Chat with Berlin Stories — Advice to young designers
The Australian publication visited Berlin and met me for a little designer-to-designer chat.
“I meet Suvi at Kirk bar just near the Schlesisches Tor station in East Berlin in the heart of Kreuzberg. It’s a great part of town, full of interesting characters and people heading home from work. The bar is just a short walk from the station and is dimly lit and stocked with wine from France and Spain. I sit down and wait for Suvi with a Spanish red and read my book.
Suvi arrives, and after some small talk, talks about her journey, which has led her to Berlin. Finnish people notoriously don’t use two words if one will do or as Suvi calls it ‘minimal conversationalist’. But Suvi is lovely and charming and all of her ideas and feelings are expressed through her striking large blue eyes.
Context, depth and purpose
She tells me about growing up in Saimaa, ‘the area of 10.000 lakes’ in Finland and always being different from the other kids. She tells me about a time at the age of 11 she wrote a play, organized all the 'actors', sew the costumes, designed and sold the tickets and also directed the whole show with what she calls 'uncompromising vision'. This story sums up Suvi very well, a self-directed and disciplined person with amazing drive, she tells me that even from a young age she concluded that everything had a reason. This also comes through in her work - nothing that Suvi does is superficial or based on some fleeting emotional feeling. Her work carries a beautiful minimal purpose, which we discuss as she stresses to me the importance of giving your work context and depth.
We talk about being a director and the challenges that come with dealing with clients. Suvi describes herself as a “Forest girl” meaning a self-reliant happiness and contentedness in her own company and abilities. Suvi worked for several 'very different' design companies (in Helsinki, New York, Frankfurt, Berlin...) and through the experiences learned a variety of approaches to merge into her own. “I have always had a interest in psychology, philosophy and sociology and how I can understand and interact with people.” She approaches this interaction with clients and colleagues with clinical precession and gives me some great advice.
Respect your client - only then can your vision be respected
“Sometimes you might need to work hard to create mutual respect” understanding that your client may not know how to create their vision doesn’t make it any less of a good idea than your own.
“Your thinking will be different to theirs but if -and only if- you are being paid by the client you have to accept that you are not alone in this. It's tough, especially if you have a strong will & vision, but as a designer you'll need to learn to co-operate and work with others. None of that can work without mutual respect. You'll learn through experience to know when to give in and when to push your own vision to ensure an outcome that you both can believe in. That's the ultimate challenge i suppose".
Understand and explain - only then can you get your ideas through
Suvi also emphasizes the importance of meeting with and showing the client the design process. “If you just show up at the end with the finished product, the client wont know how you got there and can be confused and annoyed. But if you meet with them and show why and how you have build your vision, the final idea will not be that foreign to them. Though you don't need to explain everything as some mystery and surprise should remain, they should roughly understand how “you got there”. The whole creative process is important part of the job. Also, the client has the right to know what he's paying for. Customer service should be included in the package".
Love what you do - only then can you and your team do good work
Suvi also talks about colleagues and I ask her how she gets the most out of her team. “You have to be enthusiastic about your project and believe in it or your team never will. If you are passionate about the project your team will pick up on that and they will become passionate as well. If you have one in the team who doesn't care, then you have a problem, and as an art director - it's always your problem.”
I ask Suvi why she left New York and why she chose Berlin. She tells me that Berlin is always a new city, constantly changing and constantly being ready to be rediscovered. I ask Suvi what she likes to do in her spare time and discovering great eateries and galleries is at top of her list. There is always something to learn and discover in Berlin and Suvi and myself wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Thanks to Luke Salmond for the kind words.
Photography: Gabriel Tamez