TOTEM x Klaus Stille: "FUCK MY TOTEM"

In a society where people are increasingly obsessed with one’s self image perceived by the outside world, the market has long been providing us with what we “want”, but not what we “need”. The marketing and public relations in the fashion industry have always surrounds the idea of creating infinite desire for people to consume what we “want”, while making us believe that it is what we “need”. But perhaps, this “need” for recognition by both the inner and outer self has become overriding, that has blurred our eyes and we are no longer capable to tell between the concepts. With social media and instant image sharing, to even live streaming today, we want to be watched and recognized, we need to be watched and recognized.  

Klaus Stille, a Swiss Graphic Designer / progressive thinker. Klaus is someone who always attempts to integrate the art of graphics and typography to an intimidatingly coherent visual, delivering subtle hidden yet powerful political/social messages. I had imagined him to be colder, more emotionally fermé and arrogant, from the depth of his thought process, the references and the somewhat dystopian to post-apocalyptic aesthetics his design feels that had impressed me formerly to our meeting. But no. He is an absolute pleasure to speak to, with an honest and unpretentious tone of voice, there seems to be an ocean of philosophies, subtly embedded in his positive characters.

TOTEM COLLECTIVE invited Mr Klaus Stille to create upon the blank canvas of “The Tote” with his own vision and ways of expression. We spoke with Klaus about his ideas and concepts behind “FUCK MY TOTEM”, as we were amused at first, then confused and extremely intrigued by the messages he was trying to deliver. It was like a little riddle, only there might not even be an answer.

Klaus Stille's Exclusive Design for TOTEM COLLECTIVE

Klaus Stille's Exclusive Design for TOTEM COLLECTIVE


It is a very interesting yet somewhat humorous design to me. Could you tell us about the ideas behind your TOTEM?

The fashion industry or fashion products deal among others with constructing the consumer’s self-(image).In other words, in our society, appearance plays a more and more important role. I have never been terribly concerned with the subject of what I am, but the world is very concerned I should be this or that. In that sense, “Fuck my TOTEM” is a public invitation, which places the TOTEM in the forefront and aims for recognition just like the other brands whilst having this other level of consideration. These different perspectives give the viewer his own possibility of interpretation based upon his own experience.  

When you were creating this, what were the thoughts going through your mind?

The TOTEM is a first class medium for transporting unusual perspectives into the world. That’s all I thought. I’m a very impulsive person, in every aspect of life. So it goes with the Totem; It’s the way of nature: it only pleases itself.


“Fuck my Totem” is a public invitation, which places the Totem in the forefront and aims for recognition just like the other brands whilst having this other level of consideration.


Being Swiss and having lived in Bern, Lausanne, Mainz, Strasbourg, Hong Kong and Amsterdam, how do the feel and rhythm of these cities/countries as well as the different cultural identities influence your train of thought?

It helps being a Nobody everywhere. That’s great! Each of these homes bring its very own valuable experiences, for which I am very grateful. These self-defeating comparisons with another “home” doesn’t exist anymore, which helps not to get lost and makes each place unique. Surely I got influenced by different cultures and different education and finally shaped by the diversity of people, the open dialog and the variety of mentalities. But there is also this inner restlessness that keeps me on the move. Today, I lost my heart in Hong Kong. By rejecting an objective truth and global cultural narratives, every moment becomes an unprecedented situation. Also it forms a perception, which as well, always needs to be reconsidered.


"These self-defeating comparisons with another “home” doesn’t exist anymore, which helps not to get lost and makes each place unique."


Looking at your work for other projects, I often get this hard, mesmerizingly industrial, surreal and even a bit Dadaist feeling. Do you agree or do you feel otherwise?

Maybe. I do not aim to fit into any particular category, yet I surely do. I think not to have a signature style is a worthy ambition in life. Once you’ve been pegged with a signature look, style, layout or typeface, you may as well get someone else to do your work – which indeed, someday, might be a pleasant new chapter… 

Seems like you often incorporate words, typography, global political conditions, techno music and social integration in your design.  What are the issues or things you are currently obsessed with?

My upcoming project will be an interactive platform, analysing and processing the number/amount of “I love you” people wrote to their loved ones, from the airport departure hall computers, before taking off, to a website that I am designing. It is to find the saddest computer, the one collectively catching up the tears from thousands of people. It’s a little kitschy, but kitsch is not always necessarily bad. 

How do you see the TOTEM COLLECTIVE Project? 

I’m not a fashion person, but I like the idea of the collective.The exchangeable Totem works as a window/frame to express oneself, whilst giving the consumer the experience of being able to adapt to certain moods. To create his own. That’s cool.


PAST PROJECTS BY KLAUS STILLE

We picked up some of the past designs Klaus has done for other projects just to show you why we thought he is a rare talent in the graphic design world. 


Klaus’ design for “Das Fremde”, a performative installation featuring a species of artificially intelligent entities that creates its own language and culture by ontogenetic process, using an incident of this environment being invaded by outside world and the changes these entities had to make to adjust to extend and reflect reality. 


Klaus’ poster design for the monthly techno event in Hong Kong. Entropy as an expression of disorder, randomness of a system and our lack of information about it, channeling out the merciless and unforgiving quality of techno music


Klaus’ poster design for Jazz Band Mothra’s concert at Salon 10. Mothra is a monstrous god of peace of the Japanese cinema in 1961. It only reveals its devastating powers when its environment is violated and its seemingly light wings transform into lethal weapons which give rise to hurricanes. The moth, as a symbol of fragility that can unleash an irrepressible force, is what the musicians aimed to resonate with. 


Poster designs for a Sunday Brunch or for some Midnight Jazz Grooves taken to a whole new artistic level by Klaus 


Check out more of Klaus Stille's projects on www.stillestudio.com


In a sense, what Klaus truly impressed us, is that he can be either given a direction and concept and uniquely paint a clear and perfect image, or be given no direction and invent a subject that leads us into thinking. That to me, is what makes a great graphic designer.