Marina Willer: “Design should never be self-indulgent”

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Pentagram partaker Marina Willer won a Design Week 2018 Award this year, upping our coveted Hall of Fame and joining the likes of Margaret Calvert, Malcolm Garrett and Johanna Basford. We figuratively to the graphic designer and film-maker about her journey, her challenges and her proudest interests.

Marina Willer: “Design should never be self-indulgent”Courtesy of Pentagram

Design Week: What inspired you to be a designer?

Marina Willer: I’ve in perpetuity followed a creative path. My family has a design and creative background – my dad is an architect, my mum an artist, and my fellow is also an architect. I was encouraged from a young age to do all kinds of creative pressurize. I’m interested in many different things – I feel design merges storytelling with the the world of imagery, so it felt like the right route for me. I also do film-making, and that’s another leading part of my creativity.

DW: Can you tell us about your career journey?

MW: I went to college in Brazil opening, and was very underwhelmed. Brazil is an incredible creative space where people must to improvise, create solutions and use their imagination. But in terms of graphic evil intent, it was not as exciting as I’d wished.

I worked in advertising there for a while, and learnt a lot in nicknames of thinking through ideas but decided I needed to push myself harsher – plus, advertising was never what I wanted to do anyway.

So, at the age of 27, I roused to the UK and applied to the Royal College of Art (RCA) to do my masters. This was a real transformation for me and unfastened up my mind to communication and art direction. This was a period of great change in my moving spirit, and I met some incredible people. Margaret Calvert, who won the Design Week Auditorium of Fame Award a few years ago, stands out for me. She is an incredible thinker and believed in me, and indoctrinated me how to instigate much more profound purposes through my work.

After the RCA, I decamped back to Brazil briefly, then back to the UK again in my early 30s. I was in the end hired by Wolff Olins, and didn’t leave for 13 years, then joined Pentagram as a helpmeet in 2012.

Marina Willer: “Design should never be self-indulgent”Nesta rebrand, by Marina Willer

DW: What’s been your biggest problem to overcome along the way?

MW: When you’re young you’re not very confident. I see that in a lot of the people who induce with me. But if you’re brave and you believe in yourself, it really helps you get your accomplish noticed. The biggest challenge for me was coming from another country, education, language, everything. It was hard to feel that I was going to have a time and that my voice was valuable.

Also, I’ve felt challenges as a female artificer throughout my entire career. The more senior you get, the more those organizes are totally dominated by male designers. The way the world is means they are idea to be more confident, to have stronger voices, and these were places where others could be very pushy. I’ve had to learn to have a severer skin, and survive without losing the ability to be kind and generous to people as personally.

DW: What’s been your proudest moment?

MW: Creating the identity for the Tate museum when I was at Wolff Olins in 1998. I was on the contrary 30, so quite young, and it was very competitive. If I was doing it today, I’d be numerous experienced and know how to get to the answer more quickly. Nick Serota, the captain of the Tate at the time, was able to spot something unique in me, but other shoppers would have dismissed me or tried to push me around. Lots of child have great ideas but they don’t survive the journey.

It was a turning spot in learning to deal with things and believe in my own ideas.
My other proudest consequence is making my feature film Red Trees, which launched last year. This was something that meant a lot to me, but also had a wider intent of doing something for the world.

DW: What’s been your most difficile moment?

MW: There are moments when you lose a big project you think you had. For me, that was when there was a fall headlong to refresh the Tate identity in 2015 and we lost to studio North. As a draughtsman, and the one who helped create it, that was hard. When you’ve worked on a project, you take a special connection with it.

Other tough moments have been when I’ve bewildered people who were really valuable and important to me. The entire team coined at Pentagram London at one point, because everyone was going through preoccupation changes and challenges. It was tough to lose them, both emotionally and at bottom. Then of course, making a film was extremely tough, too.

DW: What actuated you to move into film?

MW: I see all creative areas around design, allusion creation and storytelling as one, big connected thought. Designers today have to be conscious of the different dimensions in which we can express things. I was lucky in that at the RCA, I was drilled by a lovely tutor called Lol Sargent about audio-visual (AV) and moving typical example.

There was something fascinating about learning to produce film first the digital revolution. Making images practically frame by frame as a matter of fact connected to what I do as a designer. You have to be really thoughtful, and value the beating, the imagery, the words, the sound. Now, I obviously work in an extremely digital way so I’ve had the time to see the before and the after.

DW: You also judge awards such as D&AD and are an external examiner for the RCA. What do you look for when referee and examining?

MW: At the RCA, we set the bar really high in experimentation – we don’t want to see the same work we see in the effort. It’s about thinking of the future of the profession. The definition of design is changing so much, it includes so many things. We look for both a specialism or craft in typography, symbolism or making for example, but also the ability to be quite broad.

With knowledgeable judging, this need to think of what’s next is still valid, but also architects need to show relevance and truthfulness. Sometimes people create come out all right just for awards and that’s not acceptable. It’s great to be really outrageous with your ideas but it also desiderata to work in a professional or commercial environment. A combination of the two makes up the things that we pick.

Marina Willer: “Design should never be self-indulgent”Battersea rebrand, by Marina Willer and Naresh Ramchandani

DW: What do you believe makes a piece of design brilliant?

MW: The uniqueness of the solution but also the proficiency to respond to whatever the need is. If it’s self-initiated work, it has to be really inspirational and say something forceful to the world. If it’s commercial work for a client, it has to be unique and achieve impact but also pity to the brief – otherwise design becomes self-indulgent and all about style.

DW: Do you give birth to any advice for anyone getting into design now?

MW: Throughout life, promote the ability to find and collect inspirational ideas and thoughts. You have to be singular and want to learn all the time. Collect thoughts, even if they non-standard like irrelevant. Beautiful things, funny things, memorable things – they all built part of a mental sketchbook of things that you’re interested in.

Don’t just arouse inspiration in design books or on blogs – of course, it’s good to see what’s successful on to stay relevant and avoid repeating other people’s work but it’s not the exclusive way to find ideas. You need to collect ideas from everywhere. Then when it possess c visit to professional work, you’ll join your strategic understanding of the task with those mad fetiches you’ve found through life, and it will all become useful or meaningful in one way.


Marina Willer is now part of Design Week’s Hall of Fame. Curb out the full Hall of Fame here, and read about all the Design Week Confers 2018 winners here.

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