Péter Serfőző is a key figure of the Hungarian graphic design scene. He graduated as an engineer, worked as the web designer of Walt Disney Internet Group during his university years and then completed MOME’s typography course. His graphic design studio has worked for prestigious clients including Waberers, Uniqua or OTP, amongst many others. Péter does not only mold the client’s ideas into a visual form, but also considers passing on his knowledge important. Now the founder of zwoelf shared with us his thoughts on community building, professional humility, curiosity, joy, and the mystical number twelve.
Following the steps of his civil engineer father, Péter Serfőző chose the field of technology after graduating from high school: he became a student of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME), from where he graduated as an engineer. He was already fascinated by the various fonts in high school while composing the bulletin board of the school, and at high school LAN parties he many times found himself fulfilling the role of designer – he designed covers or wrote music if need be on one of the computers connected to each other, with several other peers.
He didn’t lose his interest in digital design during his university years, either, quite on the contrary: he experimented with Macromedia Flash, a software still in its infancy at the time, and edited various websites, but he was also asked by a friend of his also to design the menu of his pizza place. He is not necessarily proud of these projects today, but he thinks these initial tasks that now perhaps seem a little silly were also needed to help him get comfortable in both the classic offline and the digital space. He also owes a lot to the world of engineering: he acquired the basics of structured, thoughtful design in these years, and this was completed by the creative energy that meant a ticket into the team of Walt Disney Internet Group for the first time. Ádám Németh, a good friend of Péter’s worked in the American corporation’s Budapest office at the time, and Péter knocked on Disney’s door based on his recommendation. Within the 60-person Disney office in Budapest, the 10-person web designer team’s task was to design the marketing materials of the various Disney movies intended for the European market. In addition to the live-action films and series (Pirates of the Caribbean, LOST), Péter’s team was in charge of the online appearance of several popular animation movies (Cars, Wall-e and the Toy Story series).
Péter decided to leave Disney and stand on his own feet in 2008: he started working as a freelancer, he rented an office, initially on his own, and then in 2009 he registered his own business under the name zwoelf. „Zwoelf” means twelve in German, and even though an English version might have been better, due to his German background he liked this slightly foreign, bold brand name better.
And why twelve? Even though Péter does not necessarily believe in coincidences, he met the mystical number 12 several times over his life: he was born on November 12, he received his driver’s license on the twelfth day of the month, and the number twelve was displayed on his jersey when he was a substitute player in the reserve soccer team. Thus it’s safe to say that his choice of name fateful, but zwoelf is not only interesting due to its name. The typeface of the design studio uses rectangular, geometric characters, complemented by the bright yellow tone chosen as a brand color, and the two together authentically represent the studio’s motto, too, also echoing in Péter’s e-mail signature: fun working together.
In the early 2010s, zwoelf designed the visual identity of the city of Győr (Péter was born in Győr – the Ed.), and they were also in charge of the visual identity of the European Youth Olympic Festival taking place in the city. Later on Waberers, Ericcson, Uniqua and Generali also joined their clientele, but Kolbice, a novelty on the Hungarian street food market can also thank zwoelf’s team for their branding. Over the past three years, Péter’s studio mainly worked on the visual identities of startups: the studio, which has grown into a team in the meantime, spent their everydays designing applications and websites. Zwoelf celebrating its 12th anniversary next year won an Aranyrajzszög (Golden Drawing Pin) award in 2018: they were announced as the graphic design studio of the year. In addition to the numerous foreign clients, Péter is also proud of being able to create a workplace that is appealing for young workers, too: he says zwoelf is so popular that he is continuously approached by young graphic designers keen to learn and improve even without advertisements.
As an expert of visual branding, Péter did not only put his creative energies to work within the walls of zwoelf: he was also invited to the web design department of KREA Design School, where he first held design and theoretical courses and then became the head of the UI/UX department in 2014. “I consider continuous learning important, I love getting to know new things and school is the perfect milieu for this: everything changes quickly in the digital space, we need to be up-to-date all the time, we must improve – this helps me keep my level” – Péter told us.
Péter has considered it important from the very beginning to have a mutual understanding between him and his clients: he wanted to make the studio’s work methods, design and management processes clear to the clients, too, and so he compiled a “smart guide” containing useful information that he thought were indispensable for the smooth implementation of a project. Later on, Péter also shared brandguide initially written with an educational purpose with the general public after some alterations, and launched the brandguide – Tudás. Közösség. Facebook group, too, where professionals can get up to date information about branding and visual identity design. The brandguide.hu website was also developed and launched in relation to the Facebook group based on knowledge-sharing and showcasing examples of high quality visual environment, and during the first phase of the coronavirus epidemic, they launched a live video series where Péter invited representatives of the profession to present their own portfolios and to talk about their design perspective (last time, for example, he invited Nóra Demeczky and Enikő Déri, the founders of DE_FORM graphic design studio, which was recently transformed into a design agency – the Ed.).
Péter also strives to share his experiences with the emerging generation: he talks about his work experiences honestly, because he thinks that knowledge must be shared – he doesn’t understand the phenomenon of information jealousy, as he believes it is important to talk about issues that are still considered a taboo in the graphic design scene today. It could be a great help to junior graphic designers if a more experienced designer – without looking at them as competition – helped them find their way not only in the field of design, but also in the jungle of branding, customer management and self branding.
And how does Péter perceive himself? The “fun working together” motto is a good example: positive thinking, joint work with clients and co-workers, where there is always room for fun and joy. Seeing that brandguide has grown into an individual brand, the former digital guide was recently published in a book format, too: the richly illustrated book titled „Branding és a vizuális válasz” (Branding and the visual response) is for people who would like to gain a deeper understanding of the processes of branding and visual identity design. The book became very popular in no time, which shows its gap-filling role clearly. Péter ordered the second reprint from the press a few days ago. “I am very happy that the book received a positive welcome: this is the true measurement of whether there is need for such publications, not only amongst graphic designers, but I hope amongst clients and marketing people looking for visual identity design” – Péter told us.
Both zwoelf and brandguide will offer novelties in the near future, Péter shared. Seeing the numerous startup clients, a separate project team will be set up within the studio, who will be able to help these businesses even more effectively in finding the perfect branding and visual language. And in addition to the popular live videos, brandguide will also offer additional exciting content in the spirit of knowledge sharing – make sure you keep an eye on their website for details, and join the brandguide Facebook group as soon as possible!
Photos: Balázs Mohai