Design Currency: An Interview With Astrid Wehling
19th April, 2010
In the latest issue of AGDA's Agenda newsletter we focused on the theme ‘design currency'. To coincide with this, a number of AGDA members were interviewed to see how they stay current, focussed and inspired in their design journeys.
Members were randomly selected and will be profiled in the ensuing weeks, so stay tuned!
This week features Astrid Wehling who is based in New South Whales and has been working in the design industry for 20 years.
How do you keep yourself up to date within the design world?
Mainly online, I browse the web. I stay in contact with former colleagues and also friends from Uni and with other designers here in Sydney. I go to the library or to special bookstores like kinokuniya. But my main source is the internet nowadays.
Do design events, magazines, web sites, business networks help you in your work and in what way?
Design events help me to get in contact with other designers although I don't go to many at the moment, I have to admit. Magazines and websites give inspiration and business networks help me to stay up to date with more administrative things. I also use business networks to promote my services of course and to meet people from other industries to build my own network.
Do you have any mentors to whom you refer? Are you able to tell us how this relationship impacts on you as a designer?
Not really. There have been a former professor during my first years after uni and 2 of my previous bosses, but I don't have any other business mentors right now. More of an inspiration is a good friend who is a fashion designer and who pushes me sometimes or gives me some ideas on how to run a business.
Can you name you favourite web sites/magazines that are must haves for you? Explain why?
There are so many, but here are a few:
http://www.underconsideration.com/ -- because of the interesting discussions.
http://www.davidairey.com/ -- because he's so good in online self-promotion and in design of course.
http://www.designtagebuch.de/ -- which is a German site on redesign and rebranding where I catch up with what's happening in the old country
http://dumbofeather.com -- online and print magazine, because of their design and the inspirational stories.
What about technology, do you currently use the latest and greatest available? What are some advantages/disadvantages of this?
Yes, the almost latest computer and the latest Adobe software. Advantage: Compatibility and all the benefits the newest software offers. Disadvantage: the financial aspect, you have to upgrade your hardware every 2 years or so. I'm on a software subscription program now, that took the pressure off a bit.
How do you maintain a strong connection with your networking and professional relationships? Do you feel it is important to do so?
Through email, through forums, through my blog, phone and through personal regular meetings. Yes, I think it's important to stay in touch to inform about anything that's happening in my business. And to pick up their news.
How have your client relationships evolved over the past 5 years?
I started my own business in 2003, I still have 3 clients from that first year. The last 5 years I lost some and I got new ones, I can see a shift towards working with larger companies now. I still have micro business clients, but theirs are most of the time one-off jobs. Some of my clients are marketing agencies, I provide the design work to their marketing concepts, others are medium sized businesses where I work together with the head of marketing. Over the last 2 years I noticed an increase of business coming through the internet and social media like Flying Solo or linkedIn or through websites like AGDA's.
What do you do to keep your ideas fresh? Any hobbies or passions outside the studio?
Travel, Photography, Reading ... and sitting in a café, watching people (sorry).
Have you ever found yourself wanting to pursue another business avenue as a result of something you have learned through your work as a designer?
Not really. At the moment there are some online discussions going on internationally on how to improve the image of Graphic Design, how to utilise the concept of Crowdsourcing in a professional way .. maybe that's an avenue to watch. Or writing about certain topics .. but I haven't thought seriously about it.
As you grow and develop as a creative person, do you find that things become easier? Or are some aspects still a challenge?
I think you always will be challenged by something. New technologies, new ideas (or old ideas coming back, which is not unusal after 20+ years in the same industry). The question of how the industry will change over the next decade presents a challenge in itself. Including how to maintain your professional approach and how to communicate the value of good design in the future with more and more worldwide competition.
How do you manage office resources so that you get the most out of them with minimum impact on the environment?
I try to use as little paper and ink as possible. I recycle. And I don't have a car if that counts.
How do you sustain a motivated and ambitious approach when working in a team for an idea or project?
Stick to the topic and the goal, never take anything personal. Get the best outcome for the client. Don't be a prima ballerina. Learn from the others.
How do you adapt to growing trends in design, if those trends don't really tie in with your own design processes?
My design professors and teachers at Duesseldorf FH in Germany had a strong Bauhaus and Swiss typography background which influenced me of course. My first boss was a former Otl Aicher student. That's why most of my designs have this clean look. I like grids, I like minimalism and I try to incorporate this in my work if possible. I have to keep up to date with trends, I am using them if appropriate. But as most of my clients come from a b2b background they are not really looking for the latest fashionable trends in design anyway.
If you mean trends in technology, then I try to incorporate them of course if appropriate. Things I can't do myself, like programming, videographing, I outsource.
What sort of things from your childhood do you think have influenced you to be a graphic designer? Do these things come through in your ideas?
I was good at drawing and very bad singer ;-). And I read a lot which fueled my imagination. I am still ok at scribbling ideas by hand after 15 years on the computer and I am still reading a lot which might influence my ideas at a more subconscious level.
What sort of changes can you see happening in the design industry over the next 5 years?
More crowdsourcing, more collaborations instead of full time employment. I can also see professional graphic designers starting seriously to promote the industry and the advantages of a proper education to bring back the image and value of professional graphic design to the public.
Think back to your last project; what were some of the things that influenced your ideas and approaches?
My education and my first job after Uni. It was writing a comprehensive style guide so I had to work very organised ;-)
What new things did you learn from this project?
To gather information on a wider level as usual and also to get in touch with a new industry I've never worked with before.
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