Today, I was lucky enough to visit Interactive Things, a design studio not far from my place. The leader of the studio is Benjamin, but since there are only 5 employees, all of whom went to school together and are friends, they are all like partners in the business. The studio consist of Benjamin, Jeremy, Christian, Chris and Peter. I met all of them except Peter who was out working with a client. They started the company in 2010, so they are relatively young, and they specialize in data visualizations and user interaction. This is the only company to ever respond to one of my email requests for a studio tour, American or Swiss.
Ben and I sat for over an hour and talked about the company, the design community in Switzerland, and about starting as a designer. He was very approachable and kind, and it was easy to be comfortable and honest in our conversation. As for the company, their portfolio isn't very large yet, since they are so new, so their website is actually a conglomerate of interesting projects that they document and showcase. My recent favorites are Isle of Tune and the Monet Exhibition, both worth a visit. You can find more here though. From their main website (first link) you can also read their blog, which has more commentary on the projects they find, which are interesting for interaction or informational reasons, or both. From their blog, in the "opinions" section, is actually where you can find examples of their own work. The one that I found most interesting is the one about graphing America's spending on food and drink. While each person has around 2 projects at a time that they lead, the whole group will collaborate and brainstorm on new projects. Also, each person has something that they prefer to do, for example Ben is more of the administrative manager, Jeremy and Christian are engineer minded, and Peter and Chris are the visualizers. They are also absolutely flexible in their operation, people come in when they want, vacation when they need, and work from where they want. They all share the same goal of doing what is best for the company, and don't stress themselves because over time, that will be bad for the company.
As for the design community in Zürich, I've heard from several sources that it is starting to take off again, and that there are many jobs available. Ben and I talked about how to get integrated in the community, and also about how to approach it. He recommend that I contact the people I find interesting, including the individuals, and after speaking to them for awhile, ask them who I should see next. He admitted that the community is not very open, but once you get inside, it is very friendly and easy to meet new people. He also told me that the "artsy" place to hangout is Kreis 4, a district in Zürich that has the Zürich Art School, but is also where the art-minded hangout.
Since Ben was so easy to talk to, I was able to be open with him about not really knowing what I want to do, and kind of floundering with the issue. One thing I found interesting was that when he asked me what I wanted to do, he did mean with my life. He asked me "When you wake up, what do you want from the next 8 hours?" Which I had never thought about, and is a much more digestible question. He told me that it is normal to not know what you want to do, and the only way to really figure it out is to explore different firms and to try new things (as in self-created projects). It was comforting to hear a successful designer say these things. As Ben only has a Bachelor of Arts (like me) and seemed relatively young (maybe late 20's) I found his success and his composure inspiring and relaxing. I am going to find what I'm looking for, and I just need to keep trying until I do, and to not let rejection and failure limit me.