In 2017 I Want to Be a Teamworker

by Zuza Waligórska

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It was a freezing Thursday evening in the middle of January as three of us, Tom, Julian and I, walked down Potsdamer Straße. Taking big steps, trying to keep up with their tempo, I listened to Julian talk about his ongoing fancy typeface project, and Tom wondering what his first font would look like. Would it be an elegant serif, a geometric sans or maybe crazy a display, we asked. He wasn’t sure, but knowing him, it will definitely be the latter.

We were on our way back from Typostammtisch Berlin, a monthly meeting dedicated to typography and typeface design. Trying to speak over the buzzing cars and shimmering crowd, I explained briefly what my toddling typeface was all about. As we stood outside the U-bahn station, saying our goodbyes and see-you-tomorrows, I came up with the idea of creating our own Typostammtisch at the office. We could work on our typefaces together, I said. It would inspire and motivate us. It never worked out, but only because ideas are, by nature, born in litters, not separately. Before disbanding, we decided to join the 36 Days of Type challenge together.

The 36 Days of Type challenge is a creative venture that came into being thanks to an initiative by Nina Sans and Rafa Goicoechea from the beautiful city of Barcelona. Guided by the desire to grow as designers, they decided to create a letter a day and share it on social media. Since then there have been four editions and a (figuratively) uncountable number of people have joined. Including us. I announced our plan at the office and set up a spreadsheet to keep on track with progress, and Marcel joined us along with his lettering skills. We decided to have one rule only — use the Edenspiekermann brand colours. Apart from that, our shared illustrator file was a land without laws or lords: Utopia.

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While we were cherishing our excitement and sharing silly ideas, the project began to grow like a snowball rolling down a Tyrolean slope. A week passed and suddenly there were not four, but fourteen of us. Because we wanted to publish the letters on the Edenspiekermann Instagram, it became a serious affair. What started as a newbie’s side project has grown into a cooperation of four offices, bringing together people who might never have seen each other. Could this even be called teamwork? How does one manage such a group of individualists, I asked myself, looking at the spreadsheet rows filling with names of participants.

Art universities in Poland, said my friend Grzegorz to me few weeks prior, have mastered the art of producing artists. Each of us design graduates is a ready-to-use machine; we can create posters, logos, illustrations and websites, but there is one crucial thing no one teaches us, and that is collaboration.

Was he or wasn’t he right? The truth is that lessons on this subject can be only learned by difficult way of experience. That means work, a lot of work. And a lot of work with a lot of other people with whom we may or may not agree. Sound easy? It did to me. This is probably why, before joining Edenspiekermann as a trainee, I felt insecure about my Photoshop skills, uncertain if my English was fluent enough and whether or not I would be able to produce ideas under the pressure of both imagined and real expectations. But my teamwork skills? I never doubted them — it seemed so natural.

We expect kindergarteners to play peacefully in groups by the age of five, and we scold teenagers for being unable to share responsibilities with their peers. Teamwork is widely perceived as an inborn capability, not a learned skill. Why should I even be bothered by that? It seems so natural. But three months into the future, if I was to name one area in which I developed the most during internship at Edenspiekermann, it would be in the garden of teamwork and the field of shared responsibilities. Not because I was so bad at it before, but because it is something you can’t learn through observation. While working in an agency one has to give away cherished baby-projects and adopt ones that feel almost alien. It is a lesson in trusting other team members; a course on giving away and picking up. Even when it came to my small, private idea of joining the 36 Days of Type, I trusted (I had to) and I gave it away. And I savored every minute of it.

Some of the fruits of my work at Edenspiekermann are still unpublished, and some never will be, but please go and take a bite of those 36 that we collectively gave away to the outer space of Instagram. And while looking at them, try to see not only letters, but team members: individuals who took a challenge together, designers who wanted to take part. It doesn’t matter if they joined us on the first or the last day before the kick off, or maybe they stepped in when we were in trouble and needed an emergency design. Even if I still haven’t exchanged a single word with (insert your name here, 36daysoftypechallengepartner), now their name is not only connected to a picture on the people page, or a face hidden behind a computer screen.

It also represents ideas, time, and work that have been shared within our group. I won’t list the perks of teamwork, because you probably know them by heart, but if you didn’t have any New Year’s resolution (or you’ve already succeeded at giving it up by now) take this one: in 2017 I will be a team worker. It is fun and it makes you grow.

P.S. Huge thanks to Ajda, Dan, Egle, Eva, Julian, Julie, Kay, Linda, Marcel, Max, Ralph, Stefan, Stephen and Tom for joining the challenge, and to Annie, Claire and Hina (in alphabetical order) for supporting us as they always do! And, of course, to all the likers and followers on Instagram and Twitter.

If you are interested in Grzegorz’s and Maciej’s cooperation actions, be sure to check their Kopublikacja project, a series of workshops dedicated to the underestimated skill of collaboration between designers.

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