Keep your eyes peeled for typographic gems at the flea market, get some experience abroad, and work your side hustle while you’re studying! This how Naomi and Vincent got things going—they originally met while studying and after a bit of experience started Vrints-Kolsteren. Working mainly in the cultural sector, Vrints-Kolsteren collaborate, experiment and create with style.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs? We studied graphic design in Antwerp, the city that we grew up. We were in the same class and already started working together during our studies. We started a collective with some other students, combining different disciplines like illustration, photography and design. We made our first self published zines and organised a few exhibitions. By doing these small projects together, we noticed that we were a good team. After school, we both started working in different International studios for a while to get some experience abroad. We both think it’s very important to do that before starting your own studio. There are a lot of things you don’t learn in school.
What are your three must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why? BooksloveLiza on instagram. Liza Eneibis has an amazing book collection and regularly posts them on her instagram account. Especially interesting if you like Wim Crouwel’s designs. She also initiated Typeradio. Typeradio is a Micro FM broadcast, a MP3 internet radio stream and a podcast station. Broadcasting questions, answers, performances, events and talks with designers.
We just found a great book at a flea market. An old book called ‘label design’ by Claude Humbert. It’s filled with 1000 label designs from the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.We love to look at under-appreciated graphic design like this.
Also a great tip is to go to flea markets, we already found a lot of hidden treasures. Especially in the Netherlands, you will often come across Wim Crouwel’s design for the Stedelijk museum.
Whats your take on internships? (do you take interns now?) About a year ago we decided to take our first intern. We got a lot of internship requests before but didn’t quite feel ready at the time. Because we take it seriously, we wanted to be sure we had enough time to support a new intern. Having done some internships ourselves in the past, we really value this part of the learning process and we know how important it can be. Vincent did an internship at Studio Dumbar and ended up working there for 5 years. We’ve been lucky and have had some very good interns. Taking interns gives us the opportunity to take part of jobs we otherwise wouldn’t have time for. For example, a few months ago, there was an open call for a new visual identity for Fameus, a small cultural center for Amateur arts. We asked Adam, our intern at the time, to come up with something and we ended up winning the pitch. The selection of the interns is quite straightforward. If we receive a portfolio we like, we set up a Skype call to get to know the person (very important).
Tell us about any collaborations you have been working on. We often work together with Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx. We met in school and he is now working as an artist and curator. The last few years we often worked together on art related projects like Antwerp Art, L’amateur, Borg en Nacht van de beeldende kunst (night of the visual arts) that he curates/co-organises. It is not the typical client relationship because we work together in a very collaborative way which brings interesting results. We feel free to come up with the craziest ideas and often he even lets us go through with it. For example: recently we made a cover of a brochure for Antwerp Art with no text on it, only colours and shapes. Normally it’s very hard to convince a client on such a bold choice, and in the end we received some very positive reactions on the brochure.
Another client is Arte Antwerp, a menswear brand. We made the new visual identity for them and continue to do the art direction.
It’s very interesting for us to work in a totally different field and on different carriers. If you design for clothes it becomes a 3 dimensional object and there are a lot more aspects that needs to be taken into account. Like the fabric, texture, how the fabric changes the design. That is what makes it more interesting for us.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? Don’t work for free.It might seem like a good way to get some clients at the beginning of your career, but we quickly discovered that it is never a good idea to work for free. Unfortunately, working for free doesn’t mean you won’t get a lot of feedback.
Say no to jobs. We learned that if you have a bad feeling about a job at the start, most of the time it will turn out to be a difficult project. It’s important to have a connection to the job and have a good relationship with the client you will be working with.
Get some experience after school, before you start working freelance.
Build a network of people you like working with. You will need to collaborate with printers, web designers, curators, artists… It’s always a good plan to surround yourself with like minded, professional people.
Have fun will doing all of these things.
Who would be the “dream client” that you would do anything to work for? We love working in the cultural sector because it often involves subjects that we are interested in. The dream client would probably be a museum.
To build a visual identity from scratch and design absolutely everything. Form the posters to signage, exhibition catalogues…