Alexander KW, Branding/Graphic Designer and freelancer in Gigway
From an early age, Alexander knew he wanted to work in the creative industry. He would follow in the family’s footsteps and choose a profession in music. Alexander now uses his musical side as inspiration for his assignments as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator. The freedom to decide over his own everyday life and childhood’s creative home environment has taken him via San Francisco Academy of Arts, Berghs and Prime Agency to the role of a freelancer completely on-remote.
How do you find your jobs today and what do the assignments look like?
– I usually take freelance assignments online, but also through contacts – it varies a lot. Projects I work with are in many cases about branding. Your platform and service Gigway is exactly the type of service I want to be able to rely on. I do not want to spend too much of my time finding jobs. That’s not what I’m best at or passionate about. The interview process is fun, but I want to spend most of my time creating and designing – what I’m best at.
– I often help smaller companies in their early days, for example by building their visual profile, producing logotypes and other graphic material. I also do personal projects. Recently, I did an assignment for a couple of individuals who wrote a book about inspirational quotes. It is an example of a slightly smaller project where I illustrated their book. The projects I take on are often very different from one another, and I like the variety where I get to get in touch with different types of customers.
Alexander decided to start his freelance career at the beginning of this year, 2020. Strategically, the timing could have been better, given the pandemic that have marked much of this year, but among all of the challenges that this time has brought, many positive experiences have also come.
What is the best thing about working as a freelancer?
– I choose different types of freelance projects depending on how much I want to work a lot in a certain period and when I want it a little calmer. It gives me the opportunity to create a good dynamic that I can choose completely. It suits my way of working very well!
How do you know when you can be the most creative?
– It’s about getting to know yourself and your body. This is where the ability to be a whole person and to be able to be a productive worker really meets. My drive to do work comes from a love of what I do, and my expression as a human being. When I can choose how I can plan my own schedule, I can also create a harmonious life for myself. Then I can feel when creativity comes and when I need a break from all that is called productivity. This is more about a general state than a minute by minute. I know the day before, or even the week before, whether I will be able to be creative or not and I will adjust the proportion and type of work I take on.
How did you get to where you are today?
– My whole family is creative, my mother is, for example, an opera singer. My upbringing has affected me as I realized early on that I also wanted to do something creative in the future. At first I thought I would work with music. Then I realized how much I enjoy translating into a visual language. For how a person or a brand can look graphically. I have always been very interested in behaviors and how we as humans think, what lies behind a personality.
– I decided to start studying at Berghs School of Communication in Stockholm. Within the education we worked closely with another school in San Francisco in the United States called the Academy of Art University. It seemed exciting to study there. So I moved to San Francisco and continued my studies there for four and a half years. Combined with work on the side to take a Bachelor in Fine Arts.
– When it comes to design, San Francisco is a very interesting city. It is also close to Silicon Valley, so I also got to experience some of that culture. There is a lot of overlap in how people think about how to work with brands in the USA and San Francisco with how we work in Sweden. But with some cultural differences of course. When I returned to Sweden, I was able to apply much of what I had learned there.
In what way is San Francisco an exciting city in terms of Design?
– Mainly because San Francisco is a very artistic city. Each house is unique, quite different from how we have chosen to do in Sweden where I think we have a fairly homogeneous style when it comes to architecture. And this is recognized in most other parts of our culture. San Francisco also has a history of a lot of design and art and therefore there is a lot of interest in it among the people. Unlike Europe, the culture is quite young, which also differs from what I grew up with.
How did you experience Silicon Valley?
– Silicon Valley was interesting to experience considering how much of what we interact with around the world comes from there. Google, Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn – so many companies interacting with us who come from there and the surrounding areas. It was also an interesting experience that taught me a lot about what genuineness means to me. Personally, I did not really find the genuineness, that I like to experience, so much from Silicon Valley. I want to feel the “soul” of the place for lack of a better word. Just like when I do a job for a company. I want to know the soul of the company to be able to do the best job.
What was your first job when you came back to the Nordics?
– My first job when I came back to the Nordics was at a startup company in Copenhagen that manufactures sneakers from completely recycled material. It was a fun process and amazing experience. It is an important part of the market right now, both among companies and more private individuals. Consumers are becoming more and more aware that we must save our planet as well. There were many different types of companies that had their offices in the same room, all had a sustainability goal and that ambition connected them. I worked for this startup company for just over a year. I learned a lot about how to combine design with a focus on sustainability, how to present this visually and communicate the message to customers. For me, it has been very important to feel a genuineness in what I do, and I got to explore a lot of that in this job. We worked on site for six months of the year in Copenhagen, and the rest of the time on-remote and sometimes in offices in Oslo.
What is genuineness to you and how did you experience this in the work with this company?
– Probably the fact that we all shared a common collective goal. Unfortunately, the fact that a company says that it works with sustainability does not always mean that it has a genuineness in its operations. Many people use it as just another way to attract customers to their sales. The companies selected in this particular context were carefully chosen to actually have a genuine effort to make a positive change in the labor market. I think it inspired me. We got to take part in inspiring lectures and modern technology that made me realize that the possibility of a big change really exists – just around the corner. We just have to decide we want to.
What was it like working 6 months in an office, remote for them and why did you work in Oslo sometimes?
– I have worked in various offices / remotes for quite some time. Just to set up the work in that way feels natural for me. It was a process to learn everything that belongs, to get it as effective as you want. Today, it is the world’s most natural way of working for me. The company was actually based in Oslo. We came to Copenhagen thanks to being selected for an Accelerator Project, where we received a lot of benefits and help in the process of being a Startup.
You moved back to Stockholm to work for the agency Prime, what kind of assignments did you get there?
– It was a lot about presentations for companies, a lot of marketing material – both strategy and production, even though my main occupation was production, both print and digital. It was quite varied because it was many different kinds of customers I got to work with. For example: Tork, McDonalds, Ericsson, Arla, Grosvenor and more.
Then he decided after having the mind in his thoughts for a while to start the freelance career full time. No doubt finding enough amount of jobs have been the biggest challenge. In general, having a really good communication with the customer is also key, while it becomes even tougher working remotely. Therefore, he usually do video meetings with the customer as early as possible in the process.
Alexander found one of his first gigs this year through a different freelance platform, a gig for a 30 year old furniture company in Belgium that builds high quality wooden furniture on request. They had no external communication, needed to sharp up their brand and market themselves to the world since they’ve just lived based on word of mouth before.
Do you want to describe more of how you worked in this specific project?
– We found each other, and they hired me as their Graphic Designer where the task was to produce their entire visual brand. I created a Brandbook and a stationary system for them. For example, business cards, letter templates and everything they needed. I got to explore and understand how they had worked with their communication before. I did research of their competitors and tried to find the core of what their CEO and company stands for. Like mentioned before, this is something I really enjoy working with.
The strategy is a basis for everything Alexander produces, part of it, is to get to know and understand how the target group thinks. But also to find out what feeling he thinks the company is looking for. Above all, he uses the strategy as a structure to be able to adapt his creative work and to be led in the right direction.
How do you find your inspiration?
– One of the things I sometimes do is find a piece of music. A piece I think conveys the feeling that I think is the right choice for that particular project. Then I listen to it while I sit and design. If I hear something in a certain piece of music that I think fits the feeling and what a brand wants to say, it can then be translated, for example, into a yellow line in a poster. Otherwise, the inspiration often comes when I have left work for a while, and do not sit at the desk. Maybe when I’m in nature or doing something else where I do not think so much about it, and just let my thoughts come. That way, freelance life works very well for me. When I do not have a certain working time where I need to push things forward, and can instead let everything flow to me and use the time more efficiently.
Do you want to recommend some songs that have inspired you a little extra?
– Haha, as I said before, it depends on what project it is. Every brand and project needs different songs for it to fit into what I am working on. I have a project on my website called That Secret Special Place, and have actually chosen to include the song that inspired me for that particular project in my portfolio. Maybe that’s a good example to describe what I mean.