Our 💖 for Helene Vetik, co-founder and Creative Partner of Hmmm Creative Studio, is real big. She’s an unstoppable super human! Big on doing what you love and a life full of learning it’s no wonder she won ADC Estonia Designer of the Year for 2017. Check out how Helene started out and some pretty great advice she’s got to give.
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started? I am the natural born scribbler, scribbling ideas on paper before I could talk – scribbling on my math paper, scribbling on a napkin, thinking visually non stop. I guess it means being born with love for design. My biggest turning points in life was becoming a Sailor Moon manga fangirl as a young teen & my dad gifting me with a collection of manga comics and a wacom digipad, that’s how endless hours of figuring out illustrations and design started.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs? I studied in the Estonian Academy of Arts graphic design department, but before that my dad taught me html & css so I was freelancing as the worst 14 year old web designer, one of my freelance jobs was to create dozens of pets related homepages and I got paid per piece, meaning 1 homepage 40€ or so, the more I made the more I got paid. Crazy times! During uni I was working with an amazing architect Veronika Valk in a ZiZi&YoYo architecture studio, we were doing art stuff, wind energy projects, improving the beach areas — very creative stuff. After that I took on a job as an art director in the local Ogilvy office, this job lasted forever, like 7 or 8 years. Worked on the biggest beer producers, banks, car firms, big fancy advertising projects, fun times I must say (before the economy crisis hit Europe). After that our team consisting of a copywriter and AD —Helene Vetik and Karl Saluveer—decided to create Hmmm Creative Studio and clean up our client list, take on only awesome projects.
Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if and how it shapes your practice? I teach a class in the Estonian Academy of Arts, any of the MA students can sign up for it, but there’s only 15 spots. My students are jewellers, ceramics, fashion designers, all sorts of designers who lack the so called business side of the business. Over 4 months each of them creates a target group product, a brand, a package and a story that is to be sold in the local design shops. They then go on to create the actual product launch and then the shop takes some of the diy brands in, and they become real brands. Like a fast forward incubator for people who are almost there but lack that professional kick in the butt. Teaching that, sort of keeps my senses sharp when dealing with new clients, questions that students ask me are a constant reminder of being closer to the real people, not just in my own bubble.
Don’t think that you’re already the shit, learn forever, become better every day. You as a designer will be your greatest project.
Who’s on the team, what are their roles and why do you love them? Our team is me, a sort of studio mom, creative director and AD at the same time. Then there’s Karl, copywriter turned strategist turned manager turned animator, the man can do it all. Andreas, a dude with the greatest sense of illustration and composition, always keeping his style fresh. Pamela, a fragile soul with minimalist style in design. Konstantin the pug, a studio dog, our stress doc. Love them all because they all left high paid boring positions just to do the things they love, awesome humans.
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self? 16 year old me actually imagined meeting this superhuman femme fatale woman and realising it was herself, we would go hanging out together and laugh at the world. So my advice would be to keep on imagining oneself as whatever you want to be until you be it. Not fake it till you make it, be it till you are it.
What advice would you give students starting out? If you don’t feel that you’re doing the right thing, if you can’t keep a pencil in your hands for more than an hour, if you don’t admire other designers, if you don’t like your teachers, STOP, change your career, there’s enough bad designers in the world, you can’t push it. But if you feel in your gut that design is meant for you and you don’t want to do anything else in the world – do anything! Do as many things as possible to inspire and influence your style, study design but take on jobs that will make you understand non designers, learn the basics, break them down & put yourself back together. Don’t think that you’re already the shit, learn forever, become better every day. You as a designer will be your greatest project.