Two months in Amsterdam

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At the end of April, I moved to Amsterdam for a two-month internship at a design studio called LemonCake.

Since the beginning of DPS I knew I wanted to spend some time abroad during the year, and Amsterdam was the destination I was hoping for the most, so when I finally managed to get a positive response after many unanswered emails, I was more than thrilled. I think the DPS year is a unique chance to go on an Erasmus trip, and I wanted to make the most of that.

I had never been to Amsterdam previous to that, but I had a feeling I would like it there because I admired its beautiful 16th-century canal houses and I liked the old-town feeling of the city. I visited it for two days knowing I was already going to move there to look for flats. Thankfully, I was right about my hunch. A week later, I was in my little room alone in this place I barely knew. Classic ‘girl lost in the city’ scenario.

In my first few weeks at LemonCake I got to work on a packaging design project for a vegan restaurant in Amsterdam wanting to launch a vegan cheese range. I then worked on designing some vegan t-shirts for the same restaurant and designing some menus for other restaurants. I enjoyed getting to do more graphic design work whilst also still doing illustration. Some days were slower than others but it was a chance for me to work on a self-initiated project as well, which turned out to be somewhat related to Amsterdam. I decided to design my own enamel pin, which would have typical houses I love from three different cities: Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and London (projet still in progress).

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I really enjoyed immersing myself in Dutch culture and exploring Amsterdam’s creative scene. I visited the Stedelijk Design Museum and was amazed by the work of Studio Drift, an artist collective who create beautiful installations with machines, robots and lights imitating natural phenomenon like the rhythm of waves, flowers blooming and swarms of birds. I also went to Glug Amsterdam, where I attended talks by different designers sharing their journeys and experiences, my favourites of which were Visual Designer Enrica Masi and Illustrator Sandy van Helden. I became a fan of a chocolate brand called Tony’s Chocolonely which not only has out-of-this-world chocolate but also spot on packaging design, which led me to go to a talk about their branding and an office tour of their HQ in Amsterdam.

Studio Drift at the Stedelijk Museum

 

Tony’s Chocolonely’s HQ

 

Amsterdam is a city full of great design, whether it is in supermarkets, local bookshops, festival posters in the street and or beer bottles and their matching mats. It is an inspiring place for any designer and I would like to work in Amsterdam again in the future.

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Posted in DPS

Wellbeing in the workplace

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As I became familiar with the 9 to 5 life, making my way through a three-month-long internship, I became aware of the importance of working in a space that prioritises employee wellbeing. The 9 to 5 life doesn’t suit everyone. You can easily feel trapped if you’re doing a job that you don’t feel passionate about, and I think as a student that usually has total freedom and agency to organise work schedules, it can be quite a brutal transition. I f

ound myself questioning traditional office 9 to 5 culture, including its repetitiveness, the inhumane nature of long commutes at peak times in the tube, the 3pm slump you have to power through even though you’re not being productive, the quick lunch breaks many spend at the desk hunched over their phone, and the very common phenomenon of staying overtime to finish important tasks.

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The co-working space our startup was based in was quite concerned with providing employees with the most pleasant experience possible, organising social events, free yoga classes and roundtable discussions on various themes. I attended a couple events and was impressed by the modern view the organisers had on office life. Members were encouraged to speak up about ways to improve their experience, there was a talk about creating a ‘Rest Room’ with bean bags and sofas, in which employees could go in and rest or meditate for 10mins if they were feeling exhausted or unproductive and needed a break from their desk. This could be especially useful for employees that are parents to young children, and might not be getting all the sleep and rest they need in the evenings. My team had a few wellbeing rules: we always took at least half an hour every day to sit at a table and eat lunch together. There was also quite a flexible working from home policy (as long as there was regular communication and the work was done at the end of the day) and there was support and understanding surrounding emergencies, doctor’s appointments and general employee health, which made communicating concerns a lot less daunting.

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I think the view that employees have to work all day sitting at their desks without interruption and take as few breaks as possible is outdated and counterproductive. Taking regular breaks and allowing the mind to rest and your body to stretch throughout the day allows you to come back to your work feeling refreshed with new ideas, making you a lot more productive. I think having open conversations about employee health is also important.

Bruce Daisley, VP of Twitter, has a podcast about work culture called Eat Sleep Work Repeat in which he explains it has been proven that working more than 40 hours a week increases productivity by a very small percentage, which is not proportional to the extra stress and effort produced. He argues our attention comes in bursts, so we should work in bursts rather than continuously sitting at the desk with no focus. He also stresses the act of taking a lunch break away from the desk being a crucial part of having a productive afternoon.

I think more employers should promote the benefits of wellbeing in the workplace, which includes walking away from the desk once in a while, which will actually boost work performance contrary to popular belief.

Illustrations by me

Posted in DPS

Hidden Women talk at the Peckham Pelican

As an female design student, I was keen to attend the Hidden Women of Design talk to hear women talk about their work and gain more understanding of their experience working as designers in the industry. Hidden Women of Design is a project which organises curated talks celebrating the talent of female designers and questioning why many are still unheard of.

Designers are often the leaders of their own projects, being confident in pitching ideas and selling your own concepts is essential. However in the workplace, there are traditionally more men in leadership roles, which can lead successful women to be victims of ‘impostor syndrome’, or the feeling of being undeserving and unworthy of one’s accomplishments.

Coming to the event I expected these women to talk about the struggles they faced as female designers, and the challenges of the industry. Instead, they simply talked about their own personal careers and the different paths they followed, each of them specialising in a different area of design:

Emma Parnell is a Service Designer at Snook. Passionate about Design Thinking, she started off her career being a Packaging Designer. She talked about her process of discovering what she really wanted to do by first figuring out what she didn’t want to do. Through Service Design, she observed people’s behaviours and experiences and learnt how to make their lives easier. Her career change was inspired by a wish to create change by Design, which Packaging Design wasn’t enabling her to do.

Eleni Beveratou is a Font Developper at Dalton Maag. After completing a Bachelors in Communication Design and a Masters in Book Design, she forced herself to explore typography, a discipline she wasn’t interested in at all to start with. Through her course she learnt how to look for good type and understand type, developing a passion for it. She is also part of an organisation called Alphabettes which is a mentorship program that promotes the work of women in Type, seeking to empower women through the platform. Eleni’s design philosophy is challenging herself to explore what interests her the least.

Suki Heather is an Experience Designer and the Creative Director at AKQA Creative Agency. She is interested in the relationship between Design and Technology, working on how we can experience information better. She has led a variety on different projects including poster designs for a BBC show which move away from traditional airbrushed aesthetics, unreadable Type design and Type that distorts with voice, a website design that doesn’t have a home page, and many other ideas that push the boundaries of conventional Design. She encourages designers to not think traditionally about their work, and instead bring their own perspective and personality to challenge it. Suki also talked about her position as a Creative Director, often being the only senior female in meetings. Her work ethic is to put your head down and work hard, constantly working on personal side projects as well.

I felt inspired and empowered after listening to the talks, all three women showed enormous strength and ambition. I anticipated hearing horror stories about sexism in the design industry but hearing positive stories about successful careers instead made me feel hopeful and excited for my future career, although the gender imbalance in leadership roles will inevitably require women to work harder to achieve high positions. I admire the work of Hidden Women of Design, as I think female perspective in Design is essential, and the fact that these talks represent successful designers empowers young female designers to be ambitious and hard working too.

Illustrations by me

Posted in DPS

Risograph experiments

As part of my current zine project I decided I would experiment with risograph printing, as I think it fits the format of a zine well.  First I used some of the images I created for my ‘A Clockwork Orange’ zine:

Although I liked the prints on their own, I decided not to use this method for my zine as the colour didn’t come out as bright as I wanted it to. I did however like the grainy effect and the slight shift in the layers on certain prints.

I decided to do more experiments with other images I had and played around with colours and overlays:

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I am quite happy with these experiments as I have been wanting to try riso for a long time. It is a fast method of producing work.