True grit is one way to describe Timothy Helmer's passion for graphic design! Taking the less traditional approach by starting out in the industry working and then going back to study shows his desire to know and learn all things design. Timothy is the man behind Antwerp's Creative Network—the online portfolio site—not only that, he also runs 'Let's Talk Design' and this year is working on a new start up called Elite. Whoooooooaaaaa— we love Timothy's determination and tenacity :D
What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?
The plan was to study at the art academy in Rotterdam. I was rejected and I was so disappointed that I looked for a job as a graphic designer/desktop publisher during the summer, after almost 3 months I found a job at a small agency doing small design work and learning the basics of designing for commercial clients. After 2 years it felt like I was stuck at what I was doing there and I started looking for something new, in those years I was always designing after hours and learning new things, something I kept doing for many years.
After a couple of interviews and one big offer that didn’t c0me trough (an offer from one of the big agencies in Eindhoven to start as an art director) I made the decision to move back to Belgium and start… tatataaaa at the art academy. Two years later my money dried up and in my third year I quit and started working as a freelance designer.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.
Ok, there is quite a lot of different things I do, so here we go.
I am a freelance brand & identity designer for the past 16 years, designing identities for all kinds of companies from small startups to big corporates.
Since 2007, I have run a platform for freelance designers called Creative Network , it’s a place where designers can put their portfolio online. Next to that, I also organise lectures on the subject of creativity called Let’s Talk Design 3 times a year and a conference on design thinking.
This year I am also running a startup with 3 other people called Elite, a global marketplace to source the best creative talent.
Whats your take on internships? (do you take interns now?)
I believe internships are only useful if the studio or agency has someone who can make some free time to guide those students. I also believe that it’s essential to let them have a go at real projects and take them to clients so that they get a better idea of what your job as a designer actually is on a day to day basis. And sorry guys, not looking for interns at the moment, simply because we don’t have the time to guide you as I believe it should.
What do you look for in a great portfolio?
A connection. It’s easy to make something that looks nice. If you can’t connect the designs to the clients needs —it’s crap work.
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self?
Work hard, meet people and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Those mistakes define your career in a good way, if you can learn from them.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
You choose who your clients are because of the work you generate and visa versa
Clients that love your work are worth it, others who just need a another designer are not
You need to connect with the world you work for
Choose the work or the client you love, if you have a connection with the client, their mission or the product you will create better work
Don’t forget where you came from, it’s good to be humble, and it’s great to help other younger designers
What do you think the design community could do more of to give back?
Collaborate more, especially between different disciplines. I think that doesn’t happen enough.
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