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Uprising: Maddy Merzvinskis on How Art Is Essential to Being Human


The CHEP brand designer speaks to LBB’s Casey Martin about her first gig in Indonesia and being a Cannes Young Lions winner for 2023

Uprising: Maddy Merzvinskis on How Art Is Essential to Being Human

Maddy Merzvinskis, a 2020 graduate from Swinburne University of Technology, landed her first job in Indonesia designing merchandise as part of an internship. When asked about this first step into the industry, she humbly spoke about a concept in Indonesian culture called ‘nongkrong’. 

Maddy describes this concept as, in its most basic form: “The act of hanging out, and of being in a social space together without a distinct end or goal of productivity.” She adds that this practice is essential for Indonesian artists, with work and play possessing equal importance. 

“I came to understand that when the basketball came out for us to shoot some hoops in the car park, usually around 4pm, it signalled the end of the work day. That’s not to say that they don’t work hard – the illustration talent and output in that place are world-class – but they’ve got the balance figured out, and they understand the huge impact that play and shared social time can have on creativity.”

For Maddy, it was this “shared human experience” which really left an impression - allowing her to discover the importance of expressing human emotions visually – something that can be called the most essential part of the industry. She says, “some of my projects have been based around analysing how we feel love, grief, and anger, or what it means to be at home. These are things that we all experience totally differently, but the actual act of experiencing them is universal.”

But these are not the only experiences influencing Maddy’s creative work in her current role as a brand designer at CHEP. In fact, she takes inspiration from the hundreds of feelings we feel during the course of one day. 

“I was cleaning out my old phone recently, and was smacked in the face by how much of a collector I am of these moments – screenshots and voice memos and written notes of minute parts of my day that felt worthy of capturing, or things that I’ve overheard people say that I thought would one day inspire a design,” she says. 

Continuing, Maddy notes that she likes to take these small, often disregarded moments and analyse them, exploring how they have made her feel, and how they might make others feel, in order to understand human expression far more effectively. To this end, she values empathy over anything else. 

“Translating these feelings or experiences into some kind of artistic format or visual expression is both a way for me to process and understand them myself, as well as allow other people to connect, relate and engage with them,” she says. “So, often I’ll scroll through Instagram and see work from artists that I love that make me go ‘Yes! I feel that way too!’. It becomes a moment of connection. I’d love for people to feel the same way about the work I create.”

In particular, Maddy’s proclivity for empathy has proven extremely useful when developing client relationships. With communication being akey skillof designers, she notes that her tendencies make it especially easy to gain an understanding of clients, their missions, and their challenges – all fundamental aspects of any successful design process. 

Maddy is also quick to mention her mentors’ role in the development of this ability, saying: “Recently, I’ve been learning from lots of mentors and design leaders at CHEP about the value of setting aside time at the beginning of a job just to think. Giving yourself space to sit with the problem or the brief, to understand it and your opinion on it, before getting your hands dirty. I’m trying to build that into my process more, and feeling okay about not having any kind of visualisations to show straight away.” 

She touched on the gathering of references and research, and being inspired by other creative outputs that stretch far beyond the walls of communication design.“I love this kind of serendipitous inspiration, and think there’s so much value to be found in being open to accepting and collecting that,” she said. 

All of her mentors have inspiration banks that are vast and varied. Maddy said that she is able to come to them with a design technique and they are able to instantly recall whatever piece of art that uses the kind of inspiration she is looking for.

“I always have a bit of a starry-eyed, ‘I want to be like you when I grow up,’ moment.”

All of her training paid off when she won gold in the design category at Cannes Young Lions with her colleague, Ika Jamali, designer at CHEP. 

“Anyone that’s ever had to put together a case study in any form will also know, when you’ve invested so much of your time and creative energy into a project, you have a LOT to say and not much space to say it. It’s really good practice in succinct but powerful storytelling. I think a lot of the value of entering awards comes from what you can learn and solidify through that process. And of course, having success in these kinds of things is nice to have in your memory bank when imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.”

That being said, putting together an effective case study was not the only challenge she and Ika faced. Specifically, Maddy recalls that laying her creativity on the line was a truly nerve-wracking experience. 

“There’s a vulnerability that comes with sharing work that you care deeply about in any sense – especially in a format where it’s going to be judged, critiqued, and rated. I think it’s a good lesson in backing yourself – by entering a piece of work into an awards show you’re kind of proving to yourself and to the world that you believe in what you’ve created.”

Beyond proud of this achievement and even prouder of her Ika, Maddy adds that it was wonderful to collaborate with someone who works in similar ways, and has the same respect for creativity and human emotions as she does. 

Maddy describes Ika as, “incredibly clever, and thoughtful, and has a strong sense of who she is and what she beleives in, both personally and professionally … she’s going to be running the show one day soon.”

Ika herself has similar praise for Maddy, saying, “everything she does is artfully considered – she is super self-aware and reflective and this makes her a great designer and a great friend too.”

With a win under her belt and a long career ahead of her, Maddy says that “art is one of the most natural and instinctive ways that we connect with each other from what we created. From such an early age, it is a way of expressing ourselves and of connecting and giving to others – we draw things before we even know how to write.”

“With art, you don’t need to know how to say something, you just need to know how it feels. Everything that we make is considered art – not just the things we paint but also the meals we cook for ourselves so we don’t go hungry and the birthday cards we write to tell our friends how much we love them. If we see all of that as art, then isn’t that just such a nice way to look at the world?”

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CHEP Network, Thu, 25 May 2023 01:48:15 GMT