Information about the authors of this book – I Used to Be a Design Student


Frank was born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1967. He first thought of becoming a graphic designer during a 20-monthlong civil service stint at a local magazine, where he tried to mimic the style of Neville Brody and David Carson. In 1994, after repeated rejections from the German education system, Frank travelled to London and took a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) course in Graphic Design at Camberwell College of Arts, London (UK). There, he discovered (German) modernism and the work of Jan Tschichold. He also discovered a less Germanic, quirkier approach to design.

During his studies he made an installation about silence, carried out a photographic experiment in Trafalgar Square and involved his peers’ mothers in his degree show. Each day, Frank woke up at 09:30, walked to college, spent about six hours a day designing and for dinner often cooked lasagne, which he ate with a tomato and mozzarella salad. He weighed 74 kilos and did no exercise. His most valued possessions were his (cheap) fold-down table and a collection of tapes, which were sent to him regularly by his friend Rainer.

In 1997 Frank began a Master of Arts course in Graphic Design at the Royal College of Art in London, where he worked on a film about the colour green and an installation about the colour white. He also designed his graduating year’s (manifesto) poster, was shortlisted for the Millennium Stamp and won the Colonel Varley Memorial Award.

After graduating, Frank completed a one-year research project on ‘small print’ at the Helen Hamlyn Centre in London.


Billy was born in Athens, Greece, in 1973. He first thought of becoming a designer while making covers for compilation tapes on his bedroom floor. In 1992 Billy moved to the UK for a Foundation Course at Kingston University, where he discovered the books of Franz Masereel and linocut printing. In 1993 he enrolled on a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) course in Graphic Design at Bath College of Higher Education (UK), where he started illustrating and binding his own books. After a year in Bath, Billy moved to Camberwell College of Arts in London (UK) in 1995.

During his course he used a scalpel, an A3 typewriter and his flatmate Frank to teach himself the fundamentals of design. Each day, Billy got up at 11:00, walked to college, spent about two hours designing, and usually cooked Pastitsio with a tomato and feta salad. He weighed 69 kilos and did no exercise. His most valued possession was his double cassette player.

In 1997 Billy went to Greece to complete his military service and, after two years of staring at the walls of an underground army bunker on a Greek island, he returned to London for a Master of Arts course in Communication Art and Design at the Royal College of Art (UK) in 1999. There he produced a giant sheet of writing paper, designed his yeargroup’s catalogue and was selected to design a publication for the college’s own imprint, Salvo. At his degree show he was awarded the Oberon Book Award.


During their studies Frank and Billy worked together on several projects, including an installation in their own house and three handmade, (very) limited-edition books by Franz Kafka, Albert Camus and Marguerite Duras.

In 1998 they proudly gave their copy of The New York Trilogy to Paul Auster and Fahrenheit 451 to Ray Bradbury, who complimented them on a ‘beautiful book, which opens like a butterfly’. He also politely reminded them that it is he who holds the copyright for his text…

In 1999 Frank and Billy brought their faith in their acquired design skills to their current practice, Brighten the Corners. Over the years, they have worked on several projects, large and small, switching between the public sector, the corporate sector and cultural environments. Clients include Anish Kapoor, the British Council, Goethe-Institut, Italian Cultural Institute, German Post Office, Fraunhofer-Institut, Laurence King Publishing, Skira Editore, Frieze, and Bolles + Wilson architects. For more information please visit

Today, Frank is based in the Odenwald region near Darmstadt with his wife Sybille and two children Emil and Juno. He frequently visits London to meet Billy, and Stuttgart for some Maultaschen and music from Rainer’s second-hand record shop. If Frank ever stopped designing, he’d take up gardening.

Billy is based in London, frequently visiting Germany for work, and Greece for some sun and deep-fried calamari. If Billy ever stopped designing, he’d write stories.


Frank has been teaching since 1998, when he started as a visiting lecturer at North East Worcestershire College in Redditch, where he met Adrian Spaak (see also acknowledge-ments, page 4). Further work as visiting lecturer followed, in most cases for a period of up to two years, at Maidstone College, Kingston University and the University of Brighton (all in the UK) and the Merz Akademie in Stuttgart (Germany). Since 2006 Frank has been a professor of Communication Design at the Faculy of Design at the Hochschule Darmstadt (Germany).

In his courses, Frank stresses the importance of concept-driven design to his students, but is also interested in getting them to develop genuine responses to subject matter rather than formulaic ones. His students are therefore encouraged to follow their personal observations and thoughts, ask questions, use their sense of humour, and not dismiss more poetic or abstract paths to a graphic solution. As he likes to say, ‘Design isn’t just a discipline, it is something done for people by people and, as such, is (or should be) deeply humane.’