The 1st Darmstadt Jazzforum took place in December 1989, and thus even before the Jazzinstitut Darmstadt had been founded. The three-day symposium, held in the city's conference center at the time, dealt with a wide variety of aspects of aesthetic, historical, analytical and pedagogical approaches to music. There was a flyer designed by Helmut Lorz, the celebrated Darmstadt graphic artist who, among other things, created the signet for the Berlin Funkausstellung (Radio Exhibition) and the poster for the exhibition "That's Jazz. Der Sound des 20. Jahrhunderts" at Darmstadt's Mathildenhöhe.
Lord Mayor Günter Metzger described this first Jazzforum as a "trial run" towards a future jazz center in the city, which was founded with the Jazzinstitut Darmstadt on 1 September 1990. Only one year later, in September 1991, the 2nd Darmstadt Jazzforum took place, which from now on was assigned to concrete topics. The 2nd Darmstadt Jazzforum, which was the first one organized by the newly founded Jazzinstitut, focused on the topic of "Jazz and Composition". Through other Darmstadt organizers, contact was made with a young graphic artist who has since designed all the posters - and in general the graphic presence of the Jazzinstitut: the Frankfurt designer Roland Stein. To this day, Stein's posters are created in close coordination with the Jazzinstitut. They never illustrate only the topic itself, but always the expected discourse, the context of the Jazzforum's conference, concerts and exhibition.
Stein's first poster already exemplifies this. "Jazz and Composition" (1991) could also have been depicted with a sheet of music; Stein opted for the constructed and clearly positioned lettering "Jazz" over an unclear surface that is dabbed from red through black into white. "Jazz in Europe" (1993) plays with petrol-colored letters that, set positively and negatively, stand out on the bright red background. For "Jazz in Germany" (1995), Stein chose the notes of the two national anthems, and the symposium and accompanying concerts also featured contributions to the development of jazz in both parts of the country. For "Jazz and Language" (1997), Stein designed a poster with a typewriter font that had an eighth-note symbol above the number "5."
On the occasion of his 100th birthday, the Darmstadt Jazzforum dealt with "Duke Ellington and the Consequences" (1999); for this, Stein worked with an image of the Duke with distorted color channels. The poster for "Jazz and Society" (2001) was far more reduced, with two circles overlapping on a clear background. "improvise..." (2003) was the next Jazzforum title, and here Stein also improvised - with lines, types, colors, grids. For the somewhat unwieldily named symposium on "Betrayal!!! ... or Opportunity? Jazz and its split relationship to popular music" (2005), Stein made cardboard figures of Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Gerry Mulligan, packed them into a shopping cart and had them photographed in a CD store.
"The World Meets Jazz" (2007) discussed stylistic encounters as much as cultural appropriation, and Stein worked with a visual language in which flowers grow from instruments and the whole world seems to bloom in general. "Tension / Spannung" (2009) was the title of the Jazzforum devoted to the work and influence of trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, for which Stein included a photograph of the master's trombone in his graphic composition. For "Jazz. School. Media." (2011), things get a bit more sober again: sheets laid on top of each other perhaps also reflecting the paper-heavy nature of the subject. In 2013 there was a double conference with the Institute for Jazz Research Graz, and Stein's realization of "Jazzdebatten / Jazzanalysen" attempts to do justice to the discursive content of the topic.
For "Gender and Identity in Jazz" (2015), Stein chose an allusion to X and Y chromosomes, which he brought together in rainbow colors. "Jazz @ 100. (K)eine Heldengeschichte" (2017) shows an initially random but deliberately modified and placed Google image search for "jazz," obscured by the clear stamp with the conference theme. For "Positions! Jazz and Politics!", Stein chooses a design where you have to decide on a position just by looking at it: black on a white background or white on a black background? The last three posters, by the way, were designed with a dual purpose: on one side of the sheets folded into a square was the poster, on the other side an overview of the program as well as brief program notes. In the midst of the pandemic, we held our first hybrid Jazzforum in 2021, "Roots | Heimat. How open is jazz?", and Stein tried to approach the diversity of the subject matter with a design in which clarity, anchoring, risk, and openness all came into play in equal measure.
For the 19th Darmstadt Jazzforum in 2023, titled "Destination unknown. The future of jazz", we have decided, together with Roland Stein, on a hybrid being generated by artificial intelligence, a musician who allows everything to be imagined and arouses curiosity as to what he/she might hear or play.
We are quite proud of the graphic implementation of the themes of our Darmstadt Jazzforum conferences. It doesn't happen very often that you work with a graphic designer for such a long time - more than 30 years, after all. Roland Stein has not only visually shaped our Jazzforum; he has helped to design numerous exhibitions, developed our logo, and designed the header of our website. He has always done what a good graphic designer does: listened, drawn his own conclusions, and translated the atmosphere that communicated itself to him into a design. We recognize ourselves in it, for 32 years. How about you?
(Wolfram Knauer, May 2023)