On gloomy New York days like today, we begin to think that Axel Peemöller might be on to something. The German-born graphic designer studied in Düsseldorf, moved to California, and eventually settled in Melbourne, but a few years ago he gave it all up for a studio at sea. Aboard a 40-foot-long 1974 Trintella — which he purchased off eBay from a Barcelona woman for a song — Peemöller lives with his girlfriend and works remotely for clients and studios, docking when he needs to visit a colleague or use power to light a photo, and flying clients in to whichever port he’s landed. And while it’s not to say that life at sea is never gloomy, Peemöller finds that a fluid perch makes for a clearer head: “To do creative work, you need to have a balance between life and work and fun,” he says. “Here I can go diving, watch dolphins, catch octopus: I guess the not-working days are like holidays for other people, but for me it’s my usual life.”
When I caught him on Skype this summer, having dropped anchor off the coast of Greece, about 75 miles from Thessaloniki, Peemöller really did sound more relaxed than the average desk jockey. How could he not? Of his daily routine, he says: “I wake up, go for a swim, make coffee, and start thinking about the project. In summer, if it gets too hot, I stop working until it cools down. If I feel like having lunch on shore, I’ll jump in the dinghy.” It’s a far cry from his studio days back in Germany (where he devised the car-park lettering that made him a star), but then Peemöller has always had an itinerant streak. He began sailing with his father when he was young, and had a lake license by age 16. In his mid-20s, traveling around Australia with some friends in a Volkswagen bus, he landed in a port town and ended up sailing with some Americans to Bali. “That trip was the ignition for the flame,” he says.
Postermag for Capsule 2012, designed with Paul Fuog for Twothirds
These days, Peemöller uses his nautical status almost as a calling card: Think of all the different designs, different typographies, and different colors one must see when daily life takes you from the Tate Modern in London to a fishing village in Malta in the span of just a few weeks. When he doesn’t have new branding projects, he sails to the next destination, which often becomes fodder for new work. “In Thessaloniki, I met people from Designers United and Beetroot, and I might just stay to work with them,” he says. If you can’t find him there, he’ll be back on unsteady ground, promoting his new longboards for Apex (above) or, of course, working on the boat: “It’s a sensible old boat, it’s lovely and it has character, but everything always breaks down.”