This article was originally published in 2015.
Hi Mike, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
Well here’s the condensed somewhat simplified version: I’m from Wellington originally, well, at least this is where I spent the majority of my formative years as we moved around a bit when I was young. Certainly I consider Wellington home. I kinda did things the long way round in terms of my studies. I started a Fine Arts Degree at Elam after leaving high school, got two years in and decided to leave the course because I wasn’t sure I could really make a career from art. I worked for a couple of years and then decided to do a design degree (with a major in illustration, funnily enough), at what was Wellington Polytechnic. After finishing my degree I bounced between Wellington and Auckland a couple of times, reinvented myself as a graphic designer, and worked with the likes of DNA, Designworks, Clemenger and Seven. I also like to travel, so there’s been a few European sojourns thrown in amongst it as well. It would be fair to say my background hasn’t been the most conventional.
When did you move across to Denmark?
I moved to Europe in 2012. I did a short stint at Mutabor in Hamburg, and then landed a full-time gig at Make here in Copenhagen where I currently reside.
And, what prompted that move?
I get asked this daily by the Danes. They’re always so intrigued as to why I would move from New Zealand to cold, dark Scandinavia. But the answer is pretty simple really: I wanted to extend myself as a person and a designer. To experience life living in another part of the world. And I think Copenhagen is pretty great place to do it. It’s a wonderful city with a fantastic lifestyle and a strong tradition in design.
How did you initially connect with the design community over there?
On previous trips to Europe I made a few connections simply by calling into studios when I was in town. It’s always surprising how receptive people are to meeting you for a coffee and a chat. Or, in my case, tea.
How did you find work?
My job is full-time in a studio. I had met with the guys on a previous visit to Copenhagen and a year or two later they got in touch and were kind enough to offer me a position.
What are you finding different (in a design-context) about working in Europe compared to New Zealand?
So that’s the thing. It’s remarkably similar from a design point of view. After working in London, Germany, and now Denmark, you really do realise we’re all solving the same kinds of problems. The language or the product might change, but our clients still face the same challenges. And the way we solve them is very much the same. Aesthetically things are a little different, perhaps a little more clean in a traditional Scandinavian sense, not as varied or as expressive as New Zealand design. But one is not better than the other. The cool thing about working with Danish is that I have 3 extra letters to play with. As for the studio environment, it’s just cultural things. Like having a shared lunch every day at 12 or cycling to meetings instead of taking a cab.
What have you been working on lately?
The most recent project of note was rebranding Modström, a Danish fashion brand for women. I really got to extend myself digitally on that one which was nice.
Can you name a Danish designer or studio you admire and tell us why. Ditto a NZ designer or studio?
To name a few that are doing some nice stuff there’s Ineo, re-public, Kontrapunkt and Make (of course) in Denmark, BVD, HeyDays and Stockholm Design Lab in Sweden, Bleed in Norway and Bond in Finland. I think with most of these studios, it is really about good sound solutions well executed. Projects that you can see that there’s an idea behind and the crafting to back it up.
As far as New Zealand goes, it’s probably more individuals rather than studios. And the people I admire, it is as much about who they as their design ability. It’s the old adage, be nice and work hard. Some of the people I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with include Tana Mitchell, Emma Kaniuk, Phil Dunstan-Brown, Jeff Wong, Dan Mercer, Pete Montgomery… to name just a few. Oh, and Kris Sowersby, his typography is truly world-class.
Is there a Danish website or magazine that informs your practice or inspires you?
The good thing about living in Copenhagen is that you live in a place that is reasonably design aware. So you’re just exposed to good design more often. So, I don’t really have a particular magazine. Dansk is nice publication (Fashion). In terms of websites, that’s more international. Visuelle.co.uk is wonderfully curated for design content. I like going onto Brand New to see the discussions about the latest rebrand and I have a bunch of Tumblrs I follow.
Do you have any advice for other kiwis thinking about making the leap abroad?
Do it! If it’s something you really want to do. Tenacity and a good portfolio — that’s all you need, really.
Plus please supply links to your websites/places we can view your work.
My website doesn’t really have much on it at the moment. It’s going through an update at present.
And where I work: http://www.make.dk