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Stories from Design Bridge: Life in Amsterdam with Design Director Melinda

Time flies and years go by in the blink of an eye. You suddenly realise you’ve got an anniversary coming up: 10 years at Design Bridge! It’s about to happen to one of our lovely Design Directors in the Amsterdam Studio – Melinda Szentpétery. We caught up with Melinda to find out a bit more about life as a Design Director in our Amsterdam Studio and what’s changed (and what’s stayed the same) over the past decade…

You’ve been at Design Bridge for almost a decade now, tell us a bit about your journey
It all began at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest, where I studied Packaging Design. This is where I made my first friendships with designers from all over the world. I also got the opportunity to travel; I was lucky to be given a half year scholarship in Rome and, after that, I spent a few months in Prague too. These experiences sparked my hunger to discover different cultures and seek out different points of view on design.

After graduation, I began my career at some up-and-coming local agencies in Budapest before joining a more international team at Ogilvy & Mather. Getting my hands on global brands such as Dove was a big thrill and the experience was invaluable. I was then offered a job at Philips Design in the Netherlands, which was an amazing opportunity to further develop my packaging design skills; I was so excited! So I moved to Eindhoven and started my life here in the Netherlands.

What attracted you to Design Bridge?
A friend told me about Design Bridge and I immediately felt it was everything I was looking for at the time; an international company, an amazing list of clients, a passion for branding and packaging, with an incredible variety of work. The company culture seemed vibrant and fun, with people from all over the world with really diverse backgrounds and interests.

Sounds like a match made in heaven. Does it feel like that nearly 10 years down the line?
It has gone by incredibly fast, and it’s been interesting to be here and witness the changes and growth Design Bridge has gone through over the years. The culture remains the same, but new opportunities and creative challenges constantly come to the table. Whether it’s the way we work with clients, the amazing brands we work for, or how we, as a business of creative minds, approach branding and design. You grow so much personally and you’re constantly learning and developing professionally.

Can you tell us a bit more about how you have evolved as a Designer whilst being at Design Bridge?
It’s the combination of things that make you grow; from working with different brands with very different ambitions, to Design Bridge’s ability to be a true brand guardian and strategic partner. My role is now really varied and I combine design direction, team leadership and super hands-on design craft – all of which I love. Some days are all about designing and collaborating. Others are about workshops, conversations with clients, or internal debates with our teams. Throughout the years, I have kept on mastering my skills as well as learning new ones. It keeps you fresh and helps you stay in touch with industry trends and new technologies.

What does your average week look like? 
It is usually extremely versatile and very much depends on the type of projects I’m working on. Of course there are the usual activities like briefings, brainstorm sessions, creative reviews and client presentations. As we work with global and local brands, it could be that I’m involved in an innovation workshop in Belgium one day, picking up a new briefing in Norway the next, and attending consumer research in Paris before I head home for the weekend. Currently my two main clients are based here in the Netherlands, which means I get to spend quite a lot of time at their offices, which is great as really our business is all about relationships.

I still get the time to get my head down and focus on big idea generation and creating. This often starts with inspiring conversations with clients and I sometimes sketch initial ideas with them. I find that they enjoy witnessing and being part of how ideas and concepts come to life.

What makes a good Design Director?
To me it’s about making the most of the creative potential of any brief. It’s about being able to discover the big idea and collaborating with your team to bring it to life in the best possible way. It’s about mentoring your team and finding the right balance between supporting them in their creative journey, as well as giving them some space to figure it out themselves. Also, recognising the moment when you have to challenge people and inspire greatness!

Any memorable projects you can tell us about?
I really enjoy the projects that require deep understanding of the market: demographically, culturally and aesthetically. I get excited to make it work and make it relevant for the audience in that specific market. Because of this, working on Durex a few years ago was an interesting project. The main objective was a global redesign, but we also had to specifically tailor our concept to the US market, which had very different goals. This is a typical project I use to explain what I do when people ask me about my job. There is no person on this earth who doesn’t know this brand and I am always amazed when I spot designs I have worked on around the world. You expect to find your design in your local pharmacy or at the airport, but I also found our design for Durex on the tiniest island in Indonesia!

Having lived in Amsterdam for 10 years now, how Dutch do you feel? 
Well, I can now easily navigate through the city with two kids on my bike and I love a raw ‘haring’ every now and then! I have no curtains on my windows and I can sing along with the Dutch kids songs, but these things will not make you Dutch. For me it’s more important to reflect on how I’ve grown as a person from living here. I’m more curious and open, and definitely more direct. I have also learnt to appreciate every sunny day to the fullest! Jokes aside, I feel at home here. Amsterdam is such a great welcoming and inclusive city.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about joining Design Bridge?
Be interested in something else besides design. Of course, great design skills and knowledge are important, but it’s what you know beyond that will allow you to come up with the truly great ideas.

Excellent advice, thanks Melinda!

Does Design Bridge sound like your kind of place? We’re looking for likeminded people to join Melinda and the team in Amsterdam (and in our other Studios, too) – check the Careers page for the latest opportunities.

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