Nadine Prowaznik, Founder of Veedelswerk to learn about her jump from working as a freelancer to setting up a business.
The sun shines brightly as Creative Director Nadine Prowaznik walks into the terrace wearing a white jumper and blue pleated floral skirt. It was 14 years ago that she started her creative journey and since then, Nadine Prowaznik has worked for prominent design projects across the globe.
When Nadine Prowaznik was 19 years old, she followed her passion for graphic design after a short stint in fashion. ‘I was as an apprentice at a small company and my mentor was a traditional graphic designer. I spent my days learning about the page layout of a magazine, typography and hand lettering,’ she remembers fondly.
Today, Nadine Prowaznik is the Founder of Veedelswerk, a design agency and the Cologne Host of CreativeMornings. But how did she get here? Nadine Prowaznik chats away as if we’re old friends with a warm smile as we find out about her jump from working as a freelancer to setting up a business.
Have you always wanted to be a Graphic Designer?
It’s funny to ask because I didn’t. It was my dream to be a Fashion Designer so I worked at a seamstress to learn the basic skills of dressmaking. It hit me when I was talking to people who worked for the company for several years and they weren’t being paid much. The job lasted for 4 weeks as I was just sewing buttons so I quit. I had no idea what to do besides to work in the creative field.
Did you study Graphics Design?
In the beginning, I was as an apprentice at a small graphics firm for 1.5 years and I’m still very thankful for this experience. My former mentor was a traditional graphics designer so I learnt most of my skills from him. I was 19 and he was happy to train a young girl the traditional techniques.
After that, I worked as a Junior Graphic Designer for 1 year. However, life as a full-time employee for a creative agency was a horrible experience because it was a mundane office job. You start in the morning and then you finish at night without feeling like you’ve finished your tasks.
Speaking of your mentor, you speak very highly of him. What skills did you learn from him?
He’s a Graphic Designer before Photoshop came along so he taught me about typography and hand lettering. He was a big fan of this as he would cut out letters from printed media and my job was to digitalise this. I spent my days learning about the page layout of a magazine but everything has changed tremendously. Nowadays, everyone is copying and pasting text into a box. I’m not saying you shouldn’t but it’s much more than this.
When I studied Graphic Design a few years later, it was shocking to find out my professors did not know much about the creative industry. They spent several years teaching so they had no idea how graphics had evolved with the new technology.
It’s important to stay up to date with design trends for your business to grow as there are so many new changes happenning quickly. I receive software updates on InDesign every week, so you have to be on top of the game to learn about new techniques!
How did you end up establishing your own company?
I was working as a freelancer for 14 years and I loved it. I enjoyed meeting new teams every few months and learned about how different people worked together effectively. However, the older I got, suddenly it was like ‘maybe one day I’ll be too old to be a freelancer,’ so my father suggested that I started my own creative agency, Veedelswerk.
Were there any struggles at the start of being a freelancer?
That’s a good question. I never intended to but I ended up freelancing for 14 years . After studying, I got my first freelance job and then my second- my clients kept came back after a year with the same project and that was the start.
What influences you?
I think it’s my daily life. My favourite way to overcome creative block is to go out and have a drink with a friend. Sometimes, you get the best ideas at a bar at 3am. It’s hard to be creative when you’re under pressure.
Why did you move to Hong Kong?
I needed some space from my company since I live behind my agency. It was hard to balance my work and personal life. I love Asia and I’m happy to be learning again but in English. When you’re in Cologne, it’s easy to forget everything you learnt in school.
We heard you host CreativeMornings in Cologne, how did you end up being involved?
I have a huge loft space at my home, which is also where companies rent my apartment for meetings and workshops. One day, Micheal, the former host of CreativeMornings, Cologne asked to rent out my venue for the month. When I was in Hong Kong in January 2016, Micheal asked if I was interested in hosting and the rest is history.
How big is your current team?
We were a team of 6 but it was never my thing to manage a big team. So for now, we have 2 full-time staff and 3 freelancers in Germany. I’m the only one in Asia and I want to stay here for one or two years.
I’m happy to manage a smaller team because ideas always clash if everyone is ‘creative.’ However, we’ve been growing tremendously so the next step is to search for freelancers in Hong Kong.
Any freelancing tips for independent artist in Hong Kong?
To socialise and network at events. Those who spend all day sitting behind their computers and staying in will have a hard time in Hong Kong. It wasn’t that difficult for me when I moved over because I have built a client list in Germany.
However, it’s hard to be a freelancer if you’ve never tried it. It’s very stressful when you’re slipping from one job to another and worried about cash flow. It’s always better when you don’t have that pressure.
What skills do you look for when you’re hiring for freelancers?
A good connection especially if you have the same ideas- it’s always the best way. Also, it’s important to be flexible. A client may call you up on the weekend to make amendments like changing the posters. I’m always happy to do work on a weekend, usually it means I can take a day off during the working week when city life isn’t so busy.
How do you feel about the design scene in Hong Kong?
It’s still growing and there’s a high demand for Graphic Designers in this city. Whenever I go to networking events, people are surprised to find out I’m a traditional designer instead of a digital designer. Hong Kong has a huge market for digital work in comparison for designers who use the old school method like silk screen printing. I love the printing processes- I’d love to open a silkscreen shop here!
Do you have any thoughts on coworking spaces?
I love it! I set up a home office when I opened my agency in Cologne. Working from home is a huge trend I could write a book on why this is the worst idea in the world.
There was a time whilst hosting CreativeMornings, our speaker was a famous author who wrote about the new movement on home offices. It’s ironic because he described all the great things about working from home but my team found it funny because I didn’t agree with him and he was giving a speech at one.
Last but not least, you’re always dressed so fabulously, how big is your clothes collection?
It would not fit in a standard Hong Kong apartment. Back at home, I have 2 rooms filled with clothes and a shoe collection that would last the next 20 years. It’s similar to Carrie Bradshaw’s closet from Sex and the City.
Whenever I fly home, I always pick up a new set of clothes from there. I can never find things I love in this city. When I shop in Hong Kong, it’s always the basics. I haven’t discovered any great shops- it’s hard to find something I like here. However, I do like Ladies Market for leather bags but not the fake designer goods- I hate luxury fashion brands.