Illustrators at work – interview with Mads Berg

February 8th, 2013

The work of Mads Berg is a perfect translation of classic poster art into the landscape of contemporary illustration. A flowing effortless interplay of shapes, colors and grainy gradients creates a unique and immediately recognizable style. Mads specializes in posters, editorials and brand illustrations, and his online portfolio is a veritable treasure trove. His art prints are available for sale at Arte Limited, and his extended portfolio is over at Behance. In addition, he’s part of a small team that creates maps for theme parks, amusement parks and zoos all over the world.

Today I am honored to have an opportunity to ask Mads a few questions about his craft.

Kirill: Your style is very unique and immediately recognizable. What are your influences?

Mads: A mixture of everything really. I like paintings, Italian baroque, Dutch renaissance, Danish Golden Age and of course Art nouveau, Art Deco and cubism.

Kirill: Do you see your style evolving? Is there ever a thought of exploring radically different directions? Is there a concern of falling into a certain rigidity of style?

Mads: Evolving my style is not only a popular demand but also an important way to challenge myself and to continue to be curious in what I do.

Kirill: Do you keep a sketchbook to develop ideas in between projects?

Mads: I often keep my sketches or prints of my visuals in progress in my pocket for days to view it once in a while, and to let it mature over time.

Brand illustration for Tuborg Classic. Courtesy of Mads Berg.

Kirill: Do you prefer getting a full artistic freedom for a project, or a more defined direction from the client?

Mads: I do not mind working from a well defined motive or scene, or even a product as long as I have the freedom executing it.

Kirill: Pen and paper, or digital? How has your choice of tools evolved since you’ve started in the field?

Mads: You cannot beat sketching with pencil or paper. But finalizing images on a computer is really wonderful excellent for exploring color tones and values.

Kirill: What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?

Mads: Vanity i believe. Turning a white nothing into something beautiful.

Kirill: Your final illustrations seem to be reduced to bare essentials. Do you remove clutter until there’s nothing left to remove?

Mads: I try to, yes.

Posters for the Danish Island Bornholm. Courtesy of Mads Berg.

Kirill: And on a related subject, the way you render human body is absolutely fantastic. Would it be wrong to say that it’s one of your favorite things to draw?

Mads: It is indeed one of my favorite things to draw. Apart from depiction of eyes, I think the human body has the strongest attraction in an image.

Park map for Legoland Florida. Courtesy of Mads Berg.

Kirill: You’re part of a small team that creates maps for theme and amusement parks. What is the process of creating a new map like?

Mads: Research and description of style and approach. It’s much about laying out pathways and supersizing the essential features and eliminating the less important ones.

Kirill: How do you bridge the gap between staying faithful to the park layout with abstracting away the unnecessary details? Or is there no gap at all and these are two sides of the same coin?

Mads: A lot of stretching and tweaking has to be made, but as long as the paths connect where they do in reality, quite some fantasy can be used.

Kirill: Do you spend time on personal projects, and how important is that for you?

Mads: I make 50 xmas cards every year by hand. That makes me happy, so that must be important.

Healthy community magazine cover. Courtesy of Mads Berg.

Kirill: Do you think that advances in software tools and global connectivity are making it simpler to start in your field, and at the same time creating more competition and diversity for the clients to choose from? Does it make harder to stand out?

Mads: Global connectivity yes, software no. True talent combined with consistent work always stands out, I believe.

Kirill: There’s a recent surge of interest in mid-century inspired illustration, photography, fashion and design. Do you see this as a younger “digital” generation trying to recreate the old “analogue” look and capture that spirit?

Mads: Yes, nostalgia and the search for authenticity is sign of the times. I think that knowledge and appreciation of visual heritage must be combined with fascination of the new. Past time heroes also copied their ideas.

Left – poster for Air Greenland, right – poster for Hansen’s ice cream. Courtesy of Mads Berg.

And here I’d like to thank Mads Berg for graciously agreeing to this interview. Selected prints available for sale at Arte Limited.