Swiss Miss visits Seattle
Now based in NYC, Tina Roth was born and raised in Switzerland and received her diploma in graphic design from the Fachhoschule of Munich, Germany.
In 1999 she came to the USA for a three-month internship, found professional momentum that couldn’t be stopped, and last month married a Brooklynite. She’ll be extending her stay indefinitely. Good news for the US.
October 3 interview by board member Allison Gegan.
Tina, tell us what projects are you currently working on?
At Thinkmap, I am developing a broad range of marketing materials for the Visual Thesaurus. We also have two more products in the pipeline. I can't say much yet, but they're very exciting!
I am also working as a contract consultant at MoMA two days a week. MoMA approached me about 6 months ago and asked if I would be interested in redesigning their current intranet. It's a wonderful project that allows me to really see behind the scenes of this fabulous institution.
Are there aspects of this project that you weren’t expecting?
Working on the Visual Thesaurus, I developed a huge respect for agencies/companies that design products for a global clientele. The sheer amount of marketing materials that need to be produced is amazing. I love the fact that I get to do everything from print materials, from the packaging to the overall online experience. Having to use all those different media really keeps me on my toes.
As for the MoMA Intranet project, hmm... Well, I just finished the ‘forms’ sections, and I must say that I didn’t realize how much bureaucracy an organization like the MoMA has to deal with. I am used to working at smaller companies, where things are much easier, in that I can just walk up to a coworker or boss and ask about things directly.
You were in Seattle a short while ago as a presenter at the 9th Annual Currents conference. What comes to mind when you think of Seattle as a result of this visit?
This morning, I was explaining the beauty of Gasworks Park to a friend of mine who is visiting from Switzerland. Seattle made a huge impression on me. My husband and I both had to ‘shift gears’ once we got there. To give you an example: The first morning, on our way to the Currents conference, we had to wait at a street light. Being New Yorkers (well, at least my husband grew up there), my husband and I stepped off the curb and stood halfway out in the street, while waiting impatiently for the street sign to turn ‘green’. We got strange looks from people across the street and behind us. “Oops,” we thought, so we took a few steps back onto the curb, looked at each other, and cracked up. We shifted down to 'second gear' at that point, and pretty much stayed there for the rest of the trip. We liked the slower pace of the city, the surrounding water, and the warm hospitality of the Seattleites.
Tell us a little what design school was like for you in Switzerland.
After studying business and languages, I took a year-long introductory program in art and design at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs in Geneva. After that program, I switched to the University of Applied Sciences in Munich, Germany. The school system in Munich gave me exactly the freedom I wanted; it allowed me to work freelance a lot. I experienced the 'deadline- and money-driven work environment' of small design shops, but I also had the chance to be experimental and playful with my assignments at college - a perfect mix. I tremendously enjoyed my final thesis project, which was a photography/text book on the ‘Beauty of Every Day Life’.
What do you miss from home that simply can’t be found anywhere else?
The unique geographical location of Switzerland. I miss the fact that I could drive for only three hours and be in Italy or France, or drive one hour and be in Germany or Austria. Switzerland is located in the very heart of Europe and, as tiny as it is, it has four official languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansch), which give it its diverse identity. For example, I miss looking at milk packagings and reading the product description in three different languages. (They usually leave out Romansch.)
In terms of food, nothing tops a good roesti with melted Appenzeller cheese on top. Yum.
Is there anything that seemed incredibly important to you as a design student that you no longer find compelling?
Umm…I can't think of anything.
Is there a time of day that you work better?
Mornings are my time of day. How atypical for a designer, don’t you think?
Who or what makes you feel star struck?
Ignorance is bliss, when it comes to being star struck, isn’t it? A while back, I was at one of the office parties of my friends over at Karlssonwilker, when I started talking to this tall fellow from Austria. We ended up having a fairly heated discussion about the cultural differences between Europe and the US when it comes to graphic design. When he gave me his card, I had to take a deep breath. I looked at him and said: “You are *the* Stefan Sagmeister?” “A-hum!”, he said, with a grin on his face. I’m not sure if the conversation would have been as relaxed on my end, had I known who I was talking to.
The way I heard it, you and Mr. Sagmeister exchanged slaps before he threw his drink at the wall and you stormed out.
Moving along, tell me what your dream job would be like.
Running a small design studio with ueber-talented friends, having clients with outstanding aesthetics, and having i-n-f-i-n-i-t-e funding. Oh… and sushi for lunch every day.
What is your idea of an important achievement?
Surpassing my own personal limits, no matter what they are. This can be in terms of pushing my creative limits, cooking a fabulous new dish, or ‘simply’ being a good friend.
Do you believe in destiny?
Yes, absolutely. And there's no such thing as coincidences, either.
Finally, if you knew you could not fail, what would you do?
Answer this question well.
Allison Gegan is an ardent Tina ally and graphic designer based in Seattle, WA.