Tim Rehm and Tim Sürken (Tim+Tim) interview

We chat to German design duo Tim Rehm and Tim Sürken of Tim+Tim studio. Their work is fascinating, grotesque and beautiful all at once. 

Interview by Julian Hutton
Published November 2013

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i.  I wanna be your dog, g117 and Lars Rosenbohm
ii. Marc Romboy and Ken Ishii, Taiyo. Photography: Michael Kohls and Bene Brandhofer. In collaboration with Hort
iii.  Artists Unlimited Nr. 5, cover design for the 2012 Artists Unlimited annual report
iv.  Nike Football fan T-shirts. Photography: Michael Kohls. In collaboration with Hort
v.  Mousonturm reopening campaign. In collaboration with Hort
vi.  Serhat Işık AW 2013 14. Photography: Kirchknopf+Grambow. Fashion design: Serhat Işık
vii. Sphere Postcard

All images © Tim+Tim 2013

Hi guys, what are you up to today?

We just wrapped up working on the visual identity for a theatre festival, as part of a pitch for Hort. We also eagerly await the first shipments of a book about landscape architecture – an object that took a long and arduous while to design. 

Our days usually start with a chat about our to-do list and the experiences we have had since we last spoke. 

How did you two meet and where did the idea come from to start your own practice?

In 2000 we met at school, so we actually started working together even before attending university. Since then, we have been close friends – our differences in character complementing each other for a common vision. 

Where did you grow up? 

We grew up in the relatively small northwestern German cities of Bielefeld and Detmold. 

Are you from creative backgrounds? 

In our families, we weren't directly exposed to design or art. However, we both knew from early on that we wanted to go in that very direction. Our families were always very supportive of our chosen path.

“There are times when spontaneity is king, while other projects require a more conceptual approach. We often try to fuse both sides together.”

How would you describe your process as designers?

We work on free and commissioned projects with a focus on culture, art, lifestyle and fashion. At the start of things, we broadly discuss our ideas, wishes, content and approaches. We then develop the specific way we want to deal with each project. 

There are times when spontaneity is king, while other projects require a more conceptual approach. We often try to fuse both sides together. Our network of friends, designers and artists from a wide array of disciplines plays a key part in our work. 

You're based in Berlin and Bielefeld – what's the story behind this? Creatively, is there a difference between working in each city?

During our time at university, we lived and worked in a large atelier in Bielefeld. For the past two-and-a-half years we’ve worked from Bielefeld and Berlin. 

Our collaboration's intensity hasn't taken a huge hit from working remotely – though nothing can replace direct communication in a room, face to face. Besides our daily Skype routines we maintain a shared online (Evernote) scrapbook that gives us an insight in what the other party is up to. 

The atmosphere and the overall way of living in Bielefeld differ significantly from Berlin. Needless to say, this also feeds into our private and professional lives.

Are there other design practices in Bielefeld?

The shared atelier we had was located at Artists Unlimited — a place that is really meaningful to us. It's a house full of interesting artists, designers and photographers.

“Vinyl, being quite anachronistic these days, becomes visible through a cut.”

Can you tell us a bit about the Marc Romboy and Ken Ishii album, Taiyo, you worked on?

This project meant a lot to us. We were lucky to have a client that blindly trusted us, allowing us to consequently execute our vision. 

In the last couple of years, we have worked for the music industry numerous times. We felt as if we were finally able to tie some loose threads together with this project. On a conceptual level, we reference music as a medium that has its own means of production. Vinyl, being quite anachronistic these days, becomes visible through a cut. The missing circle of the image becomes a graphic element and hence becomes something new. 

Fusing photography with the product and the resulting interaction with the object was key. With photographer Michael Kohls we developed an image language that became the foundation of our art direction.

"A long and close friendship connects us with Hort's founder Eike König."

Your work seems to have a strong connection to art. How do you view the relationship between art and design?

The interplay between art and design is the main focus of our work. We love to explore new methods and approaches. Free projects may end up in a commercial context, and vice versa. External input, discourse, and collaboration with other artists, photographers and designers is a vital part of what we do. 

The design for the fashion label Serhat Işık's 'Balıkesir' collection is rather striking. How did this project come together?

This was a team effort with the photographer duo Kirchknopf+Grambow. 

'Balıkesir' is a good example of an overarching collaboration between fashion, photography, illustration and design. All parties shared the same vision and worked closely to make it happen. Without a network you trust, this wouldn't have been possible. 

Here, we developed the graphical and collage-esque treatment of photography and typography.

What's your relationship with Hort in Berlin?

For almost 10 years we’ve worked for Hort, alongside our own projects. A long and close friendship connects us with Hort's founder Eike König. 

When did you first meet Eike?

We met Eike for the first time in Frankfurt in 2003. We applied for internships and immediately got along well. 

It was really exciting for us to work with Eike and his collaborators – we were 18 and 21 years old at that time and Eike afforded us the chance to independently work on projects. 

What are you currently working on?

At the moment, we're working on some Hort projects for cultural institutions. Simultaneously, we're constantly working on free projects and an exhibition with our project group, g117. 

We're looking forward to 2014, which will bring a promising project with curator Thomas Thiel. And we're always happy to accept new challenges.