Ester Mejibovski and Marta Úrbez.
Back in May, we were volunteering for D&AD Festival, where we got the opportunity to get our portfolios reviewed. Without knowing, we were applying for a 3 month web design course in NYC, the WIX Design Playground. We were lucky to be 2 out of the 3 selected young designers to attend.
The programme was divided onto three projects: an online campaign for Tattly, a website for a local charity, and developing our own portfolio site. Besides that we had weekly workshops with people such as Adam J. Kurtz, Frankie Ratford from TheDesignKids, Jessica Walsh or Alexandra Zsigmond.
After having spent the summer in the sweatiest city in the world, we have asked each other some questions in order to reflect upon our experiences.
Ester: Having submitted my physical portfolio on friday and flown to New York City on sunday was a crazy experience. I got told that I will be a part of the WIX Design Playground only 2 weeks prior and I was not sure what the summer will have in store for me. Booking flights, finding a room and packing my life was chaotic but in the end worthwhile.
Marta: What has been your biggest or most valuable lesson?
There are a couple lessons that I have learned:
First, I used to think that web design has to be boring and functional. But t my own surprise I was proven wrong. After doing loads of research into existing websites from brilliant designers I found websites with the most inventive and amazing concepts. The future is digital and it can be really fun.
Secondly, I learned that whatever the brand, whatever its message and ethic, if it is big, it does consume you in a way. I did not know much about WIX previously to the program and I actually really love the product now. Especially for designers it provides a platform to create great websites without actual knowledge of code. However, it is a big brand and we did get too feel that. Whether that is in the most positive way, when we got nice gifts or when we had to make design work aligned to the brands identity.
Lastly, a very important one. Maybe this one is more of a general life lesson. I have looked up to a lot of designers before. For example, Stefan Sagmeister, whose talk I loved last year at D&Ad. I found big designers quiet inspiring and admirable. However, over the course of the program we had “famous” designers come in such as Jessica Walsh, Debbie Millman etc. And I was utterly disappointed. Their talks seemed quite dull and it seemed like they were more focused on their work being rather aesthetically pleasing than meaningful in any way. It seemed like the more famous the designer, the estranged they were from reality.
All together I really treasure this experience as I learned a lot of things now that I wouldn’t want to learn the hard way after actually graduating from university.
Marta: Best moment @Playground?
Ester: The best moment was definitely when Frankie Ratford came in for a talk. She was by far one of the “less” known personas visiting us. But she impacted me greatly. Especially in the beginning of the program, branding and commercial work seemed in the foreground. Being a designer did not seem that appealing anymore. Until Frankie. I did not know much about her. But she was the most easy- going and open person I have ever met. She was full of energy and she started telling us about how she wants to build a bridge between design students and design studios. She talked to us as if we were on the same level and really tried to help us with our goals individually. Just an amazing person to be honest overall.
In general, her life is insanely inspiring. When she is not back home in Australia she is travelling, giving talks and visiting studios while being the nicest person on this person.
Over all the summer experience was full of ups and downs. We spend quiet a lot of evenings in coffee shops around Manhattan stressing over our non-existing internships. But we also spend days visiting different gallery openings (my one and only access to any alcoholic beverages as I am underage) and meeting amazing photographers along the way. Actually, another lesson we had to learn the hard way was that if the way from A to B seems short on Google maps it will be an actual pilgrimage in real life. But we did walk past Katie Holmes, so no regrets. Lastly, I became really close friends with Marta which had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she had a baby kitten in her Airbnb.
Marta: Looking back on it we had a really great summer. I still cant believe I got a full ride to go to NYC, live with a baby cat in Williamsburg, learn from great designers, and eat like there was no tomorrow. What I loved the most was trying really hard to infiltrate the NYC Arts scene - it kind of worked? (Not at all)
Ester: What have been your main lessons learnt?
Marta: First of all, that websites are actually great. I was an avid supporter of print and only print but I have discovered that websites are like printed matter - but ever changing, never finished, in movement, and so so so quick to do. Welcome to the 21st Century am I right! Secondly to work with people from all creative backgrounds, and specially to be patient and less precious with my work. Lastly, I learned to take what you are given and make the most of it. Even if the project is under a big brand... there is always ways to work around their guidelines (wink wink wink).
Ester: Have you formed a different opinion on your own goals?
Marta: I got a bit of a slap from reality (WOHOOO! round 1 done). It was good for some reasons, but bad because I don't want to become bitter about design, thats the feeling I get from a lot of experienced designers and quite frankly its a big fear of mine. I don't want to stop enjoying design and I really don't want to sell out. However, I have realised this is a very unrealistic expectation and that eventually (aka right now) I'd have to design for things I don't like in order to survive.
So my goals have not changed: I still want to enjoy design and I still want to learn from design, but now I'm allowing myself some breathing room.
Ester: Who has influenced you the most, and how?
Marta: Frankie Ratford too. WHAT A FUCKING STAR. She founded the design kids to help connect young designers with studios worldwide, and she's gone on a 6 year road trip because of it! She has organised design communities everywhere, helped countless young designers find their place within the industry, and encouraged studios to take on new designers and foster a comfortable space for their development. She is a force of nature and someone we need more of. I love her.
Ester: What were your best and worst moments?
Marta: Getting rejected by Debbie Millman was both the best and worst. It was really funny to be honest: After a lecture, I approached her (she was visiting for the day) with the biggest confidence I have had probably ever in my life. I handed her my beautifully lcc printed, lcc bound, blood sweat and tears portfolio publication - mostly because I wanted feedback on it, and a possible chance at asking for contacts.
She fully said she had absolutely no time to accept my portfolio and to please not give it to her. It took me by surprise, because at the moment I thought it would be better for her just to take it out of being polite-even if it will sit under a pile of other student portfolios. It was funny because I was in a circle full of people: my wix design mentor (who had not approved of this and wanted to kill me for a second), Ester who was dying of laughter, and Adam J. Kurtz who had said that my portfolio was good and I should give it to her. This was my first big rejection, what really buttered the pan for this year in industry. On the flip side, at the end of the summer she did look at my printed portfolio, and we had a 5 minute discussion about one single apostrophe. Great stuff.
Overall it has been a crazy few months, and besides all of this, we did some wix websites!!
Here is Ester's Portfolio site: www.estermejibovski.com
Here are two of the websites Marta did: www.artejustice.org/ https://www.martaurbez.com/
Here is one we did together that got us over our design block: https://estermejibovski.wixsite.com/tattlydiy