I think to be called a changemaker, you need to be able to provide results or proof that you’re actually making a change, and not just saying or wanting it.
Did you always know you wanted to become a designer?
When I was in first grade, I wanted to become a lawyer, I still don’t understand why. After that, I wanted to become an object designer and then an architect. I never studied design though. Somehow it just happened unintentionally. I’m a self-taught designer.
What do you like the most about design?
What I love about design is that it's not a very long process from idea to result. And the fact that it's publicly available; you don't have to go to a museum for it. I say this because I first studied art and only then got into design, so it felt like a big change in availability.
What inspires you about working at a purpose-driven agency like Multitude?
I think the idea is really nice, but I do think it’s a tricky area. There’s no perfect project or perfect company. So I’m wondering how we judge whether a company or organization can be defined as a changemaker.
A while ago we had a little brainstorm session with the team about what defines a changemaker. What do you think would be the way to define or measure this?
There are a lot of organizations or companies at the moment that claim they’re doing something good, but in fact, they’re just using terminology to their advantage. There are no real results. I think to be called a changemaker, you need to be able to provide results or proof that you’re actually making a change, and not just saying or wanting it.
What about awareness? Some organizations make a lot of effort to get people aware about social change or societal issues. Would you not consider them changemakers because awareness can’t be measured?
It’s a complicated subject. I don’t think there’s only one definition. There are a lot of different factors, even some that are subject to the field or sector an organization operates in. Some sectors are unsustainable by nature, for example, the clothing industry. Can a clothing company that tries to become more sustainable by improving certain aspects of their production, be considered a changemaker? I’m not sure. I think it’s a case of changing the actual problem, and not finding ways to change how you handle the problem. For example, you could say that a company that recycles is doing a good job. But, a company that promotes recycling is, in fact, saying that it’s okay to use a lot of plastic, as long as you recycle. The actual problem though is the usage of plastic. The real way to solve it would be to totally ban single-use plastic, right?
Okay, I get what you mean with complicated now… what is one thing, small or big, that you would change in the world if you could?
That’s a trick question, haha! I won't say world peace. Of course, wars are terrible, so anybody who would stop wars would do an amazing thing. Anyhow, I think it’s all connected. So let’s say I would go with building living communities. So that people would be less lonely, and would always have somebody to fall back on in the world if you know what I mean. I think that’s where it starts. Let’s reverse engineer it. Why do wars exist? People fight mainly over resources, and secondly to defend their ego, their opinions. So I think it all boils down to trying to understand each other. Of course, it can be more complicated. But in essence, it could be about human understanding. So providing people with something that’s bigger than themselves, where they are never alone and can always connect to others, would definitely help in my opinion.
On a lighter note, what do you do in your free time? You have some side projects next to your job at Multitude, do you have any time left?
Well, most of the side projects are all in spring, so it’s not really a problem at the moment. And if I really need it, I usually take time off from the side projects so I can spend time with my family. I mostly work in the evening so that doesn't usually interfere with my private life.
Do your daughters like the Netherlands?
Yeah, definitely. They like biking and they learned Dutch, which is pretty cool. I think if we’re okay with it, they’re okay with it. In that sense, we could have moved anywhere. They are still young, 3 and 6. That’s a good age to move because they are not so attached to things and people (other than us) yet. We live in The Hague, very close to the sea, which they love. And hopefully, we'll get to enjoy that during warmer days soon!
In which sector would you like to do more projects this year?
The cultural sector. It’s more open in a way, you have to think less about ROI, strategies and the business side of things. I love having that creative freedom. I also think one big purpose of culture is, or should be, to promote change. So in that sense, I would love to do more projects that have a cultural nature.
Which changemaker would you like to do the branding for?
I really like waste-free shops. But my real dream client would be Albert Heijn, and convince them to become a waste-free supermarket and to let us develop the branding for the stores. If it were a pitch, I would pitch on the business side of things, not on the design side. That's because I think that's where the real challenge is.
So your dream job is to take over Albert Heijn? Can we call you Andrei Heijn from now on?
Haha, maybe. Think about it: if Albert Heijn would just start with making a small part of their store more sustainable, using a zero-waste formula, they would already make a huge difference. It would be a big change towards a more sustainable future. Maybe even a change big enough to be defined as a changemaker. A company as big as Albert Heijn has the privilege to pave the road for other companies. To lead the way to a better future. That’s what making a change is all about in the end, right?