Robert Glad graduated from Southampton Solent University with an Advertising degree back in 2014. After tirelessly promoting his talents to find his dream start in the creative industries, Robert landed a Design Internship with AKQA Amsterdam. We spoke with Robert about life in Amsterdam, being a designer at one of the worlds biggest digital agencies and how he got there.
Describe to us your career path up to now
Leading on from a very hectic last year at Southampton Solent University, much of the work there I did with my partner and the agency we founded, the placements, internships and competitions – paved my way into the industry.
"Months passed and before I knew it I was on the phone with an awesome Creative Director from AKQA London"
Of course I spent further six months of interviews, freelance gigs and developing my skills. I had my small hit list of people and agencies I wanted to work with. I even went to extreme measures to get a hold of the people I wanted to talk to. Months passed and before I knew it I was on the phone with an awesome Creative Director from AKQA London. He told me of a possible opening in Amsterdam and that he was going to connect me with a recruiter who set me up for an array of interviews with all the Creative Directors in the Amsterdam office!
After months of interviews and nervous breakdowns I received an email from a very patient HR manager who had stuck with me through thick and thin in this process, I got the intern position!
I was given six months to prove my worth with an array of projects. I was placed within a team and we had a fantastic project and an awesome client to work on. I felt nothing at university could have prepared me in a good way to what I was being tossed into.
"Make myself invaluable to them."
I finally got a perspective that design is just one of the many tools to communicate an idea and to solve a problem. I dived into motion graphics, prototyping, coding, film production and concepting. I worked on every brand and project in the building and rarely my weeks were no less than 60 hours. My plan: Make myself invaluable to them.
In the end it worked! I got offered a junior contract and its still hard to think today I actually get paid for doing what I do every day. I constantly get challenged to not think what the world is, but what it could be - alongside the best and coolest people in the industry.
Talk us through typical day designing at AKQA
Normally I arrive an hour earlier everyone else to have my breakfast by my desk while mentally refueling for the day ahead. A large cup of coffee and then I barge through emails and aligning with the entire team through what we call stand-ups (all parts of the team stands together and talks about what they are doing for the day, concerns and opportunities) before we scatter.
"Most of the creatives and designers at our office can easily switch between concept work and hardcore experience."
My partner and I talk through the concepts and ideas we made during the day before and lay a plan to how to best possible present it to our Creative Director. Ideas gets presented, killed and nurtured before we bombard the walls with fresh ideas. Most of the creatives and designers at our office can easily switch between concept work and hardcore experience and product-design and that is how we also divide our teams. Some are better at the other, but in the end everyone needs to know how to properly come up with an idea and communicate it in a concept or design.
Having our office by the beautiful canals of Amsterdam, lunch is usually spent outside looking at all the tourist boats while having a sandwich and a large coffee. After lunch we switch gears and go into execution mode for what was done before lunch. At the end of the day the whole team gathers and explains what’s being done and talk through the ideas. We conclude the day and when possible head out for drinks.
Which parts of the job are exciting and frustrating?
AKQA’s goal is to create the future for our clients, which perfectly fits my own ambition seeing the world for what it can be. Armed with the ability to freely express my way of thinking and solve problems with likeminded people from all over the world. In the office we are over 30 different nationalities so it’s an international environment where everyone brings something to the table.
"When people start saying ‘that’s not my job’ or becoming destructive, egoistic and unfaithful."
When people start saying ‘that’s not my job’ or becoming destructive, egoistic and unfaithful to the process. The biggest nay-sayers in the industry are not clients, it is the creatives. The creative process can be ruthless and most of your ideas will never make it to the finishing line, so being able to kill of your darlings and move on is a necessity to survive your first years.
What's the creative scene like in Amsterdam?
Its awesome! A tight knitted network of extremely talented people ranging from well established art curators, underground artists to award winning agency-creatives!
Everyone has a stake in the creative environment, you just have to put yourself out there and you will be welcomed with open arms! Even if it is ex-colleagues that just moved further down the canal or a friend of a friend you bumped into the last opening of an exhibition last Friday, everyone is talkative and there is no ‘You are from AKQA and I am from another agency so we cant talk’ bullshit (Usually). Agencies open up and throw awesome exhibitions after working hours which is a great way to see the talent in the other houses and meet new people.
Name a skill you think every designer should have?
You've declared yourself as a perfectionist. How does it help or hinder you from getting your work done?
Everyone pushes for more perfection over a shorter amount of time. Designers and creative’s new reality is to do more with less, which can be quite the challenge when you love your craft to the point that its almost irrational. It can hinder deadlines, it will make you work insane hours and probably piss of a lot of project managers… but if it is for the sake of the craft and the idea, everyone should bring out their perfectionism.
Where do you see yourself going down the line?
Becoming an Associate Creative Director at AKQA and continuing my plan of leaving a dent in the universe. Plan B Is to become a forest keeper for my families land in northern Norway.
What tips would you give to aspiring designers?
Don’t give up. Experiment and explore. Focus on what fantastic stuff you can bring to the table. Don’t settle for good but settle for better. And be passionate about what you are doing and want to do, getting a job and working will be much easier. Those are the people that makes a difference, and that’s the people everyone wants to work with.
Name three things you're "glad" you did this month?
Taxes, advancing my newly developed skills in Cinema 4D and turning down two new opportunities with some fantastic people overseas which was extremely sad but shows that I am finally able to be responsible and to think ahead with priorities and time.
And finally, if you could share a desk with anyone from the past, present or future, who would it be?
Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes. My childhood heroes and now my mentors to how I approach my creativity, career and life.
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