After studying together Winneke & Felix went on the conventional designer route, but soon discovered this wasn’t the path for them. We are out of office started from wanting to do their own thing—which hey is a pretty great thing! See how Winneke and Felix use their design skills to create a job that suits the two of them 😇
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs? We both grew up in Utrecht and we both studied Graphic Design at the HKU, which is the School Of The Arts Utrecht. We already did some small projects together during our studies, but we weren’t working together like we do now yet. We both worked freelance as graphic designers after graduating. Sometimes for a studio and sometimes directly for clients. The jobs we did were typical graphic design jobs like working on logo’s, identities and posters for music venues. After a year or so we figured out that this wasn’t what we wanted to do. We already started working together on own projects more and more, focussing on small products which we could sell to fund our travels. At one point we just stopped doing commissioned jobs and started working fulltime on our own projects.
‘We make whatever we want and if people don’t like it, then they don’t buy it. Their loss’
What does a typical working day include for you right now? We live above our studio so first we have coffee and wake up for half an hour or so. The first thing we do when entering the studio is putting on music and check email. It mostly takes 30 to 60 minutes to read and respond on all emails.
It depends on what projects we are working on how the rest of the day would look like. We don’t really have a pattern for how we work. We design for some hours, have lunch. Screen print some stuff or print something on the risograph if we have production days. Other days we design some more. Pack orders for customers or shops. Go to the post office by bike and ship everything. That are the usual tasks. If we work for a client we produce a lot less and design a bit more. Some days we are just doing research which is kind of boring but very very necessary. We like the days which are filled with lots of different small tasks, it makes you feel like you’re moving mountains.
Tell us a bit about yourself and the studio that you work for. Like I said before we figured out we didn’t want to be ‘graphic designers’. We love printing techniques and we love thinking about illustration and graphic design as a product. We started selling screen printed postcards to local shops, which were selling in huge numbers. We were already screenprinting at home by then so it was quite easy to produce for us. We started to make more and more prints and printed them in the evening or during weekends. After a while we figured we could make a living of it, so we decided to start working full time on our own products. Our studio is called ‘We are out of office’. We came up with that name for one of the first projects we did together. We went to New York and started making design in exchange for food and goods. We wanted to live in NY but we are not allowed to work there so we figured we had to work around that. We decided to keep the name as we wanted to travel as much as we could and we funded our travels with all the stuff we sold.
For the first two years we didn’t do commissioned jobs. We wanted to work on our style and way of working. We didn’t want people who could tell us we had to do things different. For us this was the perfect way of developing our own way of working. We make whatever we want and if people don’t like it, then they don’t buy it. Their loss.
By now we want to do bigger projects — projects we can not arrange by just ourselves. We started doing commissioned jobs again, people ask us for what we do now which is a big difference from when we just started. We are represented by We Are Goodness now, which makes us more visible for big clients.
‘Most of the time the best connections occur without even noticing it.’
How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others? We just do whatever we like, there is no one who tells us we do things wrong. I think this kind of freedom is the key for developing your own style. We both design in a very different way. When working together we end up somewhere inbetween. It just doesn’t work if one of us is working on something. This is very important for us, we keep each other sharp and are still suprising each other when trying new things. Also the techniques we use have a big influence on how we design, we are so used to designing in a way so it’s possible to print, that it became a part of our style. For example we don’t use that many colors for a design, and if we do we mix colors. We also use very bright colors because that is possible with screenprinting (that’s one of the reasons we like it that much).
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self? Don’t look too far ahead and don’t look too much at others. When looking at other designers I used to think: ‘I want to make that sort of stuff’. It really confused me because it is impossible to make everything you like, you have to accept that there are things you can’t do. Learn to appreciate your own process and struggles and learn to appreciate others without copying.
How important is networking to you? It is VERY important. It sounds terrible though. I used to hate it. You should just call it something different, it makes it way more easy. We don’t ‘network’ as a ‘thing’. We just go to places (fairs, exhibitions, festivals etc.) and talk to people. Most of the time the best connections occur without even noticing it.
We also network deliberately. If we want something to happen we figure out who we need to talk to or how we can get to this person. It is so great if you come up with this plan and it all works out exactly as you conceived.