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INFO > Meeting the Challenge of International Appeal

Feature in Illustration Magazine (UK)
Meeting the Challenge
of International Appeal

German illustrator Oliver Weiss has won the grand prize in the 2008 Munich Oktoberfest poster design competition. His pop-art design will appear on posters, brochures and memorabilia from beer steins to glasses, t-shirts and caps.


Taken from:
Illustration Magazine  (Great Britain,
July 2008)
>OKTOBERFEST AWARD: Interview with Münchner Merkur.

>OKTOBERFEST AWARD: Interview with the Oktoberfest.de website.

>OKTOBERFEST AWARD: Interview with music supporter Magazine.

>OKTOBERFEST AWARD: More on the award.

>3x3 MAGAZINE: Lunch with Oliver Weiss.

>SUCEEDING AS A FREELANCE ILLUSTRATOR: Interview with FreelanceSwitch.


ABOUT THE ARTIST: Oliver Weiss is a freelance illustrator and designer from Germany who has lived in the United States and Canada for several years. He works for a great many international clients from North America, Asia, and Europe. His clients include DER SPIEGEL, DIE ZEIT, The Writer, Random House, Latin Finance, Hong Kong Tatler, Euromoney, Deutsche Bank, Springer, and the Commonwealth.

Official Poster Design for Munich’s 2008 Oktoberfest

German illustrator Oliver Weiss has won the grand prize in the 2008 Munich Oktoberfest poster design competition. His pop-art design will appear on posters, brochures and memorabilia from beer steins to glasses, t-shirts and caps.

The competition, which is organised by the city of Munich to celebrate the largest beer festival in the world, was first run in 1952.

Oliver produced a collage of well-known icons including a heart, a Ferris wheel, a pretzel and a beer mug. “I had to capture the spirit of this über-German event and appeal to an international audience,” he said. “I think this style communicates a spirit of cheerfulness that is what the festival is essentially all about.”

The design will appear on 7,000 posters and 90,000 brochures. It will also be displayed on this year’s official Oktoberfest beer stein. Together with the brochure which has also been designed by Oliver Weiss, the award is valued at 10,000 EUR.


household name all over the the world after which countless similar events worldwide have been named, the Munich Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival in the world, with more than six million people visiting each fall, many of them coming from the United States, Japan, and Australia.

In generating the official poster design, the challenge for illustrator Oliver Weiss was in finding a compromise between adequately capturing the spirit of this über-German event on the one hand, and managing to appeal to an international audience on the other.

It became clear quickly for Oliver that any designs using city landmarks like the Frauenkirche (the two-towered cathedral), the English Garden (a vast urban public park) or elements from the city’s crest featuring the “Münchner Kindl” (the “Munich Child” resembling a medieval monk) would not necessarily be internationally comprehended.

The challenge was in  finding a compromise between capturing the spirit of this über-
German event and managing to appeal to an international audience.

By the same token, the idea to use motifs which refer to Bavarian-style clothing was quickly abandoned as well. It is true that traditional clothing like “lederhosen” (short leather trousers men are wearing on special occasions), the famous “gamsbart” (fluffy tuft of hair you will occasionally see on Bavarian-style hats) or “dirndl” (traditional female folk costume dress) are internationally recognized and typically associated with Bavaria.

In Oliver's view, however, they also convey a peculiar fuddy-duddy “retro flair” where time is seemingly standing still, nothing ever happens that has not happened in the past, and where outsiders (i.e., every person not lucky enough to have been born Bavarian) are generally received with an air of suspicion, to say the least. "This is certainly the very opposite of what I was seeking to generate," says he.

So, here he was – no Munich landmarks, no Bavarian-style outfits. What else was there? "My approach was actually quite straightforward," says Oliver. He pinpointed what he felt were pretty much the “usual suspects” one would typically associate with the Oktoberfest, and he narrowed down on those which in his view are readily understood on an international scale. "Hence the still life showing a pretzel, a mug of beer, a Ferris wheel, and a smiling heart."


Inspirations and Influences

Admittedly, these are quite traditional symbols as such. So in came the second challenge: Try to design this in a simple, modern, eye-catching fashion. And Oliver did, employing a colorful pop art style which communicates a spirit of cheerfulness which he feels is quite along the lines of what the festival is essentially all about.

He used bold outlines, solid areas of vibrant color, and added a whimsical twist by introducing a humanoid beer stein and a heart. "Inspirations, if any, may have derived from my all-time hero pop artist colleagues like James Rizzi, Keith Haring and Romero Britto whose work is distinctly humane, charming, positive-minded and cheerful, and manages to make you happy the minute you take a glance, and to carry you through the day."

Oliver's Oktoberfest motif is displayed on a great many merchandising products >more

“I never took the time to examine past winning entires in great detail as this might have diluted my approach.”

Whew. Luckily, it appears the organising committee, the Munich Tourist Office, shared Oliver's conception in creating a design which manages to convey a distinctive “Oktoberfest ambience,” does not look overly “German” and, to top it off, has an added artistic touch to it.

This has not always been the case in the past where winning entries made frequent use of blue and white coloured skies, big-bosomed waitresses in dirndls, and men clad in lederhosen. "I suppose I have been lucky," says Oliver, "in that I never took the time to examine past winning entires in great detail when working on the design as this might have diluted my approach."

On a side note, interestingly enough, when you analyse poster designs for Oktoberfest-style festivals organised elsewhere on the planet, from “Zinzinnati” and Fredericksburg to Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario and where not, you will almost always get to see the very “typically German” assets that I have painstakingly tried to avoid in his own designs. "Very funny, that," says Oliver with a grin.


Technical Issues

A major challenge in coming up with suitable designs was with technical constraints. The design needs to not only work on large-scale A0-sized posters but also in miniature format for stickers and stamps and on all kinds of apparel ranging from t-shirts to baseball caps, and on kitchenware like cups, snowglasses, and the official beer stein. The outlines needed therefore to be rather bold to ensure they look good in miniscule installments, as well. Further, the colors needed to be carefully chosen so as to meet technical requirements determined by china and stoneware constraints.

Of course, certain applications require modifications of the poster design. E.g., in order to use up as much space as possible on a mug, the design needed to be adapted accordingly by extracting specific components from the vertical poster design, and to reuse them within a design stretched out horizontally all the way along the mug’s circumference.

The individual elements of the poster art were hand-
drawn, and arranged and colourized directly on-screen.“

The individual elements of the poster art were hand-drawn, and arranged and colourized directly on-screen. This allowed for great flexibility in meeting technical and prepress constraints ranging from sticking to CMYK colors, adding bleed and legible type, incorporating the official Oktoberfest logo, experimenting with different sizes, and the like.

Surprisingly, conceiving the type actually required almost more work than the individual objects. "I was desperate for a unique, hand-drawn look and did not feel like using computer type," says Oliver. This proved easier said than done, however. "My handwriting tends to be kind of sloppy – I am afraid this has always been the case, and it certainly hasn’t improved with the advent of emails."

"I guess it must have taken me 100 times or so to spell out the words for the type in more or less legible fashion, and even then I needed to glue individual pieces together," admits Oliver. OK, let’s take the “k” from here, the “tob” from here, no wait, here’s a better “b,” let’s use that. To make things even worse, everything still needed to be twisted and turned and warped and touched up on-screen. "I was in to commit my first murder," Oliver remembers, when, after winning the award, "a friend of mine called me up and said, in a smug kind of way, you know, the design is neat – but what’s it say in the headline?" [2008]

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