Lessons in lightening up: My first month as a HOVS apprentice
by Surya Anand
It’s been an incredible month since I joined House of van Schneider in late March for a three-month design apprenticeship.
I’ve always admired Tobias and his team for their unique voice & taste in design. Now to have this opportunity to learn from them is everything I ever wanted.
I still remember emailing Tobias three years ago when I was 15, asking for a piece of advice on whether to drop out of school or not. Fast forward, I'm here with the internship of my dreams.
Last week marked the end of the first month, which is sad because I don't want the time to be moving so fast. But I'm very excited for the future as I learn and work on many interesting projects that a typical intern wouldn't get.
Have fun, worry less
Design used to be a lot of fun for me until I started doing it for a living. Then it became monotonous and felt like homework (pun intended), which made me forget all the excitement and joy it brought me before.
I saw myself trying so hard to do everything, even the smallest tasks. I got overwhelmed by self-doubt, constantly comparing myself to others and worrying that I'll never be good enough. Taking a break only made it worse by adding guilt on top of everything, as it made me feel like I was wasting my time.
It was only recently that I understood: lack of fun was the obstacle here.
The past month I had nothing but fun, jumping through many exciting projects one after the other. Naturally, this made me worry less about my future since I was in the moment doing the work I'd always wanted to do. It shifted my thinking and challenged me to see everything from a new perspective.
I quickly learned that I do better work when I allow myself to enjoy it. I can now see a huge difference in the way I design as I've started to prioritize having fun and exploring over getting things done. Surprisingly, I get things done a lot quicker now!
Anticipate & address feedback patterns
Recognizing and understanding feedback patterns has helped improve how I design. It reduces a lot of back-and-forth communication and leaves room for more productive feedback, helping me reach the potential of an idea earlier.
In retrospect, I see a lot of feedback echoing for the work that I present. For example, when I am in the early stages of design, I'm usually asked to explore more and try new things to get the ideas out. Later on, it's more about the execution of the idea, like refining and improving the layout. After recognizing this trend, I started anticipating and getting ahead of it myself before presenting to my team.
Now, I get input that advances my ideas and my work from the start, taking me out of the feedback zone I felt stuck in before. Reviewing my own work from my teammates' perspective before asking for their thoughts makes the process much more efficient, and allows my teammates to see the big picture much earlier.
“In design, most details don't matter until you have a certain amount of them. Then the details make the design.”
— Tobias van Schneider
Know which details to focus on, and when
I'm someone who can spend all day on something and still not make any progress, as I move very slowly trying to perfect every little thing. I finish it when I finish it; that's how it has always been. At a place like HOVS, where I'm working on many different things at once, this approach made me fall behind on everything.
Now I've learned that having a less time makes me move much faster, as I tend to obsess less over the little details. Instead, I'm forced to focus on the details that matter the most, so I can get my idea across as quickly as possible. This gets me to the point where I can then focus on the smaller details more productively.
Like many creative types, I realized do better when I have a time constraint. It helps me focus on the right details at the right time.
My first month was mainly about getting my mindset right as it was the only thing keeping me from moving forward with confidence. I can already feel a huge change in my mentality, and I can see why that is. No one here works on anything boring. The smallest and simplest tasks are interesting, even the repetitive ones. I enjoy being packed with work. It's that exciting.