We are very pleased to present an interview with graphic designer Indre Klimaitė (www.ilegal.nl), who originally comes from Lithuania but lives and works in The Hague, Netherlands.
1. Please tell us about yourself!
So, I am from Vilnius, Lithuania, and I was studying in the Vilnius Art Academy Design Department. Then I worked at an advertising agency, and although I learned how to make the creative process factory-like, I did not feel that this is how my life would continue. So I soon decided to study. I found an opportunity in the Netherlands – affordable, English speaking, a Masters programme and in the country of design. So here I was – my first time in the Netherlands (2001), after a 26 hour bus ride, with suitcases, without a home to live in, standing in the bus station in The Hague. I studied in the Type and Media programme for one year. After that, just before going back home, I met my future husband and stayed in The Hague. Because I was kind of illegal there, I had to go back and forth across a border every three months, and sometimes I did not do this, and could not receive a working permit in order to be employed legally, even if I passed competitions. Having my own business is the only way I could work legally, and I actually started it in 2003. After that, we (Lithuania) joined the EU, but it was still very hard.
2. You studied type design in The Hague (www.kabk.nl). What do you think about new font designers making more new fonts?
Well, there can never be too many fonts, I guess, but I think font designers are often disconnected from current needs and trends, and from the context of graphic design – the surrounding where their font is going to be used (except maybe in cases when they do it for a certain function, like newspapers or signs…).
Aesthetically I think it hugely lacks in experimentation and concepts. It is too much about craft and a beautiful form.
3. What is good graphic design for you?
The more you live and work in this field, the less surprising it gets. I guess for me good graphic design is when it still manages to surprise me, no matter how – with its form, concept or function.
4. You work in Lithuania and the Netherlands – what is the difference between clients and the working atmosphere in general in both countries?
Well, I have the greatest, best and most free-thinking clients in Lithuania so I cannot complain about bad Lithuanian clients at all. They give me all the freedom I need and I don’t have to struggle to convince them about red or green. You just need to deliver the best work you can, then there shouldn’t be a problem. Also, the client should like your previous work, so he chooses to come to you for what you do, and trusts you from the beginning. I have also had difficult clients in the Netherlands, so from my experience the stereotype does not fit that Lithuanian clients want to do it all themselves, and the designer is just the one with a computer, while Dutch clients are the ones who give the designer freedom. But generally, all parties concerned in the Netherlands do tend to understand their own responsibilities better than in Lithuania.
I want to talk more about differences between designers in these countries. An independent graphic designer in the Netherlands takes much more responsibility and expands upon it, even up to the point of creating content or critically questioning the clients’ needs and problems, e.g. deciding that a client does not actually need to change their logo but change their website instead, or change the company management. The designer is also always responsible for the end product; while in Lithuania, the designer’s job ends with sending a digital file to the client with some recommendations on paper choices. That would never happen in the Netherlands – the designer is responsible for the end product and communication with the printing-house.
5. Please describe the graphic design scene in Lithuania now. Do you see a light ahead?
Of course there is light ahead – a lot of it, because more and more designers are receiving their education all over the world, expanding their knowledge and bringing it back to Lithuania in what they produce. The Art Academy is also slowly getting refreshed by new teachers, workshops and conferences that would never have happened before, when I was studying. In 2008 the Graphic Design Department was created! It is never too late! Students themselves are also giving lectures about their experiences in studying abroad, etc… So thanks must be said for all this emigration and the winds it blows around and inside.
I would have more to criticize regarding attitude – we always think that we are weaker, that we do not have that, we do not do this. Instead we should see our stronger points and focus more on our roots – what is Eastern European design, does it have a certain style, characteristic, type, form; what is our tradition? Maybe countries like Latvia or Estonia are too small to view as a unit, but if you look at the wider context of Eastern Europe there are already huge differences. So I would encourage students to look not at who is doing what in the West and how good they are, but more at what I myself can offer, how I can surprise, what my personal uniqueness is and how I can develop it, and what my country has to offer and how it influences my style. Go to the archives; look at design done 50 -100 years ago in your city, in your village. Start from there and you will no doubt find unknown talents and inspirations.
6. As far as we know you work alone. Why not as part of a duo?
Yes, I do work alone. And it is sometimes hard to isolate yourself all the time. I guess I have not met anybody who I click with, or I am not possible to work with in a team. I really don’t know. I would definitely like to work together – call me, e-mail me if you have a plan!
7. In 2007 you (ilegal) curated a Dutch graphic design conference in Vilnius. Please tell us about this event and the results of it.
That was a very enlightening and very ambitious event, created with the enthusiasm of 3-4 people, 12 000 Euros and one year’s work. And it can be done! The most amazing thing was realizing that it is actually not super difficult, especially if you have already done it once. On the other hand, the concept is the most important thing. So in continuing this series we need to think about a clear concept. I can still say up to this day that we invited the best Dutch designers like Erik Kessels, Armand Mevis, Karel Martens, Maureen Moreen and Daniel van der Velden (already at that time) Studio Dumbar, LUST, former NLXL, and more. I would also add Job van Bennekom and Experimental Jetset, who were also invited but did not have the time to come.
I could organize another three conferences about Dutch design and the quality of speakers would be just as good. That is what is amazing about the Netherlands – that it has managed to cultivate so many good designers, all thanks to design education and a positive design climate.
Then again, I also have some different thoughts. It was a very early time and I am not sure if visitors were ready for this event or realized what kind of people were invited, and I am not convinced they really managed to take the best from it. Maybe I’m mistaken, but there is a saying, “don’t cast your pearls before swine”. Any event should be one step above expectations, but if visitors don’t understand anything that is discussed, then maybe the level is too high. If I held this conference now, I think already 50% of people would really gain value from it, back then it was 20%. It was full and it was free; if we had not held it for free then I’m not sure so many people would have come.
8. Please name 3 Baltic designers you like.
9. What do you do when you are not working?
What I do is eat, and meet people. What I would like to do is: I would still eat, then I would lie on the carpet and listen to music, study, read clever and stupid books, most importantly, spend time alone.
10. What are your future plans? Let’s say at first in 5 years and then in 15.
Future plans…. Oh my god, these several months are the first time in 5 years that I have started thinking about that. You do it when you realize that all your dreams have come true without you even noticing, and you had never dared to dream further than that. So I am still in the process of thinking. But in 5 years I will be 36 and I guess I would like not to live in Den Haag anymore by then but somewhere bigger – Amsterdam or Berlin. Shit, that is quite old already… ah. I guess I will be fed up with graphic design, so I will be doing some art stuff, painting with the body or digging some holes, maybe organizing conferences. I guess I will not be working with clients anymore for sure, only with partners or colleagues, or just doing my own stuff. No future plan about where to get money…
In 15 years I will be 46. Then I hope I will be able to share my knowledge with people, teach a lot. I hope I will have found my place in the world by then, one where I could end up when I am old. I hope before that I will have managed to find the courage and time to have a second child.
And I hope I won’t be dead or ill; that is most important.
Main image: Indrė Klimaite at 17:17.
Other images and more info: www.ilegal.nl