Verena Michelitsch, Designer & Art Director

Verena has a beautiful eye that she lends to small and large companies, working as a designer and art director and general perfectionist. We love the attention to detail and delicate balance of her work - it is both intricate and striking. Her approach to her work and life generally - most notably her musings on sleep - are a real inspiration. Read on!

What do you do?

I do graphic design and art direction, and sometimes illustration. I live in Brooklyn, NY with my boyfriend. I recently started freelancing, so I'm getting adjusted and figuring out freelance life. I enjoy working for both small and big clients. I do identities for small brands and fashion labels, but also work with big tech companies or museums.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

For work: Charles Eames quote – The details are not the details. They make the design.
For life: Travel often, sleep enough, pay attention to the world around and be curious.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

1. My first internship at dasuno in Vienna (a small studio run by 3 girls). 
2. The decision to move to New York in 2012.
3. The decision to go freelance last year.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

A museum illustration project. A kids apparel branding and art direction project. A small but truly 'galactic' illustration project that I'm working on together with my boyfriend.

What is your dream project?

Since I've become a freelancer a couple of months ago I have been getting so many dream projects already. I am quite lucky with that. I would love to work with some photographers I admire (Vivianne Sassen). Any collaborations with other creatives, designers, photographers, I love collabs.

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

I don't love pizza.

If you could choose to hear from any female contemporary at a Make Nice event, who would it be and why?

My friend Cecilia Azcarate who I met at my last job. She is a true creative force and a fun and inspiring person to be around.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

My grandfather once told me if I want to be a graphic designer I need to be very exact and detail orientated. I remember he was once criticizing me for the first book I had to design and hand bind in college. I sometimes am a bit impatient and rush out things. Good things take time.

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

Lately I listen to the new Solange album, Frank Ocean, Childish Gambino. I get addicted to any good TV show in a second.

What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?

'Tell us about Sand and Such, where did you come up with the idea, the concept?'

I was sleep deprived on the train on my way to work and thought that I need to appreciate sleep more. I like to get up early, but also I work late most of the times so I usually don’t get enough sleep which isn’t healthy on a long run. I created a giant reminder for myself, which is the blog, Sand & Such, to sleep more. I also read that people are sleeping less and less and this has a huge impact on our health and decision-making. It’s scientifically still not 100% clear why we sleep, but science proofs that sleep is vital for our bodies and first and foremost our brain.

I started interviewing friends about their sleeping habits and visited them in the morning to take post-sleep pictures when they just woke up. Besides the scientific factor there’s also lots of beauty around sleep. Many artists, poets and writers made it to their topic though out the history, the bed itself is probably the most private place that exists. There’s lots of things to explore around the topic of sleep!

How can we find our more about your work?

Instagram: @verenschka / @sandandsuch – I run a blog about sleep, an inspiration to relax and unwind. – I haven't updated this in a year or more! Sorry! Stay tuned for fresh work this spring ;)

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?   

My talented friend Ayaka Ito.

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

I learned a lot from female creatives around me in the past. They have been mentors and role models, starting from my grandma who started a photography business in the 1950ies, my aunt, the girls at dasuno at my first internship, the places I worked at in New York – Jessica Walsh at Sagmeister, Roanne Adams at RoAndCo. My sister is also a graphic designer and I do have many creative girlfriends, photographers, designers, artists, writers, video editors and producers in New York and other places around the world. Many or even most of them are freelance or have their own business. For me it luckily was always that way!

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?

I remember going to Paris with my parents at 6, and seeing the sculptures of Niki de St Phalle which I loved and remembered forever. When I was little I always drew cartoon characters, Disney and the Flintstones. I thought the coolest job would be to be a cartoon illustrator. The other thing I always drew was graphic and abstract patterns and conglomerates of geometric shapes. I guess that's something I'm still doing now. When I was 12 I went to my first concert – The Rolling Stones with my aunt. I got a T-Shirt and some merch and it was designed by Stefan Sagmeister. I kept on seeing his work in newspapers and magazines in Austria and thought it was so different from anything I've seen. As every teenager, I loved beautifully designed CD covers, like Bjork, Massive Attack or Radiohead albums.

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change? 

More woman in more leading positions! And of course, the pay gap must be closed. I admire people like Cindy Gallop who started the 3% movement that drew awareness to the lack of female leadership in ad agencies. Coming from Europe, I find the almost non existent paid maternal leave in the US shocking and sad. In terms of workplace culture, I experienced a lot of late night shifts in studios and agencies I worked at, which is a common thing in big cities and in our industry I guess. I found it weird sometimes though that people would brag with the few amount of hours that they slept each night. I find that a very unhealthy trend and this led me to start a blog about sleep.

(See next question ;)