Nathan Cowen (Haw-lin) interview

Nathan Cowen is one half of online moodboard Haw-lin and works for the ever-impressive graphic design studio Hort. The Meander talks with the Berlin-based designer.

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i. Personal
ii. Calle with Hort
iii. Personal
iv. Haw-lin Services
v. Strøm Festival with Hort
vi. Haw-lin Services

You're from Hawaii – can you tell us a little bit about growing up there?

I guess I took it for granted. It seemed normal enough that there was a beach within 30 minutes from almost anywhere on O'ahu. Also, I would sometimes wear a sweatshirt and a beanie in 80 degree (27°C) weather. Trust me it looked right. My dad travelled a lot and often brought me with him. This helped me gain a different and better perspective of the world from most of my friends who had never left the island. However, it wasn't until recently that I have been realising how different my childhood was from most other people.

How did your internship at Hort come about?

During my final year of university, my friend Yaeger mentioned Hort as his favourite design studio. I immediately emailed Hort before he could get a chance. After a few weeks of emails with Ina, on the day of my graduation I received an email inviting me for an internship.

Did you start working for Hort immediately after the six-month internship?

I created a poster campaign to hire me. After Christmas, Eike 'let me stay'.

Eike König has an interesting outlook on graphic design – he talks a lot about playfulness and fun. Do you think this has shaped your work? 

Definitely. Eike and Hort have shown me several different directions and I have been trying to follow all of them. He has encouraged me through a very free and organic sense of mentorship involving high standards, friendship and late-night arguments. Eike is very open and honest when he speaks publicly, and I try to apply that to the way I approach my work.

Had you been to Berlin before you decided to move there? 

Only once, about one year before my internship. Even after my first visit I had no real conception of Germany or Berlin.

Are you fluent in German?

Nope. I am currently attempting to think about applying for German classes, again, and at the same time I am attempting to want to learn Swedish and also touch up on my Japanese. So in America I would say I speak four languages.

"With Haw-lin's growing popularity we have gained new responsibilities, mainly for how the public perceives the content we post."

What were your college years like? 

Interesting. I really had no idea about the world of graphic design until I left the US. I was too busy trying to grasp the world of San Francisco. I am still working on both.

You started Haw-lin in 2008 with Jacob Klein. Is it still a top priority for you? 

Haw-lin has always remained an important priority for Jacob and me. With its growing popularity we have gained new responsibilities, mainly for how the public perceives the content we post. We began the site as a more private collection of our image research. While we still approach Haw-lin with this underlying concept, we are trying harder to respect the views of
our audience.

What are you currently up to? 

Freelancing at Hort, working on upcoming projects with Haw-lin Services, and still organising my apartment. Also, Jacob and I have been invited to give a few lectures and workshops, which will be something new for us. I am excited but we want to provide a good show so we will work hard to deliver.

You turned your attention to creating your own content through Haw-lin Services — how has this worked out for you?

Jacob and I are trying to avoid being confined to the role of designer and client. Our aim is to offer our creative services by discovering new ways of collaborating with brands, companies and people we respect. It is still fresh but we have had the opportunity to work on some
great projects.

Is fashion quite influential to you? 

In a certain way. I appreciate certain aspects of the fashion world, as it creates many opportunities for producing unique forms of creative output. My influences might include art, music, fashion, science and sports but I am interested in the results that develop from these sometimes odd combinations. For instance, I find it pretty interesting how an NBA star's newly acquired fashion sense could affect his different marketing campaigns and subsequently affect how his athletic ability is viewed. This doesn't really contribute directly to my creative process but it is something that helps pass the day.

What's inspiring you at the moment?

Nathalie Du Pasquier, and still searching for interesting sci-fi movies and books I have yet to watch or read.

Your plans for 2012?

More Haw-lin Services. I would love to visit Japan again but that is in the mix for every year's wish list. 


Winter or summer?

Best place for a coffee?
Philz (San Francisco).

Worst fear?
Pushing top front teeth out with bottom front teeth in my sleep.

Last typeface used?
Hiragino Sans GB.

Favourite quote?
'Father, the sleeper has awakened!' – Paul Atreides (Dune). 

Last book read?
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.

First gig? 
Michael Jackson – HIStory tour 1996.



Beverage of choice? 
POG (passion-orange-guava) juice.

Weapon of choice?
Weirding Module.