and are prepared for everything that comes your way. I think you always need about a year until you've really arrived, met the right people and really feel at home. I can definitely imagine living in Berlin. For now, though, I have a new adventure: Cologne.

What are your plans for the future?

For personal reasons, I spent the last year in Cologne and fell a bit in love with the somewhat more manageable and cozy city. At the moment I'm back in Berlin to finish my studies here and I'm also enjoying being back a lot, even if it's not the same as before due to the current situation. The current plan is to look for a job in Cologne to start my career and begin a new chapter there. I think it can only enrich a person to get to know many cities and to face the new challenges. For now, it's about finding a good start, gaining lots of practical experience as a graphic designer, and figuring out what area I want to focus on professionally in the future. I'm open to do a master's degree at some point or to come back to Berlin someday. We'll see what the future brings.

What’s your advice for students who decide to study at HMKW?

What is definitely very helpful is to deal intensively with the common design programs and their functions. You can only learn how to use them by trying them out and practicing a lot, and that is the basis for all the work and projects you do during your studies. What also helps is to deal with the subject a lot in your private life, whether it's drawing, following agencies on Instagram or taking pictures. This way you always stay up to date and find new inspiration for your own works.

Which characteristics should students have who want to study "Graphic Design and Visual Communication"?

That is a very difficult question. When I think about my course, I see so many different people with different strengths and characteristics in front of me. I think an important prerequisite is definitely a good eye for aesthetics and composition, that you can combine and use colors and shapes well. A good portion of courage is also not wrong to think "out of the box" and design exciting works. Everyone has creativity in them in my opinion, perhaps some people can perceive and implement ideas better than others. What should not be underestimated are topics like methodology, design research, customer orientation and problem solving management. It's not necessarily always about designing something that you personally like, but rather orienting yourself to the given problem and trying to develop the best solution for the client. In addition to the artistic aspect, this is also a big part of the program that I personally enjoy very much.

Thank you very much for the interview. We wish you all the best and much success for your career start in Cologne!