So far we have had the opportunity to talk to two studios. We chatted with Karin Langeveld from Trapped in Suburbia and Peter Biľak from Typotheque. Both had really interesting insight.
This design firm focuses on book design, exhibitions, and branding. The goal for their designs is to involve the audience and ensure people leave with an experience. They didn’t explicitly say this, but all of their design also pushes boundaries and is experimental. However, their design is also practical, and that’s an interesting balance. Here are some things I took away from them.
Working with Clients
When designers take a job, there are three things they have to consider:
- Prestige – Will designing for this client bring the studio/designer credibility?
- Money – Will the income from the job pay for rent, employees, etc?
- Fun – Will the project be challenging and enjoyable to work on?
According to Karin often times we have to settle for 2 out of the 3, so it’s good to get a mix of those categories. She also stressed the fact that we chose to be designers for a reason, so while money and prestige are awesome, Karin mainly urged us to follow project that would make us happy. Another tip for working with clients was to not involve them in the brainstorming process. This is because sometimes designers–having some experience in the field–will know what a client needs while a client may ask for something else.
Pitching for a Design Project
If you really want a job, make sure you do the extra research on the company and their audience. Karin also suggested getting in touch with the client beforehand, for example visit a museum/office before the pitch. This way the client knows you’re interested in the project and they can ask questions. Also make sure the brief is complete.
Really though, if you’re pitching for a project that others are also pitching for, don’t be the one who leaves something out. The last two pieces of advice were: be enthusiastic when presenting and only pitch for a project if you are willing to actually do the work on it. Again obvious stuff, but it’s really the little things that we forget.
A lot of the mentality of Dutch design comes from their history and circumstances. For example, the Netherlands is a small country so space can’t afford to be wasted. What does this mean? It means that the government makes sure buildings, parking garages, public areas are designed efficiently. When these spaces are filled with businesses, their branding and interior design has to be open and practical. Again, their a practical aspect translates into traditional design. When Karin was talking about this, she pointed out the Dutch golden age with explorers, and connected that to how modern day Dutch Design is inventive and explorative. And fun. She stressed the fact that Dutch people didn’t take themselves seriously!
“I had two ambitions when I opened my studio: 1) have a proper lunch everyday without feeling guilty 2) do what I love to do during the day instead of having to work a day job and doing what I love at night.” – Peter
I loved that. I understand that sometimes we have to work day jobs, and Karin from Trapped in Suburbia even recommended it, but Peter’s quote made me smile.
Typotheque is a type foundry based in Den Haag that focuses on pushing the boundaries in type. I realize that most of the people reading this post may not be designers, and so, you must be thinking “type has boundaries?”
Have you considered that fonts and type faces were made specifically for Latin languages? Did you know languages like Arabic, Greek, Chinese, Cherokee, etc, struggle to find good fonts? Did you know there are ways to combine a Latin font and a Cyrillic font and it still be legible in order to two opposing peoples who have been forced together to begin growing as one country? If that doesn’t amaze you, I don’t understand. Guys, fonts are making positive political change.
Design the Entire Experience
One of the first projects Peter talked about was the method in which his type foundry distributed fonts. Some explanation: type foundries create the fonts you see everywhere. You know the Disney font with the “D” that looks like a “G”? A type foundry designed that, and most likely sold it to Disney for hundreds of dollars. That’s the problem, though, fonts are expensive to buy, and often times they’re really only used to brand one company. So, Peter talked about making an “i-Tunes” like system where designers could sample fonts and download them for shorter periods of time for a cheaper price.
The second project he talked about was Works that Work. This is a magazine that focuses on design, but is geared for a non-designer audience. Meaning that everyday people can learn about the amazing things people are designing across the world. While the magazine itself is designed beautifully, one of it’s smaller design features is that it can stay open with only one hand. This means that someone on the subway can stand, hold onto a ceiling rail, and read the book without having it close on them.
What do these examples show? The entire process has to be designed. Not just the type face, not just the book, but how the intended audience will use/get the product. Essentially, design the entire experience.
Being Open Minded but Still Skeptical
Some of the last bits of information that Peter gave were to be open minded when working with non-design professions and to always be skeptical about tips and advice given by other designers. The first part of that was in response to a question I had asked him about being taken seriously around STEM oriented professions. He talked about having to come into a situation as a designer with an open mind. We aren’t recommending design suggestions simply because we want to, but because we bring design thinking to the table. And that’s that. It’s not about trying to prove yourself but instead about suggestion solutions that work. In terms of the second half, we of course asked him for tips and advice. He laughed before telling us to be weary of advice since often times people have drastically different experiences than us.