Seven ages of a creative: Christoph Niemann

The celebrated illustrator reflects on changes in the industry over the past 30 years, in particular the impact of social media on artists’ work

For this special project, we talk to 12 creatives and designers aged 19 to 87 about their experiences in the creative industry, their hopes and dreams, the changes they have witnessed during their career so far, and what further developments they hope may come in the future. Here we talk to illustrator Christoph Niemann, 50

“There was a moment of doubt when I was maybe 12 or 13, where I thought it might be too crazy, and so I briefly considered architecture,” says illustrator, designer and artist Christoph Niemann. “But then I asked my father about it as he was a civil engineer. He told me that I would have to make models and I realised I was far too impatient for that, so after a two week-exploration, I went back to knowing that I had to do something with drawing.”

Niemann is one of the most prominent figures in illustration, his images regularly gracing the covers and pages of the New Yorker, Wired, National Geographic, and the New York Times. The author of many books, he’s garnered both praise and respect with his witty works, known for their simplicity and humour, and his ability to play with visual expectations.

The first whispers of Niemann’s career began in the late 90s, after he applied for several internships in New York while studying at the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart, Germany. His first was with Paul Davis, the acclaimed illustrator and graphic artist who had worked at Push Pin Studios. The second was at Pentagram, working with Paula Scher. “Of course, this is like going to the Mount Olympus of graphic design,” remembers Niemann. “Landing an internship there was the biggest break one could hope for.”

Top: Humboldthain II, 2021; Above: Portrait by Matthew Priestly. All images © Christoph Niemann, 2021