Hot New Things — Stephanie Zwerink, AUT

5 years ago by

Welcome to our 2017 Hot New Things series – an opportunity to profile a selection of some of the top design grads coming out of our tertiary institutions. Third up, we speak with Stephanie Zwerink from AUT.

Stephanie Zwerink
Bachelor of Design (Communication Design)

Hi Stephanie, you completed your full time studies at the end of 2016, can you tell us what your final year’s project was about and what you focussed on.
Oh jeez, it’ll take me a while to explain my graduate project. It was pretty experimental. In simple terms, the project was an exploration into the use of modern digital fabrication technology in book design.

Being a graphic designer, book design and typography are things I have always been interested in. Through experimenting with 3D printing and other digital fabrication technology in my minor subject, I became interested in these production processes and the possibilities new technology allows for. I put two and two together, and wanted to see how book design and digital fabrication technology could intersect. Would the rise in digital technology really be the downfall of the printed book? How can we embrace these new types of technology to create books that will not be forgotten, but are pieces of art, their physicality being key to the way in which the reader interacts with them? As final outputs I had created a set of 3 experimental ‘books’, two made using 3D printing, and one made using laser cutting. These books provide a physical reading experience that emphasise physicality and tactility as being tools to engage audiences, and explore the possibilities for the use of these types of technology in the realm of book design.

How has what you’ve recently been working on influenced your design process, and what momentum does it bring to your practice?
This project helped me learn to play more, think outside the box and try something new. It has also inspired me to embrace changes or advancements in technology, rather than sticking to traditional methods and techniques of creating something. Interesting things happen when you combine traditional practices with modern technology. I will continue to experiment with ways in which graphic design and digital fabrication technology can intersect.

What were some of your most exciting discoveries?
I became really interested in how 3D digital fabrication technology and book design can cross over. Laser cutting processes have been used many, many times to create things like pop-up books or cards, transforming books into sculptural objects, etc. However, not many people have explored 3D printing in book design before. I found this part exciting. There are endless opportunities in terms of the forms and textures you can create, joint and binding techniques. It was also exciting experimenting with the relationship between form and content, and ways in which you can transform 2D words into 3D space using their physicality as a means of expressing the meanings of the words.

And also some of the challenges along the way?
Budget and technical ability were a few challenges I faced along the way. Another challenge was simply not having enough time to do what I wanted to do. It takes a lot of time to come up with an idea, understand the logistics of how to make it work, model it up, do test prints, make any necessary changes, and do the final print. The main hurdle I came across while doing this project was when I learned that having a strict deadline and totally relying on technology to complete your project can be very, very daunting. Our 3D printer was down for almost 2 weeks which hindered the whole process. I had a whole lot of ideas but wasn’t able to do test prints and bring them to life. Being the poor student I was, I was unable to outsource and print elsewhere. It all worked out in the end, luckily.
What did you love doing most?
I loved being able to play and experiment with new technology. I loved that I was able to take the technical skills of 3D modelling I had aquired while completing my minor papers and apply that to graphic design. I also liked that I was doing something that I had not seen done before.

Where do you go to find inspiration (websites, resources, designers, etc)?
I have a few go-to places for if I am looking for design inspiration. Often I will trawl the internet, browse Behance or the Best Awards site, look at design books or look at the work of studios such as Alt Group, Studio South, DDMMYY and Inhouse. I follow a lot of amazing designers and studios on Instagram and Behance and it’s great to see what everyone is getting up to.

On the other hand, I also find inspiration in things that may have nothing to do with design in particular. We are so bombarded with images and words and noise any time we look at the TV, open up our internet browser or our apps. It’s nice to step away from the chaos and take a walk, be in nature and allow yourself to clear your mind and be in silence for a while. A lot of the time I seem to find inspiration or think of ideas when I’m not trying to force it.

Over time I have learned that I personally have to constantly be seeing new things and travelling to new places to be inspired, to want to keep creating. It sounds cheesy, but I find inspiration in every day life– in the nature around where I live out in the Waitakere Ranges, in the things I pass on the street, in the people I meet, gigs I go to. All these things inspire me in different ways to keep creating.

Why did you choose to study at AUT University, and what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed your course?
I chose AUT based on recommendations, ease of transport, and the facilities. Having the opportunity to select from a range of minor papers was great. It meant that I had the opportunity to explore digital fabrication techniques, dabble a bit in product design, and collaborate with students from other disciplines. I also learned a lot about design, obviously. I had only done design for a year in high school and pretty much had no clue what I was doing. I had never used Illustrator or InDesign before. I didn’t know what a grid system was. I made my university application portfolio in Photoshop. I’ve come a long way since then.

Where to next for you? What does 2017 hold?
I’m spending the year freelancing as a graphic designer and photographer as well as completing personal projects that I never had the time to focus on whilst studying.

See more from Stephanie at:
Instagram: @stephaniezwerink

To find out more about AUT visit:


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