Designer of the Week: Colleen Schikowski
The deadline for the 2017 Regional Design Awards—the industry’s most prestigious and well-respected American design competition—has been extended to May 1. Enter now!
PRINT’s latest Designer of the Week Colleen Schikowski is a Cleveland-raised, Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary designer who says she’s been creating since she was old enough to wield scissors. Below, the soon-to-be graduate of Pratt Institute shares the details behind her most challenging project thus far, one that boldly explores how everyone—both clients and designers—gets duped by design crowdsourcing.
Name: Colleen Schikowski
Name of Studio: afreeman
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Design school attended: Graduating from Pratt Institute, May 2017
How would you describe your work?
I don’t see myself as having much of a “style” when it comes to my work, and I’ve increasingly learned to value that. One of the most important things I’ve absorbed as a young designer is to approach problems with whatever kind of solution is best for that unique scenario, with any and all available tools as possible trajectories. I believe there’s a pressure placed on [beginner] designers to be one thing. For me, being multifaceted has always been something I’ve identified as, and something that makes me excited about design. I love the versatility of it—it’s not any one single method or ability, but rather a skill set that can be applied to anything. I think that design is so many things simultaneously, and so designers should be as well.
Inspired by the ever-changing landscape of New York City, Schikowski’s Built By Bees design takes inspiration from hexagonal, stainless nuts, which also refer to the hexagonal shape of honeycomb.
Where do you find inspiration?
Obviously New York City is inspiration overload—everywhere I look there’s something to be looked at. I think we all spend time in our respective bubbles, and the times when I’m most inspired are when I take a new route somewhere, stumble upon a weird shop, or just spend time sitting in the park. I typically get stir-crazy when I feel isolated, usually doing my best work in coffee shops or amongst others. I listen to a lot of podcasts—my favorite right now is called How I Built This (from NPR); I also follow Hidden Brain, TED Radio Hour, and Design Matters. I love getting my hands on design books, as well as design blogs and online collections to find inspiration and appreciate new work.
Beyond that, I’m particularly drawn to the things around me that have tactile presence. I think since I was young I was always trying to make things, from paper, from kits, from whatever I could find to cut up or stick together. I think those are still the things I’m drawn to and inspired by—things that a person made with their hands.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
I think it would be a huge melting pot of designers, studios and artists all for different reasons. Karim Rashid, Stephen Doyle, Stefan Sagmeister, Louise Fili, Mat Bogust, Alexia Roux, Tim O’Brien, Established NYC, Hybrid Design, Collins, Project Projects, Stranger & Stranger, Yell Design, Gustav Klimt, Will Bradley among many others. Largely, I’m inspired by anyone who can wear a lot of hats and do it well—“renaissance designers,” if you will.
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on / Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
I did an independent project about crowdsourcing in design, initially ignited by a mentor’s frustration with 99designs. I wanted to thoroughly comprehend and articulate the realities of what this type of service does. Ultimately, weeks of research manifested into a website (99dupes.com) and a short process video (https://vimeo.com/205499519). Distilled, it comes down to education about the professional worth that designers are constantly combatting. Foremost, it’s important for students and young designers to realize and have confidence in their contributions. Design is work, just like any other profession. And doing work for free degrades not only your own experience and worth, but also the expertise and value of your peers.
I learned so much from this experience—and not just about the evils of design crowdsourcing, but also about how different types of people perceive and assess design thinking. Because design is oftentimes intangible and unquantifiable, we’re often defending its value and reimagining it to outsiders: to relay that in an interesting, convincing way was challenging. It was a great feeling to eventually find my way out of the weeds and into production. I taught myself some new skills: built my first functioning website from scratch, and art directed an accompanying short film to support it.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I hope to make work that feels experiential, intentional and engaging. Making things that solve a problem, clarify the complex, or bring excitement to the mundane is certainly a perpetual goal. In the nearest of futures, I am available and avidly seeking a full time position—I’d love to be part of a collaborative, fast-paced team environment where I am exposed to new challenges and can learn quickly!
What’s your best advice for designers today?
So much of design is about investing in and embracing the process. You can’t always have the most clever idea in the room; there are plenty of times when you won’t be the most talented amongst your peers or the most experienced or get the best briefs. But you can have control over your work ethic, your executions, and your ability to collaborate with and improve from those around you.
Mashup Chocolate, inspired by musical mashup groups that bring individual songs together into one composition
The Hive, a lamp assembled using over 350 individual pieces, designed in AutoCAD and laser cut into Yupo paper
Annapurna, a conceptual Indian restaurant that emphasizes the vibrant colors and spices vital to Indian cuisine
Enter the PRINT Regional Design Awards—now open to both pros and students—for a chance to have your work published, win a pass to HOW Design Live, and more. 2017 Judges: Aaron Draplin / Jessica Hische / Pum Lefebure / Ellen Lupton / Eddie Opara / Paula Scher. Student work judges: PRINT editorial & creative director Debbie Millman and PRINT editor-in-chief Zachary Petit.
Extended Deadline: May 1, 2017. Enter now!