2024 Hot New Things: Ben Krijgsman, Ara | Te Pūkenga
Each summer DA profiles a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. We welcome these talented emerging professionals to our industry, learn about their passions, final projects, developing creative confidence and ambitions for the future.
Today we speak with Ben Krijgsman, who recently graduated from the Visual Communication programme at Ara. You can find out more about Aotearoa NZ creative study options by visiting our design schools page.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a 22 year old design graduate, I love art, music, and of course design. I really enjoy learning about anything and everything. I’m often reading up about random subjects and then spouting that information to any of my friends unfortunate enough to bring up a related topic. In my free time I create music and try to get out and mountain bike when I can.
What did your graduating project focus on?
My project was concerned with nostalgia in the modern age, both its influence on creative practice and on culture in general. The common theme of new radical ideas gaining traction, and then being reacted to by the art world, was a cycle throughout history, with some of these movements being revivals of the past. In modern nostalgia we don’t see these forms of social movement anymore; with globalisation and capitalism, ideas are no longer allowed to die and thus cannot evolve. I wanted to tackle this cultural topic by trying to instil good nostalgic ethics into the average young creative. With this in mind I produced a guide to using nostalgia in an artistically progressive way, that not only helps with this issue but also creates good projects. Along with the guide I applied the system to my own creative practice creating a figurine and brand that takes nostalgic links to serfdom and funko pop figures. It is a satirical take on modern nostalgia consumerism and is intended to display how nostalgia is used by capitalism to sell us progressively more and more useless products that we buy due to our recognition.
Why did you choose to study at Ara?
I went to many open days all over the country but found that the way Ara defined its creative process in the first year to be the most appealing. Also the specialisation straight into visual communication allowed me to get to learning in the area I wanted to head straight away, rather than doing a year of more broad study before specialising.
What did you enjoy most about your course, or what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed it?
The best thing about the course was both the friends I made and the connections Ara helped me get. The class based structure really made us get close as a cohort and Ara brought in industry members throughout our time to speak to us about all things design. Honestly the biggest thing I learnt was the difference between subjectivity and objectivity. There are so many ways to tackle a brief in design yet some things remain the same to ensure objectively good design, mostly very technical aspects, then every other embellishment is going to be uniquely enjoyed or disliked by people. Recognising objectively bad design from subjectively bad design has helped me to recognize what needs work in my own design and also allows me to get the most out of criticism from others.
Were there any exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your studies?
Rules are made to be broken. The start of our course was applying creative rules and theories to our work to help quickly create pleasing and successful outcomes. By my final year however I realised that almost all of these ‘rules’ are more guidelines. Many times I found myself turning off grids once out of my initial layouts to get a more organic feel or using colour combos that were lacking contrast as it made sense with the spirit of the brief. Of Course this comes with experimentation. I am still learning when to break these rules for a good effect and where it just makes the design bad.
What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
Taking criticism. I think one of the hardest hurdles for most designers, apart from public speaking, is learning to take criticism. Having something you have poured hours and hours of time into dissecting is never fun and it’s hard to not take it personally. Some of overcoming this is just time but something i tend to do now is to never implement the changes or look at the problems i’ve been made aware of straight away. I give myself some time to think over the criticism and try to divorce myself from the project. It allows that criticism to turn from personal to constructive in my head and also lets me think of ways to change the design for the better.
Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick Design as a career path?
My love of design comes from two places firstly with my brother, Liam Krijgsman. Liam is a fine artist who studied sculpture at UC. Every exhibition I went to I was always amazed by the documentation and posters. They ranged from illustrated lithograph prints to beautiful type based lockups. This fed into my second inspiration which was album covers and gig posters. I was in a band called Supercub which I formed with my friends. We played gigs all over Christchurch winning awards and festival slots. For all of this we needed design for all our advertising and photography. I loved doing this and it quickly spiralled into a passion for design in general.
Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
I find it hard to be truly happy with any final work, but I’d have to say my final project at ara. It was a culmination of hundreds of hours of work and learning. I tasked myself to learn 3d modelling which was a fun challenge and I think the final outcomes both in guide and the figurine solved the problem I’d been exploring all year. It was so good to be able to combine design with all this research and come up with a unique solution that wasn’t a commercial solution but a positive resource for anyone to use.
What’s next for you?
Job hunting along with more personal practice. I’ve got bits and pieces of freelance work but my dream has always been to work at an agency with passionate people and varied work. So if any studio heads are reading this please reach out if you need an eager grad! Other than that I want to do some more design art stuff and exhibit it alongside others, something less commercial and made to explore a theme or topic.
How can people get in touch or see more of your work?
You can check out my portfolio:
Or my design instagram:
Or Just flick me an email if you want to work with me!