Daniel Matzenbacher’s favourite ice-cream* flavour?

A republish from the archives in memory of Daniel, a truly great illustrator, and ice-cream connoisseur, who passed away recently. He’s missed by everyone who knew him.

* You won’t find this nugget of information in the online interview I translated for Daniel back in 2016. What you will find is a chronicle of a restless, brilliant mind and a complex character riffing in an only slightly jaded, thoughtful, lucid rant about the whys & wherefors and also the craft of being a successful illustrator.

Over 25 years Daniel’s body of work has graced the pages of some of Germany’s most illustrious news media, so he’s in a position to pontificate. Think ‘Die Zeit’, ‘Stern’, ‘der Spiegel’ and you’re on the right track.


Q1: Daniel Matzenbacher, thanks so much for your time, we’re really excited to have you and your agency with us as guest ‘creative of the week.’ Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and give us a potted history of your career and training?

A: I’m one of those late-blooming autodidacts. I was born on the left bank of the lower Rhine and I always loved drawing, but in my youth I was way too flakey and unfocused to turn it into any sort of viable career option. At that time all I wanted to do was make music. When I turned 30 things really started to take off. After a couple of years freelancing as a graphic designer, I was picked up by the representation agency Becker/Derouet (formerly of Hamburg) who all of a sudden started chucking loads of work my way. Until the mid 1990s I did conventional illustrations for ad agencies and magazines. Even from the get go I worked for top-notch addresses; Stern, Spiegel, Zeit Magazine and such like. In 1995 I bought my first computer, just on a whim, to see what would happen. I very soon realised that the apple was the ultimate collage machine. That’s how I still use it today.

Q2: What’s the primary focus of Matzenbacher Illustration and what special services do you offer?

A: The central focus of my work is without a doubt the digital collage. I work with a, by now, vast back catalogue of found and self-made source imagery, including for example old advertising illustrations, photos, text snippets, old paper. Any old found objects. A completely soaked and filthy fragment of paper found in a gutter somewhere with the barely legible print ‘Control’ is a real treasure! I quite often take my camera out and photograph anything and everything; structures, surfaces or physical spaces, I scan dead flies or mouldy bits of pizza. There are absolutely no limits in terms of my imagery. By the way, I often use my own hands for the hands of my figures. And of course I use online picture archives.

Apart from colour tweaking and the occasional filter, I pretty much never work with computer-generated imagery. Any 3D bits and pieces that pop up in my work are built, not rendered. My way of working is always intuitive, for the most part without a plan and lives or dies by allowing the space for coincidences to occur. Beyond the key ideas in the manuscript, it’s about the little details or a certain ambience that just happens or becomes evident through the process of the work – now that’s really exciting! By the way, this principle pretty much applies to all other areas of my life!

*  Read the rest of the interview, filed under ‘trivia’ at