106 minutes w/ thomas michaël van der lee

Category: Project
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Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Thomas Michaël van der Lee. I’m 25 years old. I’m a graphic designer now.

Well, at least I have my certificate.

Its been a while, but how did you experience the whole ‘GDA graduation’ thing?

At the start you have to come up with a good subject. There isn’t any assignment so the opportunities are endless. I’ve tried many different subjects for my graduation project, it was not immediately going well… It made me feel a bit desperate at some point, but when I finally found my subject I did the project in just a few weeks. When you have a good idea, it will make you confident, and than you can work very hard.

Could you tell me a little bit about your research project?

It started with a very large collection of photo’s, about 3000 pieces, all made by my grandfather on all his travells he did after his retirement. He traveled for about 20 years, to France, Jordan, South Africa and many more other places. I’ve got the photos after he died and it was a strange collection, because all the portraits were taken out by my family. They thought they had to keep the family pictures and all the other pictures, like buildings and nature, were not interesting to store. But I couldn’t throw them away.

What were some important influences for the creation of your project the way it’s constructed currently? Did you take any inspiration out of certain designers or artworks?

Most of the decisions I’ve made, where inspired by my grandfather. I didn’t wanted to make it too personal, but I have made some decisions that have a clear connection to my grandfather. For example, there are a lot of ways to presents the photos, but I choose to make a book. My grandfather had his own book store and printing office. He actually was a bookmaker too.

Does this project, to you, feel as like it’s the ‘Mona Lisa’ of all of your work so far?

I’m very happy with the result. But is Mona Lisa the best of Leonardo da Vinci? I think it is a bit overrated…

Could you briefly inform us on the subject of your thesis?

My thesis is about colors. I talk about colors in public space. About what we know about colors and also how colors are used by artists and designers. For me color is very interesting, and very mysterious too. That’s what I lika about it. We give them some names, but it is very difficult to describe a color. What is the difference between red and green, for example?

Did the subject of your thesis had an influence on deciding on the subject of your research assignment? or are they not connected at all?

They are not really connected, no.

How would you like your research project, and it’s methodology, to correspond to your practice after graduation?

For the research project I did a lot of work by myself. All the pages are cut out by hand and I also printed everything at home. It is really a hand made book and that’s also very visible. That’s what makes it special and I certainly want to keep that hand made aspect in my work. If possible…

Where did you do your internship?

I did an internship at EGBG, the studio of Martijn Engelbregt.

In what way has the experience of doing an internship changed you of your (design)beliefs or (work)habits?

Martijn works very independently. He is doing his own projects or he is trying at least to have a lot of space for his ideas when he is asked by someone else to do a project. One of the things I’ve learned, is that if you have an idea or you want to do something, you just have to go for it. Just give it a try. Sometimes an idea have not the results you were expecting, but sometimes it ends up with a very cool project.

Did they serve avocado during lunch? :)

Yes! …from the organic shop!

Could you inform us on your partner, client and type of assignment for the practical assignment?

I was asked to design a new stamp for PostNL. It had to be a new design for the ‘zakenzegel’. This meant it should become an interesting, but kind of neutral stamp for use by companies. The shapes I used in the design are based on the shape of an envelop.

Five years from now, you’ll be doing what?

Five years, I actually never look that far ahead. For now I have some ideas to make an other book, this time I have a collection of thousands of postcards from France. And… I think I’m going to register at KvK, and try to find some things I can do to earn some money. Then focus on my own projects and just see how far I can get.

Any tips for upcoming graduate students? Or for new students?

Never trust no teachers. (But of course try to learn from them!)