Eight years ago I came to the Netherlands from Greece, convinced I’d complete my ICT & Management study and end up working for a big company. Only part of this plan transpired: I now work for ABN AMRO. But if you’d told me at the time that I would be working as a designer, I wouldn’t have believed you. Making a beeline for a career in a grey suit, I simply didn’t consider a creative job an option.
Have the courage to be creative – you’ll surprise yourself
Dimitris Kritsilis Senior Designer
Looking back, the possibility had always been there – I just had to nudge things in the right direction. I always had a weakness for visual art, but my family, teachers and friends convinced me that this would be a waste of my degree and not feasible financially. It wasn’t only external pressure that kept me away from art; whenever I looked at anything creative, I always thought to myself, ‘I could never do that’. I put up the biggest obstacle myself.
I’m glad I followed my heart in the end. It happened unexpectedly, but my ‘What if…?’ scenario eventually became reality. After I graduated, I was offered a traineeship at IBM and ABN AMRO – but both traineeships were cancelled due to the economic crisis. That was really a wake-up call for me. I thought, ‘When I’m 67, I can either look back on my career and wonder why I ended up being an unhappy businessman, or I can grab this opportunity and give design a chance.’
Growing as a designer
I stayed at ABN AMRO Dialogues Incubator, where I had done a traineeship, and was given the opportunity to develop as a junior designer. It was hard work, as I had a whole lot to learn. I followed hundreds of tutorials and practised every free minute I had. But I also had a big advantage: I knew the business, so I could easily bridge the gap between great design and a business goal. The thing I’m most proud of is my work for the Cultural Heart, which is about how a bank can help the cultural sector.
The importance of everyday creativity
The most important trait of a good designer is the ability to understand aesthetics and to translate this into a good story. Design is everywhere, and it’s not only abstract, frivolous or beautiful. In fact, it’s usually practical. That’s why everyday creativity is so important: we need to fine new, smarter ways of doing things, improving our lives, or telling a good story. If you have the courage to be creative in your work – whatever your job – you will surprise yourself.
Affordable Art Fair
You could be pleasantly surprised by your employer, like I was. I was asked to present my work for ABN AMRO during the Affordable Art Fair in October 2014 – a fantastic opportunity! If you work for a large organisation, you don’t expect your work to seep through to other departments and actually be seen. But that does happen at ABN AMRO. And that makes me realise – now more than ever – that I made the right choice six years ago.
Be open to new ideas
My story may sound unique – it certainly was the right combination of circumstances – but I think it could happen to anybody. At any rate, I hope that others will be inspired to follow their dreams. If you’ve got your eye on something, give it a try. And if you don’t, at least entertain a thought – be open to new ideas and possibilities. Who knows what you could achieve? It may be a cliché, but it’s true: find a job you love, and you’ll never have to work again.