Interview With Stijn Van Hapert

Interview With Stijn Van Hapert

As a graphic designer and creative director for many prolific names in the entertainment industry, walk us through your humble beginnings and what your journey has looked like leading up to this point in your success?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by creatives in the international music/entertainment industry. As a Dutch teenager with many dreams and ideas, I started to look for opportunities that would allow me to contribute my creativity into this scene. However, getting in touch with international artists and musicians was a great challenge because I didn’t have any connections or portfolio yet.

In 2013, I started cold messaging Soulja Boy with design concepts for upcoming releases, and in the fullness of time, we started working together. From this moment forth, I knew I always wanted to share my creativity with others. Hereafter, things started to branch out. I built a network overseas, I invested my earnings into tools, and I used my time to develop my skillset.

After four years of working and collaborating with various upcoming and well-known artists and musicians, I was ready for the next chapter. I booked my first trip to Los Angeles to discover the city, and not much later I decided to drop out of my third year of art school to become a full-time creative director and graphic designer. The past three years have been a great success. I’ve been able to develop my signature style and work on projects for prominent musicians such as Bebe Rexha, Camila Cabello, Offset, and more. It really has been an adventurous journey.

Working with various clients, how do you exercise your creative liberties while also individualizing the product to the needs of the client? What is your style of creative direction?

For me, being creative is to sustain authenticity first and foremost. My way of working demands an environment wherein my intuition guides me through trial and error.  With cliental projects, my role as a creative director is to bring the artist’s/musician’s vision to life. I examine their story and needs to create visuals that convey their message and feelings. To do so, I prefer to collaborate with other talented creative individuals that can contribute to the project. It is a whole process of combining expertise and opinions to create the best visual experiences. After all, visual memory is a very strong asset, and it is the creative director’s role to guide the listener through a unique visual experience that goes beyond the playlist.

With these commercial projects in mind, how do these compare with the approach you take with personal projects?

Quick turnarounds and tight deadlines for cliental projects don’t always give me enough time to experiment. However, personal projects do. That’s why I find it important to make time for personal projects at least a few times a year. The spontaneous and intuitive way of working forces me to think about my next steps, and it helps to develop my true identity as creative director. I spend time crafting my methods to not become comfortable with them. The process of this is just very essential. I believe in creative liberty, and staying in my comfort zone would mean to not further develop my creative identity. Moreover, with the experiences I gain during my personal projects I create an archive to rely on in the future.

The design you have established is opulent and deftly spirited, an artistic identity that is gracefully sharp. Tell us about the inspirations and influences that led to developing your style. 

Firstly, I appreciate the kind words. I’d say I was significantly influenced by the environment I grew up in. From an early age on, I got in touch with the creative industry and I was overwhelmed by the wide range of available tools. What’s actually most inspiring about this, is how imagination can create a tool out of anything. This taught me how to literally get inspiration from anything. It can be as simple as a chair or the person walking by. Everything can become an inspiration when you embrace its potentiality. Other influences are old magazines such as the local Koecrandt, or artists such as Andy Warhol (The Factory) and Rothko.

Your technique often utilizes tools of both the physical and the digital. Can you explain the process in marrying the two modes in creating your works? 

There are many factors that influence the way I utilize tools of both the physical and digital. For cliental projects especially, the concept, any received content, and my mood influence the approach. It’s a true adventure of switching between the physical and digital, layer after layer. I just love how every project has a different process. I don’t really care about following a certain method, it is just about creating in the moment, but I guess you can call that a method too. As a result, I get one of a kind outcomes, from where it is hard to trace back the process because of the many layers and techniques. That’s the beauty of it.  

When you envision the future of art with the consideration of advancing technology, what are your thoughts on how art is moving rapidly in an age where most of it is digitized? Is there a difference from the way digital art is received by viewers as opposed to physical art?

That’s an interesting question. I definitely think digital(-ized) art is perceived differently as opposed to physical art. Physical art triggers (almost) all human senses and it’s a full-body experience. It’s much harder to reach this intense sensorial experience online, due to the overload of information we perceive on a daily basis. It’s necessary to create very strong visual experiences to grasp the viewer’s attention, as well as for them to remember it. On the one hand this could limit creativity but on the other hand, I’m confident that advancing technology will solve this lack of sensorial perception.

What has been an important discovery you’ve made about yourself during the time you’ve worked as an artist? 

One important thing that I’ve learned about myself is that I have to do what I love to do. The amount of positive energy that goes into a project that I’m excited about is surprising and rewarding. It’s essentially what is getting me up in the morning.

Tell us about some visions you’ve had or wish to manifest for yourself, for the future, for the world, and any words of wisdom for aspiring creatives.

My future vision would be to open a creative studio with an interdisciplinary team. It will include workplaces and an exhibition space where we can create and hang out together. A creative place where we can develop projects from beginning to end. I’d advise aspiring creatives to stay out of the comfort zone. By constantly being in uncomfortable situations, you start seeing opportunities that others don’t. Simply because fear is holding them back. Challenge yourself, don’t forget to have fun, and keep going.  


All images with courtesy of Stijn Van Hapert

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