For a long time, Christian thought that he was destined to work with film. During his early twenties, he moved to New York to study directing, and made a number of short films there. But when the call came to direct TV commercials, and make a career out of his passion, he felt reluctant, and instead went on a different journey. From that journey he emerged a book designer, and today he is one of Austria’s most successful ones. His first contact with design came during his studies at the University of Vienna, when he launched an independent cultural magazine with colleagues. But he quickly discovered that the most joy for him came not from writing for and editing the magazine but from doing its editorial design.
– When I moved from New York back to Vienna, I realized how much I had learned working in film, but I had also taken out quite a big loan to finance one of my films. Since I did not want to pursue a commercial career in filmmaking, I started to explore this other creative field that I had discovered during my studies, says Christian Schienerl.
The resemblance between books and film
Christian later applied for a job as a freelance designer at an architectural firm.
– It all went very fast, I talked to them, they hired me, and commissioned all kinds of design work during the first two years. Without ever having planned it, I had suddenly become a communication designer, says Christian. Today, he runs his design and art direction agency Schienerl D/AD in Vienna, established in 1999, regularly assisted by Eva Hebenstreit, herself quite a successful illustrator. Schienerl D/AD has designed books, visual identities, websites, exhibitions, music promos, and many other formats. Among recent work, you can find "Inspiration Fotografie", authored by famous photo historian Monika Faber. The book resembles a materials collection, or "scrapbook," incorporating multiple paper qualities and formats. "Die Welt im Spiel", by gaming historian Ernst Strouhal, acts as a book as well as a playable collection of games and won the prestigious Austrian State Prize for book design in 2015.
– The older I get, the more similarities I start to see between working with film and with books. A book also has to have a scenario and a dramaturgy. A spread almost acts like a shot in a film, and sequences of spreads resemble a scene. When designing a book, I first have to gain deep insight into the material and narrative of the author, much like a film director adapting someone else's script, says Christian Schienerl.