We chat with Founder & Designer of creative studio OWD, Oskar Wettergren, about surrounding yourself with honest people and the importance of being able to give & receive feedback—plus Oskar shares some valuable pieces of advice for new grads.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I’m a graphic designer of almost 20 years, mainly doing branding and typography. I believe good design is function. I love communicative, well thought out and balanced design where every element has a clear and distinct purpose. Beauty is in the detail.

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

Nothing worth having comes easy. Countless late nights, anxiety, disagreements, bad planning and projects that never materialized. It’s a hard business. Especially if you want the best result possible every time. Perfection doesn’t exist, but I can’t help to strive for it. It’s very hard not to work when you have your own business. They got it all wrong: Choose a job you love, and you will work every day in your life.

It took me quite some time to realize what I need in my professional life to be happy. There’s a lot of variables and it takes time to fine tune everything to your liking. I started my own business because I wanted to have greater control over my time. Over what projects, colleagues and clients I work with. I’m a curious person and have a need to explore. So I work about half of my time at an ad agency as a design consultant and the other half on my own clients and personal projects. That way I get a little bit of everything.

I love solving problems. Finding the solution to something is incredibly rewarding. To then see it grow into its final form is everything. I love the process. Love the work.

Design work by OWD The Design Kids interviews OWD work-2

What's the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Learn the art of feedback. When I started out in the early 00’s I did posters and flyers for the local music scene. I did quite a lot of work without ever really getting any feedback. It was just sort of accepted as it was. So when a friend told me that ”You suck at typography” I couldn’t really handle it. But as soon as my ego had recovered I realized he was right. It’s hard to take feedback. To not take it personally.

My father passed away a few years back and as I drew his funeral card I realized I needed a fresh pair of eyes. I sent it to a friend and fellow designer (that I send almost all my work to). He gave me honest and direct feedback on an incredibly sensitive subject. What he said, no matter what it felt like hearing it, made it better. I’ve made sure to surround myself with people that give me honest and direct feedback without ever holding back. I find that invaluable.

It’s equally important to practice giving qualitative feedback. It sharpens your eye and forces you to put your design thought into words.

What qualities and skills do you look for in a graduate?

Something I think we put too little emphasis on is energy. If your employee is a great craftsman but a pain to be around, that energy will eventually bring other employees down with them. I’d rather have a technically ok designer with great energy than the other way around. So much time and energy is wasted in office politics. On the other hand, if you’re working with passionate, driven and open people there is no end to what you can achieve together.

Other than that I think it’s important to have similar, but not necessarily identical, design philosophies. A similar voice. You need a shared foundation, a common goal, to make the work as precise as possible.

Design work by OWD The Design Kids interviews OWD work-4
Design work by OWD The Design Kids interviews OWD work-4

I’ve made sure to surround myself with people that give me honest and direct feedback without ever holding back. I find that invaluable.

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

  1. Live a balanced life. Dog years are a myth. There’s no rush. Live.
  2. Try to think long-term. All careers paths are different. Just because some people are ahead of you now doesn’t mean they will be in two, five or fifteen years. It’s easy to compare yourself and your work to your classmates, to whatever design you consume, to your role models. But we are all different, want different things out of a career, need different lessons. Make sure you follow your own path rather than to try and emulate someone else’s. Whatever worked for that person at that time might not be applicable for you, now.
  3. Repetition is the path to mastery. So if you want to be better at typography - do more typography. And if the right projects don’t magically fall into your lap, make them yourself. But remember to rest in between sprints. Pauses are as valuable as active work.
  4. Don’t follow trends. Unless the project is supposed to be very short-lived or constantly updated all you’re doing is dating your work. What was all the rage last year is rarely cool (or good) today? Or as Oscar Wilde put it ”Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months”.
  5. Don’t be afraid to fail, you will. So make sure you learn from it and move on.

Design work by OWD The Design Kids interviews OWD work-5
Design work by OWD The Design Kids interviews OWD work-5

Where to find OWD online.

Website: oskarwettergren.com

Instagram: @owd_sthlm

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