Can you describe what you do?
I am an independent UI designer, which means I craft custom-made websites, mobile apps, web tools and other digital solutions for various industries. My main goal is to create digital products that feel and look good. I find the most fulfilment when I can think of both the functional and graphical aspect of a digital product. For me, these two are inseparable. It comes down to structuring, organising and visualising information in a clear way and experimenting with interaction. Besides this, I regularly make visual identities for my clients as well, and then I’m thrilled to experiment with various materials, printing techniques and media. I also teach Interactive Design at the Graphic Design department of LUCA, School of Arts, in Brussels since 2014. I usually start my working day with a visit to a coffee bar in my neighbourhood, ’t Eilandje, which is mostly to unwind from the struggle of getting my daughter to school on time. The rest of my day consists of working on projects, meeting or calling clients and co-workers, researching or teaching at LUCA. My network of peers and clients is mainly spread over Antwerp and Brussels so I zigzag quite often between those cities and I also work from a distance for clients abroad.
I also feel that there’s little competition amongst my peers in the creative community, and more of a collaborative vibe.
How do you perceive Antwerp?
I’ve been living in Antwerp for seven years now. I grew up in a small town close to Mechelen, moved to Brussels when I started as a graphic design student and stayed there after I graduated. I started working for an Antwerp-based company and commuted for more than a year between the two cities. I worked long hours and often got home late. That, in combination with unreliable and overcrowded public transportation and the need for change made me decide to move to Antwerp. Even though I wasn’t really excited about Antwerp before (from a distance it seemed too polished and limited) and I didn’t know a lot of people there, I’m really happy I’ve swapped cities. Over the years, my view on Antwerp has changed dramatically and I truly began to love the city. A lot of creative things happen here and I’ve been inspired by the city and its people quite often. Also, each neighbourhood has its own identity with plenty of contrasts and quirks. For instance, you can see a lot of friction between the obsolete and the new in my town. Beautiful old hangars, pricey residential towers, authentic boatmen bars, spacious esplanades, old bridges and cranes, a shimmering new Havenhuis, the rawness of the port, and so on. From one extreme to the other. It’s also interesting to live in a part of the city that is in full transition. Let’s just hope the neighbourhood won’t lose its edge in a couple of years. Another priceless aspect of ’t Eilandje is its location on the edge of town which allows me to easily escape the hustle of the city. The port, the Schelde and the Noordkasteel, all blissful somewhat desolate places.
What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives?
Antwerp has an open and friendly creative community. The amount of design events where you can casually meet like-minded people is impressive: Offf, Born in Antwerp, Let’s Talk Design, meetups like UX Beers, … I also feel that there’s little competition amongst my peers in the creative community, and more of a collaborative vibe. Locals also appear to be good at setting up temporary spaces for creatives, for example in vacant spaces as The A-tower or Kattendijkdok-Oostkaai (Born in Antwerp and Bar Paniek).
To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? How would you guide tourists around?
Because the city is quite small and flat it’s easily accessible by bike, so I would suggest to rent a bike and drive from one side of the city to another and make plenty of stops, for example at one of the great galleries or bars. There’s just too many to mention, and it depends on your interests really! For me there’s not one specific place that symbolises the city, it’s the sum of its parts that makes it unique. My personal favourite activity must be a bicycle ride with my daughter through the pedestrian tunnel towards Linkeroever and drive up to Sint-Anneke. It offers a blissful view over the city, a relaxed vibe and it is great for children.
Not really… But there is a beautiful poem, written by Stijn Vranken, suspended below the Londenbrug and only visible when the bridge was open. I hope it stays there when the bridge gets replaced later this year.nathalik.be Photography Joke De Wilde