We had the good fortune of connecting with Annelies Vlasblom and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Annelies, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
To start collaborating and hiring people. I worked alone for 10 years, which fitted my life at that time perfectly. I had small children, so I could be flexible when they were ill or days off from school. At a certain time I got bored with doing the same work over and over again. I went back to University to study art history, but in the end found out graphic design was my really field, It was my company that needed a change. I started with hiring an intern and slowly grew to a company with 4-5 employees. At the moment (also due to COVID) I mainly work with freelancers, it gives a lot of flexibility and a chance to look for the right person with the specific job.
What should our readers know about your business?
I am the owner of Zeppa, a creative studio in Amsterdam, specialized in design for non-profit clients. We help these clients with improving their identity and campaigns to make a bigger impact. The organizations we work for are in the field of feminism, working conditions, journalism, sustainability, care etc. I am very proud that we succeeded in making a living with doing such wonderful work. It motivates us that we not only make beautiful designs, but that they are also used to make the world a slightly better place. Is it easy? No! Of course budgets are limited and sometimes our clients are a bit conservative -design and technique-wise. That can be very frustrating. And you need the right team to be able to do this. Our designers need to be flexible and need to be able to sometimes settle with a less% result, because there is no budget to go for the perfect picture. Along the way I found out to trust my gut feeling. If there are frictions with a client or employee that don’t work out after several talks, it is better to quit the relationship and move on. Even when it seems a very hard step to take. It will give room for new things and make you much happier!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The first thing to do do would be to hire a bike. You can not visit Amsterdam properly without a bike. And then we would start exploring the neighborhoods a bit. I live in the south of Amsterdam, an area with lots of buildings designed by Dutch architect and city planner Hendrik Petrus Berlage. It is a very green area, so very good to start cycling here before we hit the busier part of the city. We would bike though the Vondelpark, although crowded and overrated, and have a coffee at het Blauwe Theehuis (Vondelpark 5), a very nice place in the middle of the Vondelpark. It is now owned by a local brewery so you can get very good beers here as well. After that we would visit the canals. Maybe even take a boat tour. The view from the water is completely different from the view on the streets and gives a much better idea from the city. We would visit the Stedelijk Museum, museum of modern art, which has a good permanent collection, but also good and interesting exhibitions (Museumplein 10) We would have lunch on the terrace of Toussaint (Bosboom Toussaintstraat 26), a very relaxing cafe in Oud West. Just watch people and enjoy the city life. Then we would head to Amsterdam Noord with the ferry. I love the Amsterdam ferries. They are free and I am always amazed how well the captain are able to move the ferries through the busy water with canalboats and cargo ships. There used to be huge cruise ships as well, but not this year In the North we would bike around. Visit the Ceuvel (Korte Papaverweg 4), A polluted plot of land in Amsterdam which has been transformed into a “small piece of paradise” through a community-driven development. Houseboats are lying on the land and selected plants are cleaning the polluted soil. There is another nice cafe to visit here. If you are into VR you should visit the VR arcade (Asterweg 19E1) and hunt zombies with a group. Although the technology is still a bit pixels, it is exiting enough.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Yes, this Shoutout is a big thank you for the former printing collective, Adelante in The Hague (Netherlands). I started there after I dropped out of Art Academy, disappointed with the structure of the Academy, but also with no clue which direction I was heading. Although I had little experience, the collective hired me to do their pre-press. I am a quick learner, so that went well, but the best part was that graphic designers came there to drop their work. Seeing their designs made me realize that I could be a designer as well. I started trying out things and that went so well, that I got the opportunity to start designing small things for the printing collective’s clients. When I quit with the collective, I went back to school to study graphic design and started my own company when I finished school. The special shoutout here is to my husband, Jan. He was the one who hired me at the collective and always encouraged me to proceed with graphic design. He has always been open to sharing care, taking an even part in raising the kids and doing housework.