A few weeks ago, we caught up with boss-lady Verena Michelitsch, design director at Sid Lee NY. Here’s what she told us about design, creativity, and finding your “true must.”
Punctuating her interview are images from her “Reflections” series, a photography/digital illustration project executed in collaboration with Tobias van Schneider. In a playful experiment with reflections and perspective, studio materials such paper, plastic and plexiglass were stacked, arranged and shot from an angle to create crystal-like shapes.
Tell us a bit about yourself: What’s your background and how did you end up in the design world in NYC?
I’m a graphic designer & illustrator, currently design director at Sid Lee NY. I freelanced right after college for four years in Austria, after that I moved to NY to learn from designers that I highly admired, Stefan Sagmeister, Jessica Walsh and Roanne Adams at RoAndCo.
How would you describe your creative vibe?
I like clean lines, patterns, both bold and pastell-y colors, really depends on the client or the project I’m working on. When working on a branding project I like to incorporate patterns, icons and illustration to create a holistic branding system. Recently I’m working on Art Direction projects more than anything else, where I work with photographers to shoot campaigns. With my graphic design background I am personally very much drawn to graphic and clean images and find it refreshing to work with the camera and a ‘real life’ setting, opposed to working and drawing on the computer.
What was the concept or idea behind your “Reflections” series? What process or learning experience went behind it?
This series was done in collaboration with my partner Tobias. We’re living together and we’re both working in creative, and we both like to do side projects. Having a little photo studio setup at home allows us to experiment. In our Reflections series we stacked plexiglass objects in weird ways, and looking through the lens we realized they cast really interesting shadows and reflections when looking at it from certain perspectives. After shooting a few stacks we close cropped the best ones, took them out of their context and surrounding and created this series of photo-illustrations. The goal was to do minimal retouching, but with one of the illustrations we also had a lot of fun in photoshop – I guess you can see which one 😉
Where do you look to for inspiration? Do you have any go-to sources that rejuvenate your creativity when you’re feeling uninspired?
Recently I am very lucky to travel a lot for work. After coming home I’m always incredibly inspired, seeing different countries, textures, people, buildings and cultures fills my head with ideas. I’m also very much inspired by my smart co-workers and my talented design team. Besides that – the usual suspects – going to galleries / museums, reading books and magazines etc. I love fashion, especially fashion photography and soak up every new campaign that’s out. I have a few photographers I follow and I dream to work with one day.
Where do you see the design world going in the next few years? Are there any trends you would place your bets on? (or that you would be excited to see come to life?)
I find it super interesting to see problem-solving product design. My partner Tobias was a jury member in Cannes, they awarded this project for the Grand Prix.
I admire when design helps to solve real life problems. Using our craft / creativity to contribute to something bigger.
What are you working on at the moment … and do you have any exciting projects lined up for the near future?
I recently started a blog/ online magazine about sleep. It is called Sand & Such (@sandandsuch).
I wanted to create a platform to appreciate sleep. Exploring the beauty and aesthetics around sleep, and giving sleep more awareness. So many have issues with sleep, but also the meaning of sleep in culture is really interesting. I want to look at how it changed over time, and explore how it differs in different cultures and countries. Nothing super scientific, it’s really just personal interest and curiosity. I started with interviewing friends, and then friends of friends. Right now I already have a little fan community and people ask me if they could be interviewed on the blog. I’m also working on a line of bedding products – duvet covers, pillows etc.
Do you have any advice for young designers trying to succeed in the art world?
Believe in yourself and be patient. And, find your true must – I like this story by Elle Luna: The Crossroads of Should and Must.
Before starting out you need to know some kind of direction, and find out what your true passion/talent is.