what I took away from working in new york
After working in the advertising industry in Austria for about 4 years after my graduation from uni I decided it was time to look for something more, new and a way to grow. It was 2011 and I decided to go to Hyper Island, which seemed to be a perfect postgraduate course at that time. I enrolled in the course "interactive art direction" and the fact, that we would only work on real clients like IKEA, H&M, SVT and much more was pure fun, I learned a lot and I gained a lot of insights. Unfortunately, the last chapter of Hyper Island intended to be an internship - which I was not willed to do. I wanted to work right after the course, so Hyper Island actually refused my graduation and I dropped out alongside of a couple of other people.
So yes, I am a dropout. But it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I teamed up with a girl that also had dropped out and who is a great strategic thinker. We went to work as a team in Berlin in New York.
So New York... a city you can literally get and experience everything you can possibly think of.
I loved it on so many levels but it is a tough working environment. We cold-called every studio and agency we liked and did get some gigs really quickly. One of the most fun projects was with potion design, a studio focusing on interactive design founded by former MIT guys. I worked with them on an interactive exhibition for the museum of science and industry where different gaming stations would show kids how energy is used and can be saved in different fields of daily life.
I don't want to talk about the project too much and rather want to focus on my main takeaways I try to remember every day:
1. for potion and in new york in general, it was very crucial to have a proper portfolio and that you show and talk about the concept and the process rather than only showing beautiful mockups. people also were very keen on understanding one's role in each and every project.
- I feel like people tend to forget how important a good portfolio is. I am the best example having lived without a proper portfolio for 10 years. also, I hated to show my face which is key in new york - so that people can put a face to your work and voice. I still kind of hate it, that a lot of people only put nice pictures online and nobody knows what they really did in the project and what the goal or the process of the project were.
2. people were always stunned if you were good at more than one program or skill. they were not used to a generalist like me and rather focus on becoming specialists in a certain field.
- I think generalists and specialists are both needed. but I also think that you have to be very clear on what you want to do and what you are best at. and that is in conversations as well as in your portfolio and the way you talk about projects.
3. one of the most important things was the clear roles team members took on. it was discussed openly and the responsibilities were crystal clear. people did not hesitate to lead and make decisions a creative team at potion for example at that time consisted of a designer, a coder and a project-manager which worked very smoothly.
- that is something I generally miss working back in Austria: people jump into teams and projects and the roles are not clear at all. through that, nobody feels responsible for nothing, projects become crazy, you need more time, decisions are postponed or not made and everybody thinks he can do all little bit of everything - which is never good. I try to always make it the first topic woking in a team and try to find the responsible decision makers on the client side as well.
other than that i think there is no magic sauce in new york - people are just really motivated and you can feel that vibe all through the studios. maybe it's because there are so many good people in any design segment you can think of. you have to put out good work to bee seen and you have to find a way to constantly promote your self. it does not help if you update your homepage once a year and keep waiting for clients to come to you.