Fred Wolter, aka Mister Fred, is a German pattern designer, illustrator, print designer and AD
Fred Wolter, aka Mister Fred, is a German surface pattern designer, illustrator, print designer and art director. By reflecting the everyday mundane in vibrant and lighthearted strokes, Fred’s designs are soundboards for amplifying much-needed joy, light and positivity. This approach is what he terms 'Mindful Design'. A welcoming space to champion for greater empathy in our society. In particular, his adeptness at deconstructing complex ideas, problems or products into bold, vibrant and lively designs that audiences are inspired to connect and engage with.
Fred’s vision is to dedicate his unique artistry to making the world around us not only more accessible to everyone, but to show that design can make the world a kinder and more loving place.
When did you start illustrating?
I started illustrating just by accident, so to speak. After focusing only on graphic design, typography and branding for the first part of my studies, I took an illustration class. Not because I really wanted to, but because I needed points from different areas for my degree. I had no expectations for the class, as I had not done well in art classes in school before, and was also told I couldn't paint or draw. That's why I went to the course quite ready for it to score badly.
Who has been the most supportive in your illustration career, perhaps your teacher, family, friends?
That was probably everyone except myself. I kept my career aspirations a secret at first because I thought my family wouldn't like it if I wanted to be an "artist". I had sentences like: "You have to do something useful" in my head. But the opposite was the case. They were enthusiastic from the first minute and always supported me. Especially in the early days, when I gave up my entire life as a project manager for events, they always helped me to figure out how best to proceed. And also my friends always saw in me a creative person, encouraged me and always supported me. Only I didn't believe in it myself and I sabotaged myself. Looked for reasons why I can't have such a creative life. I let my inner critic and inner perfectionist stop me from living up to my potential. Even graduating from university with best marks in honours couldn't change my doubts, and so it came to pass that for a long time I didn't illustrate or design anything at all. Quite the opposite: I became increasingly unhappy, burnt out and depressed.
Finally, I started a therapy to help me out of my negative downward spiral. During that time, I studied a lot of psychology, the purpose of life and what a meaningful life means to me. And with that, my life and attitude started to change and my joy for design began to re-bloom.
In January 2021 my dear friend Maddy started the 100-Days-Project and I received an impulse to join her. I spontaneously decided to jump in and named my project "Being More Myself". I dedicated this project to myself, to find myself, to be friends with myself again and to recalibrate my mindset.This was the first time I started illustrating and designing patterns again. It was an intense project and even during it I often had doubts about my skills, because I was also completely out of practice. Together, Maddy and I made it across the finish line! We supported each other every day along the way and on day 100 we were over the moon! In addition to my passion for illustration and design, I also felt again for the first time what a deep friendship is. The project, people's feedback on Instagram and the connections I made during the project when I also started sharing about my story reignited a spark in me and I felt a sense of purpose again. It was an awakening after a very long, deep sleep.
After the 100 days, I continued to illustrate and design every day and focused on my desire to be an illustrator and designer. I stopped making excuses for why it couldn't work out and just started. Finally! I have been continuously working on myself, developing, illustrating and working on my portfolio. And now I have this amazing opportunity to be represented by Illo and I am so grateful for this!
Did you always think art was something that was going to be a major part of your life?
I knew I wanted to live a creative life, but I didn't really know how to do it. So first I started a regular education as an event manager and I was "creative" as a hobby. In the meantime I taught myself Photoshop at home and with that my desire to do something creative professionally grew - I wanted to become a graphic designer. My friend Doris observed my evolution and that I was bored in my job at that time and she suggested me to study design. I couldn't imagine studying at first because I had already built a good life for myself. But my desire to live a creative life was stronger and so I applied to a design school eventually and passed the qualifying exam the first time. That was the start of my journey.
What is your favourite subject matter to illustrate?
I love nature, flowers and everyday objects. I also love to combine my illustrations with quotes. I focus on topics like empathy, compassion and mental health and also like to give tips that have helped me a lot along the way in my own journey. It makes me sad that mental health, sensitivity or vulnerability are still stigmatised in our society and seen as weakness; especially for men. With my illustrations and thoughts about mindfulness and empathy I want to sensitise and show other people that they are not alone. I want to contribute with my designs to a change towards a more friendly and accepting culture.
How would you describe your style?
My style has changed and evolved over the years, and I've tried different mediums. But what is evident across all works, my illustrative style is "not straight". In my illustrations there are no or rarely straight lines, but everything is always a bit crooked and – objectively seen – usually wrong in perspective. In the beginning I thought there was something wrong with me because I just couldn't draw straight lines, even though I practiced it. I remember a class in university where I had to draw products. I couldn't do it – it just always looked wrong – and so I regularly pretended that I had forgotten my homework (even though it wasn't true), but I was ashamed of my drawings because I was the only one who had never done such drawings before. Since this crookedness seemed to be a part of me, I stopped trying to change it and so I started to appreciate my crooked style as my special feature. And that' s how it should be, because I never wanted to reflect reality with my illustrations, but to create my own world!
What is your favourite collaboration to date?
I always have trouble calling something my favourite. Because that means in return that I like something else less. And I find that many things cannot be compared with each other. I've had the pleasure of working with a variety of brands and companies in different industries, and each one has been great in their own way – or a learning experience. These include products, packagings, advent calendars, fabrics, books, posters and fashion for adults and children. I am very grateful that I get to work in so many different areas.
What interested you about being represented by Illo Agency?
Being represented by an agency has been a secret wish of mine for a very long time. But for a long time I thought I wasn't good enough and was afraid to apply. I had already dared several attempts to create a portfolio, only to not apply again. Until two years ago, I was going through a difficult time with burnout, depression and anxiety. I already stopped thinking about continuing my path as a designer or illustrator.
Finally, last year, I literally woke up. I refocused on my goal that I had for so long but lost sight of because I had too many doubts and negative beliefs. I realised that I had wasted a lot of time thinking about what if it doesn't work out. I changed my perspective and imagined what if everything works out the way I want it to. So I finally focused completely on my illustrations and my path as a designer last year and kept going steadily.
And then at the end of the year there was the biggest surprise and a confirmation from the universe for me that I am on the right path! I was contacted by ITSME and they connected me with Illo. So actually, it wasn't me who found Illo, it was Illo who found me. I am infinitely grateful and I am very excited about our journey together.
Do you have a favourite author, film director, or designer?
No. Yes. Maybe. As with the other question, I have trouble committing to this. I think it's kind of a pity when you limit yourself and thus exclude a lot of things from your life. But it's totally enriching to have many sources of inspiration! There are a lot of authors, singers, designers, creative people who I think are amazing, who inspire and encourage me. But I couldn't say who of them is my favoUrite. Depending on the situation, my favourite is something or someone else. And that can change several times a day! So: This has nothing to do with authors, films or designers, but if I had to choose something as my favourite, it would be the Eurovision Song Contest! It's been with me all my life and every year I look forward to it so much. It is the most enjoyable time of the year for me. It starts with watching how the other countries choose their artists from February onwards and I also like to watch their pre-selection rounds. And on the evening of the Grand Final, I sit in front of the TV with great excitement, cheering along.
Are you working on any personal projects you can share with us?
I've been working on my own online store and opening my own design studio. In addition, I've also been planning tutorials and video content for some time and I hope to finally get around to putting it into action!
Do you listen to podcasts? If so, do you have a favourite?
I love podcasts! Again, I don't have a particular favourite. But since I haven't been listening to podcasts for that long, I can at least list a few of podcasts I like here, because there aren't that many yet..
Unlocking us with Brené Brown, Dare to Lead with Brené Brown, The Futur with Chris Do, A Bit of Optimism, Huberman Lab, Good Life Project, Super Soul, Creative Pep Talk, Abraham Hicks Wisdom Guide.
It's mostly podcasts about psychology, spirituality or personal development - I really enjoy these topics and love learning new things about myself, listening to these inspiring interviews and using new tools to help me navigate through life in a successful way. I even think about studying psychology on the side from time to time.
If you have any questions or a specific project in mind, please do get in touch: [email protected]
at illo agency, we pride ourselves in representing a collation of global illustrators, distinctly diverse in creativity and uniquely celebrated by like-minded clients across a range of commercial markets.