AM Copenhagen

We had the best time catching up with AM Copenhagen Founder & Creative Director, Kristina May Pries. AM Copenhagen is a brilliant digital, graphic, and brand design agency that lives by a non elitist approach and desperately wants to change the world! Kristina talks to us about the creativity she experienced during her childhood, how freakin' proud she is of her amazing team, and what exactly does it mean to be 'professional'?  

Any hilarious stories about you as a kid being creative?

Well, hilarious is a big word. But one that always makes me smile, goes back to when I was 10. My friend and I were playing on a parking-ground outside a big stadium. To us it wasn’t just asphalt – it was a gigantic canvas. With a handful of white chalk, we went crazy and started to draw houses, cities, fields, schools, infrastructure – everything! And with no planning whatsoever, the way only a child would. We drew for 9 or 10 hours straight and suddenly we had an entire world beneath our feet (quite symbolic, when you think about it). We were standing there proud of our huge creation, when it suddenly started pouring down. There were no iPhones back then, so we couldn’t capture it anywhere else besides in our memory. The rain swept everything away and within 5 minutes, it was all gone. That moment and feeling has stayed with me until this day – to truly enjoy whatever lies before me, and savour it, because things can be gone at any moment.

What did you do while you were studying to prepare you for the design industry?

During most of my 5 years at The Danish Design school I was a design assistant for the Danish multi disciplinary designer Johannes Torpe.  By investing my time there, it made a big impact on who I am today as a designer and as a CEO. Johannes taught me that there are no rules, that design is a free language, that nobody owns design as a skill and that design can make a huge change on so many levels.

Working at Johannes’ studio was like a big playground. Sure, it was hard work, but it was fun! The structure was flat and everything was very down to earth. Everyone were friends, which made it a lot easier to deal with crazy deadlines and late nights. I also learned to talk to clients, not to be afraid of explaining my own design and how much hard work it took to actually run a studio. I loved that period. I made so many mistakes, and I felt like that was an accepted part of growing into becoming a real designer.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

We do world class digital, graphic and brand design. It’s a bold but simple claim. But we live by it with a non-elitist approach. We understand businesses and know that the most important aspect is the bottom line, and that we cherish all our solutions. We don’t do design just for the beauty of it – that would be too easy and it wouldn’t be relevant. We are a down to earth team with a lot on our hearts, and we desperately want to change the world to a better place which is why many of our clients work within sustainability, SDG goals or NGO.

I grew up surrounded by the philosophy of being professional, meaning hiding your feelings and entering a “professional role” when I got into work. I hate that. And to be honest, I can’t do that, because it isn’t in my nature. I’m exactly the same at work and with friends outside work.

What are some of the best and worst parts of your job, day-to-day.

I love my job! Sometimes I get chills just thinking “what if I had ended up doing something I didn’t passionately cared about”. It scares me, but I am fortunate enough to work with such a variety of people and branches and I love learning new stuff every time I start a new relationship with a client. Og, and I really love sharing what we do here! I’m also passionate about running and building a healthy business. That was something I didn’t know I was good at in my twenties, so when I started my own agency, I was doubting whether I could actually make money on my passion for design. But it came naturally to me. Maybe because I take what I do extremely seriously, and I’m sure people recognise that. 

The worst part of my job is the idea of selling hours. It’s a rigid way of working, and a rigid way of selling. We create extreme amounts of value, but it all comes down to one or two hours.  I hate that feeling. I would love to sell value instead, not counted in hours, but more in an honest talk about what the project is really worth in the long run.

Who’s on the team, what are their roles and why do you love them?

I love this question, because that’s exactly what I do. I LOVE my team, and all of them individually. I grew up surrounded by the philosophy of being professional, meaning hiding your feelings and entering a “professional role” when I got into work. I hate that. And to be honest, I can’t do that, because it isn’t in my nature. I’m exactly the same at work and with friends outside work. And I encourage my employees to do the same: just be themselves. When you have a bad day, say it, when you are tired of something, express it – in a caring way of course. And when you are happy, dance!  We are humans after all. I love going to work, I love all of our talks and laughs there and we have a lot of them too. People’s roles are not static. Of course some hang on to their specialist area of expertise, but many here at AM team move over time. I have designers that work primarily as project managers, and  I have a project manager that moved on to being in charge of finances instead. And myself, I started as a designer many years ago, and now I’m solely working with the strategic part of our projects.

What do you think the design community could do more to give back?

At AM we launched a podcast about design and branding a year ago, called “Design Can…”.  Right now it’s only in Danish unfortunately, but we are working on an English version. We did that to share, to open up and just gather everything and everyone we love and believe in. There are so many great designers out there who we don’t hear about and that’s a shame. For many people, design is something on a pedestal, but we really wanted to democratise it and bring down to earth and simply have a nice, calm and honest discussion about what design is and the value it has in this world, in terms of what we can achieve with design thinking. I think all designers (and everybody else doing something they love) should share more. It would basically make everything and everyone better!

Where to find AM Copenhagen:

Website: amcopenhagen.com

Instagram: @amcopenhagen

Get involved