Original Interview: November 2017


We spoke with Alari Orav, Kaarel Kala and Uku-Kristjan Küttis, Sven Erik Raju & Jaan Sarapuu aka. the whole team of AKU 😉 With the future plan of only hiring self aware AI-s AKU is open to new ideas and pretty keen on pushing the envelope. They’ve made a pretty great list of firsts for 2017 and have some great words of wisdom to share.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
We have studied English Literature, Advertising and Media and Art Education at University of Tallinn. Graphic Design at Estonian Academy of Arts and at RISD.

Before AKU we have worked as: graphic designers, web designers, art directors, creative directors, set designers, teachers, DJ-s, graffiti writers, gardeners, production managers, semi-pro yoyo players, translators, corporate phone on-hold-music producers, illustrators, extras at movies, event organizers, writers, newspaper photographers, farmers, warehouse managers and secretaries.


‘Interns become our friends and future collaborators, sometimes they stay on as full time workers’


Give us the elevator pitch on what you do. 
We are a design company who wants to only hire self aware AI-s in the future. No, seriously, AKU is always open to trying new things. With each project, we explore different ways to solve the problem and want to learn something along the way. Therefore we love clients who are ambitious and willing to break new ground. AKU based in Tallinn, Estonia.

AKU - The Design Kids

AKU - The Design Kids

What’s your take on internships? (do you take interns now?)
Internships have become an integral part of AKU. Although (or maybe because) we’ve never taken internships ourselves, we decided to pay the interns from the very start. It’s not much, but with additional EU grad and post-grad funding they can make ends meet. We also try to make sure that the interns would fit our team and are involved in all aspects of the creative process, not just the mundane work. Our programme lasts 4–6 months (so we only have 2 openings per year) — we have found that it takes a while to become a part of our ecosystem. In the best case scenario, interns become our friends and future collaborators, sometimes they stay on as full time workers (yes, it has happened). So far, we’ve had interns from 6 different nationalities.


‘Answers to difficult questions are often a search or phonecall away’


What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? 
1. Get bored.
2. Get paid.
3. No presumptions.
4. Have fun.
5. Share.

AKU - The Design Kids  AKU - The Design Kids

What advice would you give students starting out?
1. Learn to present your stuff well (both verbally and visually).
2. Answers to difficult questions are often a search or phonecall away.
3. Build your own design tools.
4. Always check the spelling.

Who would be the “dream client” that you would do anything to work for?
No such thing exists. The client should want to work with us as much as we do with them. Otherwise the relationship won’t work. We’ve learnt it the hard way.

2017 for you in a sentence.
How about a list of firsts? First time designing with slime mold, first fat-biking trip, first identity for a city, first typeface created in–house, first ASMR video, first visual generated with a cassette-recorder, first case solved for our detective agency.

Website: aku.co
Instagram: @akucollective
Facebook: /akucollective

AKU - The Design Kids AKU - The Design Kids AKU - The Design Kids