Where I'm @
Graphic Design

A Social Data Designer

Amy Guijt
Sat 2 Feb
Function Freelance Graphic Designer
Year 2017
Major Graphic Design
Practice Commercial Practices

What is your occupation now?

At the Willem de Kooning Academy, I studied Graphic Design and have graduated in Data Design study path with a project Hard Facts, Soft Interpretations. Since my graduation in 2017, I have been working as a freelance designer at my studio in Leiden.

What expertise did you gain at WdKA?

At the academy, we were encouraged to get out of a safe academic environment. To go into the city, country, world and observe, reflect and learn to interact with our surroundings. This helped us to reflect on day-to-day problems or the complex challenges society is dealing with. What I have learned is to look beyond myself and the familiar things, and to find a place where my design could be useful. This usefulness or meaning is important to me. Of course, as a designer there is so much you can do and addressing complex problems can feel daunting. But combining your knowledge, results of research and design with other fields of expertise makes it valuable.

Favourite WdKA memory?

My favourite memory of my time at the academy was without a doubt my graduating. I loved working at the academy, together with friends from different fields - all of us busy with own subject and own processes. It was a crazy period with a lot of laughter and, of course, hard moments. The willingness of people to help each other inside and outside the academy was amazing. It was also the time where I had realised that I wanted to start my own practice, something a year before I did not even consider.


Before choosing Data Design, my main goal was to study social design. But it had turned out, Data Design, which is part of Commercial Practices, fitted my design and research process and ambitions best. At the time, we had some discussion on why Data Design was assigned to Commercial Practices, as it could have fitted in Autonomous or Social Practices as well. As I had seen it, Data Design was a way of working with and representing information that was not assigned to a particular direction or (design)field. Fortunately, I was able and free to implement social aspects in this minor, which made it the perfect environment for me to work in. This now reflects on my career, where I work for public or commercial clients who are active in the social field and where information design is important.

What is the future of your profession in your opinion?

The overlaps in different fields are really important. Combine a designer with a researcher or social worker and see what follows, most likely there will be an unexpected but welcome result. For the future, I see the design field (not the graphic design field in particular, that had changed a lot already on itself) growing outwards. I think it will shift from the subjective perspective of a particular designer or artist on society, design or communication to a vision of a group of people with different backgrounds on a specific topic or problem or need. Together, they will create systems, interactions or processes to relieve or solve different challenges. The challenging thing here is a necessary revision in the attitude of the designer. Where you could be an introvert designer and make amazing things, it is also important to be a creative entrepreneur as well. And that requires a different skill-set. To some people, this comes naturally, but sometimes it is a skill that needs hard work to develop.

For the future, I see the design field growing outwards.

You never leave your house without…?

I never leave my house without my backpack. During my time at the academy, I used to wear this ridiculously big red roll-top backpack, where I could fit as much stuff as I needed to make multiple day trips. My friends always laughed at it, but if they needed a ruler or a cutting board, they could always borrow from me. It was more fear of missing out on a specific pen or paper than it was efficient, but it did help me to get through the years at the academy. I replaced this red-flag just recently and now own a more subtle version, but I still carry my essentials with me anywhere.

Any words of advice to future students?

Studying at the academy is sometimes turbulent, and there might be moments where things are expected of you that you are not comfortable with yet or seem to be outside of your scope. For the future students, I would like to say that could help to have or create some essentials for your time at the academy and beyond. Not specifically like an ugly back-pack, but more like a set of habits, actions or people who you can rely on when you get a design block, a hard time or when that competence assessment is coming up.

Name your favourite recent project.

My favourite recent project is a book Lucia Dossin and I made for Sophie Helene Dirven in collaboration with the Hybrid Publishing (WDKA). This book, called Blind Geordend / Blindly Organised (by the way, you can purchase it via this site) answers the following question: ‘How can the knowledge developed by blind and visually impaired people be applied to a broader public?’. I have loved working on this book because of its different elements. Firstly, I have found the topic relevant to today’s design practice. Also, it had the immediate challenge in it: make this book available for the visually impaired as well. At last, working with Lucia was a great learning experience. She was responsible for the digital part, where I took care of the printed version. Our close collaboration and Lucia's expertise made it a fluid design process, where it was possible to continuously test the interaction between print and digital with the designs remaining inclusive.

Visit Amy's website to view her other projects.

*Data Design study path is linked to current developments such as open data and big data. Here you will learn to approach and handle data from conceptual, enquiring and visual perspectives. You will learn to recognise, interpret and work with various types of data, examining them thoroughly using visual research methodologies. You will also learn to use various methods and tools that allow you to design dynamic data.