Photo by Josh Knox
Photo by Edo Jungerius
‘Chasing the snow year-round wasn’t always about rainbows and unicorns’
My teenage years were a bit unusual, as I got the opportunity to travel the world as a professional snowboarder for nearly a decade. It was awesome, and as an athlete I learnt so many important skills that I still use in my everyday life. Chasing the snow year-round wasn’t always about rainbows and unicorns though, and I definitely got my fair share of things like homesickness and injuries. Eventually, a back-to-back ACL injury made me decide to change direction and retire at the young age of 21. During my rehabilitation, I was very lucky to work with some of the best specialists that the sports industry has to offer. One of them was a sports dietitian. Getting on top of my nutrition with her was such an eye-opening experience – I was intrigued with how nutrition impacted my performance and my recovery. I wanted to learn everything about this topic and become a sports dietitian myself, so I enrolled for the 4 year Bachelor of Science degree ‘Nutrition & Dietetics’ at the University of Applied Sciences in The Hague.
In 2016, right after graduating as a Registered Dietitian in The Netherlands, I moved to Aotearoa New Zealand to kick off my career. Naive as I was, I didn’t realise there were only five million people in the country and many more Kiwi Dietitians than there were jobs. Of course they weren’t waiting for an ambitious Dutch girl with an accent to take up a spot in their saturated work field, so I had to adapt and come up with a plan B.
Meanwhile, I needed to somehow generate an income. I decided to contact surf schools on the coast to ask if they needed an extra hand. During my studies in The Hague, I worked as a surf instructor on the coast of Scheveningen, and hence I had all the necessary international diplomas to do the same work abroad. This is how I got in touch with Donna Henderson from Christchurch, who ran her own surf school, but also happened to run a really cool women’s surfing magazine called Curl Magazine. At the time, she was in desperate need of a Graphic Designer for the upcoming issue, and the idea of creating a magazine really spoke to me. With zero experience in the field of Graphic Design (remember, I had just studied Nutrition & Dietetics for four years) and no idea what I was in for, I told her I was interested. Before I could finish my sentence, Donna said: “You’ve got the job”.
Over the next three months, I had to deliver a 68-page magazine, ready for print, which meant all the technical bells and whistles had to be on point as well as the actual design. Several online teaching platforms became my best friend and I submerged myself into the unknown world of pixel pushing. I got the stories supplied by our amazing editor, Lucy Small, and I got sent incredible surfing photos from photographers all around the globe. With this content, it was up to me to turn it into a magazine. Together with Donna and Lucy, we pulled it off, and three months later I was flicking through the actual printed magazine. This is when I realised how much I had enjoyed this project, and that it hadn’t even felt like work.
‘They weren’t waiting for an ambitious Dutch girl with an accent’
In attempt to launch my career as a Dietitian, I had built up quite a big network of Kiwi Dietitians by this time. I started showing them the magazine, and they loved it. Some of them asked if I could design things like posters and booklets for their practices. By taking on this work, I slowly built up a portfolio, and the more projects I did, the more I realised that this was what I wanted to do.
I started applying for Graphic Design jobs, but after many letters with no reply, I was tempted to give up. No one wanted someone without a diploma of some sort, and not being a Kiwi didn’t help much either. Then I saw a job advert from Nettl in Dunedin, a small creative studio that is part of a massive network of Nettl studios all around the world. I couldn’t help getting excited and decided to give it one more go. To my surprise, the guys got back to me straight away, and the next day I drove 700km south to Dunedin for a job interview. I met the team at the studio on High Street, and from that moment on I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. To be honest, this was one of the most nerve-wrecking periods in my life. I felt like I was on a T-junction, where I would either get this opportunity and start a new career in Graphic Design, or not, and probably just move back to The Netherlands to continue my career as a Dietitian. A couple of long weeks later, I got the call. They had picked me: I was going to move to Dunedin, and I was going to work full-time as a Graphic Designer. I was thrilled.
It turned out to be a massive life changer and one of the best things that ever happened to me. I absolutely loved my job and got along with the team really well. I wanted to learn everything I could possibly learn, so I was very lucky to work alongside Nettl’s Senior Designer, Michael Palmer, who had 20+ years of experience under his belt. Paul Johnson, the studio manager, taught me the nuts and bolts of everything business related, and he soon became my mentor as well as a great friend. Due to visa requirements, I also had to enrol for an apprenticeship to earn an official diploma in this work field. During this apprenticeship, I learnt everything about design for print production. In July 2019, I graduated and earned my New Zealand Certificate in Print, specialised in Digital Printing (NZQA Level 4).
Photo by Jeannie Johnson
‘It turned out to be a massive life changer’
‘I was eager to add more arrows to my quiver’
After three amazing years at Nettl, I was eager to add more arrows to my quiver. Graphic Design only felt like the tip of the iceberg, and I was ready to bring my design to life with Motion Design. In 2021, I took the plunge and moved back to The Netherlands to start my own Motion & Graphic Design business, so I could divide my time between work and skilling up.
I am currently available for remote work, no matter if you’re in Aotearoa, Holland, or anywhere in between – we all zoom nowadays anyway! If you’d like to work together or ask about my experience, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – I love (e-)meeting new people!