Interview with Amanda-Li Kollberg

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Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Amanda-Li Kollberg (AK) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Amanda-Li Kollberg by clicking here.

Interview with Amanda-Li Kollberg at Monday 9th of May 2016
Amanda-Li Kollberg
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
AK: I actually wanted to be a writer, then a journalist, then a photographer too because I couldn't decide if I liked images or words more. For a short while i combined those two by drawing comics and even applied to a comics education but was rejected, understandably and luckily. I had studied Media in my Swedish high school and that included graphic design, which I was good at but found boring. I even failed typography, I would have never dreamed that I would teach it about 10 years later. I went on to study Philosophy at the university, then Media and Communications, quitting both after only one semester. Finally I was just working in a bar and took an evening class called Graphic design and Advertising. And something fell into place. Excited I went on to doing a year of Graphic Design studies at Krabbesholm in Denmark, a folk high school that really introduced me to the creative world, and prepared me for my BA. From then on one thing led to another and graphic design is my world, all though I still want to get back to writing too, maybe later in life.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
AK: Jetzt is my own freelance project, and I take on clients alone or in collaborations, like with DokumentArt. Normally I do bigger projects with Siri Lindskrog, aka "Immer", a very talented designer and dancer that currently lives in New York. Together we are jetzt&immer. We are jokingly saying we are a studio in mid air, always moving, and lots of work is happening over Skype, in airports, busses, on cafés and in AirBnB apartments. We might settle in the same city some time, we could love a studio space in the future but for now we both have maximum freedom to do interdisciplinary work in a range of countries and for very different clients.

FS: What is "design" for you?
AK: Oh, that is tricky. It seems to be an impossible question to answer without sounding pretentious. Here goes: Design is communication. Design is pragmatic use of visual connotations, it's everywhere, and it's the reason and reasoning behind everything.... See? It sounds pretentious. More than anything, design is my favorite hobby. That, and pop corn.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
AK: The variety is the most important aspect for me, switching between loose concept drafts and detail work. Developing an idea, brainstorming and letting the thought loose is nice, but doing repetitive, meditative layout work is nice too. I do visual identity most, but I want to do more books and packaging, and the more one-off projects involving paper cut or paper sculpting are lots of fun too! Basically I love to be challenged and learn new things.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
AK: For a company, hm... I think it was a small range of associate company logos Siri (aka. Immer) and I made for scandinavian insurance company Skandia. But the first thing I had "produced" in the real world was an exhibition poster for Krabbesholm Kunsthall, a small exhibition space at my school. Sending something to print and getting it back all folded and smelling like ink. That was a wild experience and seeing something you made printed and "alive" is still magical.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
AK: I am a paper girl, and printed matter, tactility and physical interaction are interesting to me. To pick a technique I'll say foil cut / paper cut. I like that you have two modes, "there" and "not there" and the structure depends on itself somehow.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
AK: When I travel, on busses, ferries and in airports. Also in the shower, those times when you can only do that one thing. Nobody expects something from you while you are being transported or in the shower. And that relaxation often gets the thoughts flowing. Also between 20:00 and 02:00 in the morning is usually a good time to work for me.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
AK: I like the idea generation phase, while everything is possible and it's very much allowed to go wild and go really silly things. But the craft of the execution, working with the colors and type, adjusting details.. That's where it gets interesting. You might have the best idea ever but when you translate it to a range of visual output and it just works.. I realize now that I think all aspects awe important, but what I put the most attention to depends on the project at hand.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
AK: It's such a roller coaster. I think every big design process has at least one point of total despair and self-doubt, a low to build up from. If I am too calm and confident all the way through, I have not been challenging the project enough and it will end badly - or just be boring. So the answer is, anything from depression to euphoria.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
AK: Pride and relief. And after a little bit; restlessness and a curiosity about what's next.

FS: What makes a design successful?
AK: In my BA we were evaluated based on Overview, Care and Originality. So basically, how well it relates to it's context and how coherent it is, how much attention is payed to details and the originality is fairly self-explanatory. And that way of seeing design made sense to me. But a good concept is important, I am more about a clever idea than immaculate but boring execution.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
AK: If the design cares about it's own content and purpose, if there is a symbiosis between form and function. It's quickly evident if someone polished a turd, tried to conceal a weak concept with flashy tricks.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
AK: Like in any other profession, or for any living human: with knowledge comes responsibilities. I think we are responsible not to make bad design when we are actually able to make good design. Even if we are some times (often) under payed, and we lack time and sleep and motivation. We are responsible not to devaluate our craft, not under-bid each other and spit out quick and soulless work for 5$ a pop and to say no to clients who want us to be bad designers for them. Designers need to be all that software, templates and generators are not, and to teach people that design is valuable. And furthermore, knowing what we know about the state of the environment and global working conditions, we are responsible to pay attention to production methods, resources and materials throughout the process from idea to realization.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
AK: No idea. And that is the exciting part. New materials, new technology, new cultures. I have no idea what or whom we are designing for in three years. But i feel like "multi-diciplinary", "intercultural", "common" and "collaborative" will be keywords.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
AK: From just about anything. A broken tile in a bathroom. The way the light shines on something. Some words I hear, a photography of someone.. And off course from art, architecture and a range of other disciplines. I have a really large and really random inspiration folder with notes and pictures that I often go to for fuel.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
AK: I had to pick three words to describe my style for a small publication recently, and I and to ask my partner for help. I ended up writing "light", "exploring", and "detail-oriented". Again, sounds so pretentious, right. I am not sure I have a visual style per se, but I probably have a strategy, a tendency towards something fairly clean but with interesting details. I like to explore things and discover new details and I aim to make people to feel the same about my work, to want to spend more time around it.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
AK: I think the fact that I have moved countries a few times mean more than where I live at the moment. I am never fully settled where I am and always plan the next move or visit somewhere. And moving requires an openness, to be able to build new networks, get new habits and get used to new things quickly. I really hope that is a strength instead of making me confused and un-focused. Culture-wise I guess things I do look fairly scandinavian, which makes sense. But I love to fuse that with other references, and pull on strengths and interesting aspects from more than one style.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
AK: I think chemistry is important, that you click on a human level, just enough for all parts feel safe in the collaboration. The are so many good designers, and so many types of skill sets, but appreciating, understanding and respecting each other is key to a good end product. It's important that all parts has room to grow, learn, ask honest questions etc. For me, good clients have been the ones that saw me as a creative person, not just a tool or a set of skills, and who were honest, decent and friendly. After all, we are with them to help, we are on the same side.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
AK: It's fairly classic. I get to know my client / project, start brainstorming and gather inspiration, make the visits, meetings, interviews, research required to start creating something that makes sense. I do find it easier to have a bit of a time constraint and get the feeling that we are doing this right here, right now.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
AK: I have so many books I love, so I'm going to just say "my books" as one. My Lemon squeezer. It just works, I use it every day and it looks great, pure yellow enamel. I have bag of taco spices next to a flyer for the breakfast market at Markthalle Neun over my stove, they are a nice pair. The taco spices are from my home country Sweden, who are excelling in packaging design lately, it's always great fun to visit supermarkets in Sweden. That was four things...kind of. Lastly I'll say my poster for, and by the musician "US Girls". It's a hand made screen print in 4 layers and it looks amazing. I love it's irregularities, errors and overlaps.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
AK: Not having had a 9 to 5 situation for years, that's tricky to do, but I'll try. I'll wake up, some time between 6:30 and 11:00 depending on how late I was up working the night before and when my first meeting / phone call / task of the day is. I start slowly, reply to emails, drink coffee. Then usually a few meetings, a few things to send off in different directions. And in the afternoon or evening I get more hands on and produce things. Working with my partner in NYC creates a natural afternoon rhythm in the projects we share, and some times I am in correspondence with a client in New Zealand or so, and then office hours can suddenly be at one in the morning. But like I said, it really varies. I work more or less all day and most weekends, with breaks for yoga, a walk, a nap, a beer..

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
AK: Haaaha, no. Don't listen to me. Ok, I have one: Decide what you want and go for it. Picture it, and then figure out how you get there.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
AK: My problem is that it's my hobby and passion just as much as it is my job, so I'm having trouble distinguishing between work time and free time. It's a hard profession to just walk away from an leave at the office, especially when freelancing, it all comes back to you and your abilities, your time management, your ideas. So that is the positive and negative, wrapped up in one, that it becomes more than just a job.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
AK: It will be fine, don't panic. But get stuff done.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
AK: I guess the ability to step back and look critically at your own work and see if it makes sense, and to ask others if it does. It's so easy to get to deep into a project and then the ability to reach out for input and, the ever valid, be ready to kill some darlings

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
AK: The usual. Notebooks, pens, knives, rulers, lots of books and references collected over the years..

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
AK: I need to work on that actually. Time management and project management. I get things done and handle deadlines fine, but I might loose some sleep in the process.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
AK: There is no way of giving a general reply there, but I find it most effective to do focused work over a shorter time span then to let a project drag out.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
AK: "Visual Identity? that?"

FS: Who are some of your clients?
AK: Antalis, Mandag Morgen, European Glass Context, DokumentArt, Northbridge, Baisikeli, Basis Film, Skandia, PurePharma, a range of independent people and small associations..

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
AK: Oh.. No idea. Things I didn't just spend a month doing. It comes back to the variety, I love doing paper cut, layout, the design. But no all day, every day. Actually, type design I don't mind doing a lot of.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
AK: Next is finalizing my MA in Visual Culture / Co-Deisgn next month and also moving into my new home-office, it's going to be great to have a more space, and more of a division between work and home. I am planning to spend some time in Berlin this fall to work with the 25th anniversary edition of DokumentArt. A book about meteorology I am working on is coming out during fall too.. Oh, and jetzt&immer just signed a contract with an new scandinavian jewelry company, it will be lot s of fun to create their visual universe from now on. But basically I will just see what comes along now that I will go 100% freelance. It's an adventure.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
AK: I am "alone" in my company but I regularly collaborate with Siri Lindskrog as jetzt&immer, and also do DokumentArt with Lorenz Huchthausen. I think I am good on my own but best in a team and I try and make my client my team as well, so we collaborate, not just do things for each other.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
AK: I am doing a book together with a lovely meteorologist, focused on navigation students and hobby sailors. It's great fun, a book is like a slef-contained visual identity, and I get to work with each little detail, do lots of infographics and illustrations. It's one of my first book projects and the biggest one I've done on my own, so it's a learning process too. After all, I am really "young" in this business.

FS: How can people contact you?
AK: I try and keep the websites ( / ) up to date with contact information, and I always enjoy when new people get in touch. works!

FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.

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