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Dutch Courage! Up and Coming Creative Talent from Amsterdam

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Seven creatives on the rise sat down with LBB’s Alex Reeves to share their starts in the industry, their most significant work and what it means to be an aspiring creative in the Netherlands

Dutch Courage! Up and Coming Creative Talent from Amsterdam

LBB’s Uprising channel is brought to you in partnership with Ridley Scott Creative Group in ongoing efforts to facilitate opportunities for the next generation of creative talent.

The Uprising channel amplifies the voices of emerging talent in the industry, and with the support of Ridley Scott Creative Group, the industry’s top talent will have an even louder voice on LBB’s global platform. The channel is an opportunity for up-and-coming talent to be celebrated for their artistry, personality, and inspirations, with each feature exploring their creative background, niche craft obsessions, the work they are most proud of, and views on the state of the industry. 


Amsterdam can stake a pretty strong claim as the creative hub of Europe’s ad industry. Perfectly situated between France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark and the UK, it’s a city that draws talent from all over the world. And as the home of artistic talents like Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer the Netherlands as a country is no slouch when it comes to homegrown talent too. 

Ahead of the upcoming Amsterdam event hosted by Ridley Scott Creative Group, LBB spoke to some of the rising, junior creative talent from agencies in Amsterdam to answer these questions and more. LBB’s Alex Reeves sat down with TBWA\NEBOKO’s Hannah Sterke, SuperHeroes Amsterdam’s Jeffrey Okhuijsen, Vigics’ Luca Shakison, Blauw Gras’ Mauran Verniers, 180 Amsterdam’s Wouter Oomen, KesselsKramer’s Tristan Roques and HarrimanSteel's Valentina Badri to find out more about what it truly means to be a creative in the Netherlands. 

Hannah Sterke

Creative


How and when did you realise you wanted to be a creative?

When I finished high school, I had absolutely no clue what I wanted out of life. I had never been exceptionally good at anything. I sucked at maths, economics and physics but I was pretty alright at English due to my fascination with video games and children’s shows. Besides that, the only other thing I excelled at was art formalism, but every kid is aware by the age of 12 that that won’t make a stable income. 

So, the choice was between becoming an English teacher or a graphic designer. I chose the latter because I wanted some kind of a creative outlet. I enjoyed college, fooling around with Adobe programs, but when my internship came around the corner, I got quite depressed. My task was changing colours and texts in already existing designs. No creativity whatsoever. I didn’t know why I felt so down.

Then came the day I was asked by my creative director to come along for an assignment. I vividly remember stepping inside his office and all of a sudden, I was surrounded by ideas. They were working on a campaign and had filled the wall with thoughts and sketches. For once it wasn’t a clean, finished end product. It was thought-provoking, rough around the edges, and far from perfection. It gave me the itch to add to it, to discuss.

I had never even considered a future in advertising up till this point. But from that moment I knew I wanted more, and half a year later I applied to art school to become an art director.

How did you get your start in the industry?

This was actually quite simple. I got a message on LinkedIn, saying there was an opening for an inexperienced art director at an agency in Amsterdam. Inexperienced? Look no further! I never had much contact with recruiters so I was tempted to delete it. But finding a job as a junior is quite hard, so I decided to give it a shot. 

When they called, they revealed the agency and I was absolutely thrilled. I never could’ve dreamed I would start my career at one of the best agencies in the Netherlands.

What are some of the most significant projects you’ve worked on?

I’ve only been working in this industry for about a year now, so I don’t have an extensive portfolio yet.

I have a project called ‘Go Back to the Kitchen’ which is one of my favourite projects I’ve done so far. A documentary and toolset with the aim to empower women in the gaming world. It played a huge role in the process of embracing my identity and coming to terms with the past. It has activism, it’s unapologetic, has a hint of humour, and is backed by research. It is 100% me.  

Besides that, I have a campaign in the works which concerns getting subsidies for children that are physically challenged. I’m honoured to work for such an amazing cause. I won’t give away too much but the concept involves calling out certain politicians. Which is something I’ve always wanted to do, especially in today’s skewed political landscape. And to get the platform and reach to do so is amazing.

What does it mean to be a junior creative in the Netherlands?

I’d say it’s quite tough when one is starting out. As I said, I went for my first and only offer. The creative industry is like a big black box that you look into, it’s a world of its own and has its own language and its own people. I noticed when I finished school that there were no junior creative vacancies anywhere, only middleweight and senior roles. You needed a minimum of four years of agency experience, where the hell was I going to get that? It was only then that I realised the importance of knowing people from the industry, especially as a junior. So, I started participating in Youngdogs, which is like Young Lions but for the Netherlands, going to portfolio nights, and adding people on LinkedIn. Yeah, the grownup stuff.

But it’s something I advise every junior to do. Show your face. Get to know people, not just for the sake of a job but also to be inspired, and surround yourself with people you look up to. Also, have side-projects. That’s where your energy will come from.

Nina Mispelblom Beyer

Creative


How and when did you realise you wanted to be a creative?

I fell in love with directing when I was 10 years old. There were commercial and film shoots in my neighbourhood all the time, and so after school, I went there with cookies and lemonade and sat there watching them for hours. I loved seeing how all these people were running and doing their part on this big set. So I knew then that I wanted to direct. Later, I found out that I wanted to direct commercials, not films. And when I was directing, I figured that I wanted to concept as well. So I changed my plan, I work as a creative now and hopefully will direct my own campaigns in the future. 

How did you get your start in the industry?

Because I did film school, it was a bit harder to enter the advertising business. So I started with an internship at Havas Lemz. After that, I started working for a smaller agency but within four weeks, I moved to TBWA already. That was surreal because TBWA was my goal, I didn’t expect for it to come this soon!

What are some of the most significant projects you’ve worked on?

I graduated with a short film that was shown at the Dutch Film Festival, and at film festivals in London, Paris, Barcelona and some places in America. That was a big thing for me! Hannah Sterke has been my teammate for one year now at TBWA and together we did some awesome things already.

What does it mean to be a junior creative in the Netherlands?

As a junior in The Netherlands, there are lots of opportunities to make a name for yourself. Hannah and I competed at Young Dogs competitions and won three times this year, and won tickets to Cannes. There are also categories at advertising festivals that support young talent and we were nominated twice this year as Talents and Best Junior Team. So we really like all these opportunities and are trying to make the most out of them.


Jeffrey Okhuijsen

Motion designer/creative


How and when did you realise you wanted to be a creative?

Growing up, I was lost and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Even though I loved creating videos and designs for fun, I could never see how this work could be valuable for me, let alone others. Not knowing what to do with my life caused a lot of unhappiness and frustration in me. Because I didn't have any goal to strive towards, I couldn't see the value of school either. This is when I started skipping classes. A lot. Even close to graduation, I was still clueless about where I wanted to go with my life. 

What I feel like I should have done a lot earlier was to get a personality test done. As soon as the school principal put me through one, everything pointed towards a creative career path. I was recommended to go to a design school in Utrecht and the moment I walked in there, I immediately felt at home and a whole new world opened for me. I kept thinking, “people make money doing this?!” Once I got accepted into the school, I never skipped a single hour of school again because for the first time in my life, I actually loved going. It’s funny how understanding your personality traits can sometimes point you in the right direction when faced with difficult life decisions. 

So if you're lost about what direction to go with your life, a personality test might give you new insights.

https://www.16personalities.com/ is a great place to start.

How did you get your start in the industry?

In 2019, I started a design internship at a marketing agency. The office was located inside of an old monastery surrounded by nature and fountains. There, I was able to have my first go at working for actual clients. I got a lot thrown at me during this time, from designing and building websites to having a go at creating animated social media posts. Making the animations was something I particularly enjoyed and it further developed my interest in becoming a motion designer. In 2022, I’m now closer than I’ve ever been to that goal with my motion designer position at SuperHeroes Amsterdam.

What are some of the most significant projects you’ve worked on?

In the time where I didn’t know what to do with my life, I played a lot of video games to avoid having to deal with reality. After I found my passion as a creative however, I figured that a much more productive way to spend my time was to quit playing video games myself and instead, make designs for brands in the video game industry. This way, I could combine the two things I loved in a much healthier way.

I started creating designs for esport streamers, teams and tournaments, until I eventually got commissioned for a complete rebranding of the biggest League of Legends tournament in Italy called PG Nationals. The project required logo design, standing screens, transitions and countdown screens for a weekly twitch.tv livestream. This was the perfect opportunity to put my skills to the test of combining design and motion. 

I’ll never forget how proud I felt the moment the tournament went live on Twitch.tv and over 50,000 people tuned in to watch the livestream. All these eyes looking at my graphics felt almost unreal. The reason I was chosen to work on this project was because the client liked my minimalistic style, which I used in previous projects, and they wanted something similar for themselves.


What does it mean to be a junior creative in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is a great place to be a creative in general since there are loads of exhibitions and events to attend that allow you to improve yourself or get recognized. As a motion designer, the Design in Motion Festival is a great example of that. The amount of people and the cultures I’ve been able to get in contact with here in Amsterdam has been such a big pleasure as well. 

To put yourself in a favourable position, I think it’s important to keep trying to develop yourself. For whatever creative job you’re doing, there is also a ton of content to be found on the internet or people around you to learn from. During covid, I doubled down on following tutorials and courses to improve myself as a motion designer. Instead of loading up another Netflix movie, I think it can be really beneficial to spend your time improving your creative craft every now and then. Doing this will help a lot in finding a job you really like in the long run.


Luca Shakison

Vigics
Director/creative 


How and when did you realise you wanted to be a creative? 

There wasn’t really a specific moment. I’ve always been interested in creating things, if that’s what it means to be a creative. I did an audiovisual study where I learned how to make a video from scratch. During this process directing caught my interest the most, so I started to delve more into that and started developing myself as a director. 

How did you get your start in the industry? 

A year ago, I started a traineeship at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, called ‘The Kennedys’.  With this exclusive program, Wieden+Kennedy gives new talent the chance to work on real assignments with real clients and deadlines. After I finished the traineeship, I was approached by Vigics and asked if I wanted to join their roster as a director. Ever since then, things took off and I got the chance to work on some amazing projects. 

What are some of the most significant projects you’ve worked on? 

In 2020, I directed a music video for a Dutch artist named Sor. It was the first project I’ve ever directed and everything was new and super exciting to me. During this project, I realised what it takes to work as a director — it wasn’t as easy as I thought, but I loved (almost) every moment of it. 

I directed two non-fictional films as well for two of the most popular festivals in Holland; Dekmantel and Lentekabinet. The stories are told from the perspective of Mary Lake, Cinnaman and Meetsysteem, who work as DJs and producers. It was a new process for me, trying to tell a genuine story about someone instead of creating a story that doesn’t exist. 

Recently Vigics got me to do a very cool project for Dopper together with the creative impact agency Rise. What I really liked about this project was the fact that next to my role as a director, I also got the chance to work on the creative side together with Rise. It gave me a whole new perspective as a creative. 

What does it mean to be a junior creative in the Netherlands? 

I feel like it’s a good place to kick off your career in the ‘creative industry.’ Although it can be hard sometimes, I feel very supported by Vigics and I’m lucky to be part of their inclusive roster full of talented people that support and help each other. Their support makes it a lot  easier for me to develop myself as a director.


Mauran Verniers

Creative


How and when did you realise you wanted to be a creative?

Creativity is the one common thread throughout my life, so it’s not surprising that I ended up in the creative sector. As a kid, I dreamt of becoming a fashion designer. Later in life I spent afternoons at art school, where I became familiar with the term concepting; working with different types of paint, materials, and more. When my friends came over, I always organised photoshoots for them. During my teenage years, I started experimenting with make-up for hours on end, making videos and editing photos. This developed into vlog content while I studied journalism. That’s how my love for content creation grew, so it was a no-brainer for me to end up as a creative at social-first creative agency Blauw Gras. 

How did you get your start in the industry?

I started as a content marketer at a content marketing agency, where I mainly wrote long copy and handled their social media platforms. Outside of work, I was very active on TikTok. I even went viral once with my videos about typical Flemish things, resulting in several spinoffs. While my interests grew, I realised that I could turn my hobby into my profession, which was an absolute dream! With little experience in building big brands on social media, my own channel was my 'wildcard'. That’s how I ended up at Blauw Gras. Within 1.5 weeks I had my contract signed for my new job. 

What are some of the most significant projects you’ve worked on?

Blauw Gras has already given me lots of opportunities to participate in interesting projects, and my favourites are the ones on TikTok. It’s great to be able to build brands on TikTok. Currently we’re creating playful videos for the supermarket chain ALDI and the mobile phone company Vodafone, and it’s exciting to see how these brands evolve on the social platform. We’re also experimenting on our own Blauw Gras TikTok channels, where we play around and create spinoffs based on trends like the Balenciaga runway and 'can we get the bill'.

What does it mean to be a junior creative in the Netherlands?

I’m learning the tricks of the trade from professionals, who also appreciate my perspective and opinion. Being part of a team means we constantly learn from each other. Everyone wants to push the work forward and create something great together. This helps me grow quickly, whilst building valuable relationships with colleagues along the way. The best thing about being a creative is that I’m not just creative on weekdays from 9 to 5, but I'm creative everywhere and all the time. On holidays, trips, events or simply even hanging out at the bar can inspire me in my work. 


Wouter Oomen

Junior art director
 

How and when did you realise you wanted to be a creative?

I’ve always wanted to become a graphic designer and I've been doing graphic design with a lot of joy for many years. My interest in the field worked in one direction. I zoomed in, keeping myself busy with things like the kerning of two letters and the relation of the curves in a logo and the golden ratio. I went deep into graphic design history and the detailed stuff. But at a certain point I noticed that I was zoomed in so much that I forgot to ask the question, "how should I use the things I am making?"
 
From that moment on I started to focus on zooming out of the field and getting interested in marketing, communication and eventually advertising. And on one night where I couldn't sleep because I was so unsure of what I wanted to become, it came to me. I wanted to become an art director. The next morning I sent an email to my school about the procedure to switch studies. 
 
How did you get your start in the industry?
 
After my internship at 180 Amsterdam, I got the chance to stay for longer. 
 
What are some of the most significant projects you’ve worked on?
 
theErased_.otf - which was one of our own personal projects. And the Smint Defensive TVC with 180 which launched last month!

What does it mean to be a junior creative in the Netherlands?
 
The chance to develop your creativity. Getting to know a group of very ambitious people. The Netherlands is a tiny country with a lot of different cultures, innovations, and problems that can be turned into creative opportunities.
 

Tristan Roques

Art director, designer and all-round generalist

Above: Tristan confesses his thoughts on the industry from a confession booth located in the 19th-century church that is the KesselsKramer office.

How and when did you realise you wanted to be a creative? 

Oh lord… I never wanted to be ‘a creative’ in advertising. Like you, I always wanted to create. Create physical things, create digital things, create in 2D, create in 3D, make films, shoot photography, create (ir)relevant messages. Then I discovered that advertising is an industry where you get to do most of these things. So I converted. Now I’m a creative in advertising. 

I hope I’m not going to hell for my frequent usage of the word ‘creative’ in this interview. 

How did you get your start in the industry? 

I’d like to ask for forgiveness regarding my sometimes critical view on the advertising industry. Forgive me for the days where I feel us creatives can invest their time in making the world a better place. Bless KesselsKramer for spreading the gospel of advertising for people that don’t like advertising. Their attitude towards the industry is why I wanted to work there in the first place. 

Forgive me for my privilege of interning at KesselsKramer for a few months. Bless them for inviting me afterwards to stay. 

What are some of the most significant projects you’ve worked on? 

Firstly, I need you to forgive me for all my creative embarrassments – like shooting intricate shots that never survived the edit, all the misspellings, all the email I never reply to, sending expired WetTansfer links, using the same image twice in one layout after it went to print, for accidentally making something that looked like something else. 

Please also forgive me for all the insignificant projects – all the silly videos about plants, Satanism and coffee. But allow me to continue, for these insignificant projects have often inspired the more significant ones. 

Forgive me for rebranding the Netherland’s largest fantasy film festival in such a bloody way. Forgive me for saying that everything in our world can be explained scientifically in the latest campaign for the Deutsches Museum. Forgive me for stealing the Kunstpalast identity when rebranding the NRW-Forum. Forgive me for making fun of the MoMA branding. Forgive me for the sacrilege done to design classics. But most importantly, forgive me for my bragging. Oh dear lord, can I have some of your followers?

What does it mean to be a junior creative in the Netherlands? 

I’m thankful for all the museums, the cinema’s, nightclubs and good food. But forgive me for my temptations. I’m thankful for the bike lanes. But have mercy on me when I’m late for work. Thank you for the absence of hierarchies. But forgive me for contributing to Dutch directness. Thank you for normal working hours. But forgive me when I’m doing overtime. Thank you for the beautiful buildings, but oh lord… I pray for more affordable housing.


Valentina Badri

HarrimanSteel
Junior creative


How and when did you realise you wanted to be a creative?

I have always been fascinated by the expressions of fashion and design, but more as an admirer than a creator. As I didn’t grow up with creative people in my surroundings, it felt extremely foreign to pursue a career other than finance or law. Well, that was until I worked as an accounting consultant and thought that the layout of annual reports were more intriguing than the actual numbers, haha. That’s when I asked myself what the hell I was doing there, and applied to fashion school. 

How did you get your start in the industry?

During my Branding studies at Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI), I did two internships that encompassed two different sides of the industry. First, I interned at The Humblebrag, a purpose-driven communications agency that amplifies social, environmental and cultural issues. After that, I explored the traditional ad agency life at Ogilvy. Two contrasting experiences that gave me critical insights to the wide spectrum of what it means to be a creative. And the ethical responsibility that comes along with it. 

My creative journey has recently led me to HarrimanSteel, an independent creative agency that partners with ambitious brands to create positive change in the world around us. An inspiring place where I’m lucky to work with talented people who push my creative thinking to the next level. 

What are some of the most significant projects you’ve worked on?

One of the key projects that has played a significant role in both my creative and personal development is ‘Give Menopause A Voice’, a campaign created to break the taboo around menopause. The research process highlighted bias against women in not only school and healthcare, but also in tech. By playing on that notion, we found a way of giving menopause the (literal) voice it deserves. We were over the moon to be awarded a D&AD wood pencil for the project. [Watch the video on YouTube.]

Another key project was KAWA, a sub-brand and denim-led collection we developed for Kings of Indigo in collaboration with Amsterdam Fashion Institute. The project explored the intersection between Japanese and American craftsmanship in denim, and the contemporary techno scenes in Tokyo and Detroit. I feel lucky when I’m able to incorporate my personal fascinations in my work, and this is one of those cases where they merged together beautifully. 

What does it mean to be a junior creative in the Netherlands?

I’m so grateful to be in Amsterdam at this point of my career. The community-driven aspect of the fashion brands in the city was eye opening to me when I moved here from Stockholm. The creative industry is so much more accessible here than in other parts of the world, and that open atmosphere allows for genuine conversations and connections. Something that the global fashion industry as a whole could learn from. 

Valentina's portfolio can be found at valentinabadri.com.


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RSA Films, Tue, 29 Nov 2022 13:09:04 GMT