Pro Carton caught up with Magdalena Witkowicz, twice a finalist in the Pro Carton Young Designers Award, who landed a plum job at an international design agency. She explained how things are going and how the Award helped.
Hi Magdalena, Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. When did you join SiebertHead and what is your role?
I joined SiebertHead’s Warsaw team in January 2017 as a Junior Packaging Designer, so it’s already been nearly a year working together. From the very beginning I have had the opportunity to create designs for large fmcg clients. It’s also a great for me to learn from other experienced designers. As a graphic designer I also help others with refining designs that have been already chosen by clients. Part of my job is creating the absolute final design in the correct resolution for printing and the required graphics and text detail on a die cutting file.
I really enjoy the variety of my tasks. For example, on the one hand, I enjoy working on final designs because it needs a big focus on detail but it’s also a calm job with no stress and worry. On the other hand, working on a new project is very creative and fresh but sometimes can be stressful having to create the right idea in the right timescale. The variety of my job provides a good balance.
How are you enjoying it?
The most important thing for me is that I work with a great team. I am the kind of person who needs other people and interaction to share ideas, exchange the experience, brainstorming and to have fun. All of the people in my team are very kind and helpful, they have great experience and they really enjoy their jobs. Spending time with them and working together is inspiring and it’s fun.
What’s important for me as a young designer, is that at SiebertHead I have an opportunity to see and learn the whole process of a real production. We work for very big companies, thanks to that I can see a part of my work on a shop shelf or in a supermarket. For a young designer it’s something new and it’s a fantastic chance and experience. That’s something I was dreaming about last year.
What’s been your favourite project so far?
At Siebert Head we mostly do graphic packaging design. For me as a paper and paperconstruction lover, my favourite projects are those that will be produced from carton or cardboard. It gives me a lot of fun when I can fill the die cutting files with a graphic, even with very simple and common construction solutions. I can see the whole paper form immediately and I can imagine how the parts of the graphic will work together on the form at the end. That’s what I like the most about this job.
My favourite project? I like many of them but there was one paper packaging design that we created for a new cosmetic product for kids. That was made for a big and well known company in Poland. I was involved in the project from the very beginning. After the briefing I created various design options and the client liked all of them! With the guidance of the creative director and with the help of other designers, I worked on the designs and on the prototypes. The final design will be produced soon and I can’t wait to see it on the shelves. As part of the graphic communication, my intention was to show kids some stories about the product, to inspire their imagination, that they could feel an adventure by using it.
You were a finalist in the Pro Carton Young Designers Award weren’t you?
Yes, exactly. And I was actually a finalist twice! The first time, in 2014, I was invited to the Award Gala at the ECMA Pro Carton Congress in Sorrento with my project “The Penguin”. I was the first designer from Poland to gain an award in this competition. That was a big thing. The Penguin was my first packaging design and it was just a semester work at my school. I never thought that it would come so far. The Award Gala in Sorrento was amazing and the whole trip through Italy was a terrific experience that I will definitely remember for a long time.
Two years later, I entered the Pro Carton Young Designers Award again, with a new project for edible seeds and I was a finalist again! This time the Award Gala took place in Cannes. Red carpet, the Azure Coast, sun, beach and the packaging event – it was like a dream.
How did you hear about the award and what made you enter?
At the beginning of 2014, I took a part in a student competition in Poland. It was organised by the Packaging Innovations Fair in Warsaw. As a winner of the competition I received my own stand at the fair. That was just the beginning of my adventure with packaging. At the fair, the Pro Carton members saw my design and they proposed to send it to the Pro Carton Young Designers Award. That’s how the story began.
What benefits do you think the Award gave you?
Of course, the Pro Carton Young Designers Awards have given me a lot of experience. Without them I wouldn’t be at this place today. At first, they gave me a confirmation that I am good in what I am doing and I should keep doing that. That gave me courage and confidence for further action.
Also they helped me with choosing my own way as a designer. The first time, when I was chosen, I didn’t know what kind of design work I would like to do – product, graphic, furniture… The decision as a student wasn’t easy. During the time in Italy, where I was invited with my teacher Ms Agnieszka Andruszkiewicz, we started to speak about packaging and the new project together with my diploma. That’s how I chose to become a packaging designer. My diploma’s project was a reusable paper package for edible seeds, with a dosage system construction. This project was named “Good seeds makes a good life”. With this project I was again a finalist of the Pro Carton Young Designers Award and I was invited to the great Gala dinner again, this time in the South of France. With that project I have received many other awards in Poland as well. I was also asked to present it at the biggest Design Festival in Poland in Łódź last year. The idea of this project first came about on the way back from Sorrento after the previous Awards ceremony!
The Pro Carton Young Designer Award has also expanded my knowledge about the packaging industry. Even the paper that I used in my diploma was an inspiration from Sorrento. I created the carton construction using material from International Paper based in Kwidzyn. I first saw this type of paper at the ECMA Pro Carton Congress. There the representatives from the company explained to me the characteristics of this material.
At the ECMA Pro Carton Congress in Sorrento I met representatives from the main companies in Europe. When they heard I was a student, they were very keen to talk to me. We spoke about the differences between the various types of printing. That was all new for me at that time. They were fantastic people and great moments. I learned a lot there.
Being a finalist in the Pro Carton Young Designers Award has helped me in my career for sure. As a student I received a few job proposals. Mostly they were in other cities in Poland and I didn’t want to move out from Warsaw. Although I didn’t take them, it gave me strength and confidence for the future. As a student I have been to a few job interviews. I have also seen production lines in the biggest companies in Poland. I was invited there as a guest. Even one of the biggest companies from the packaging industry in Poland has found me on Google. Without the Pro Carton Young Designers Award that wouldn’t have happened.
That all gave me the strength to start my own company „MAD ABOUT PAPER” just after my studies. I had my own clients and I also wanted to produce the famous “Penguin”. I wrote an application for co-financing the company and I received a grant for the production! By these formalities, the Pro Carton Young Designers Award’s Diploma has confirmed that the project was worth it. Without that it would be hard to receive such a grant and to produce the Penguin on my own.
The story of my job application to SiebertHead was quite funny. Having produced the Penguin, I was already happy but also tired with working on my own. I needed to be with a team, to have fun again and to make progress. It was just before the Gala in Cannes although at the time I wasn’t looking for a new job. I hoped to meet some people from the industry at the Gala and try to look for a new exciting job for me there. That’s how I found SiebertHead’s website. The Chairman of the Jury, Satkar Gidda works at SiebertHead. At this time there was no job vacancies on SiebertHead’s website. One week later I saw a job opportunity on a social media portal. When I read it, it met 100% of my needs. I sent my application immediately. During the time in France I received a job interview proposal from SiebertHead. At the Gala I spoke with other finalists’ teachers from other countries and they gave me advice as to how to present myself at the interview. After some weeks and a few interviews with SiebertHead I got the job!
What advice would you give to other aspiring designers?
All I can say is: TRY! Send your work for the competitions, especially the international Awards such as the Pro Carton Young Designers Award. Even though the entrance to the competition needs some sacrifice and it’s a lot of hard work – polishing up the design, creating the prototypes by hand at night, preparing the formalities and the paperwork – it’s all worth it! It’s a great chance for you and it’s a lot of fun and experience in the end!
Thanks very much Magdalena and the best of luck in the rest of your career.
Thank you and it was a pleasure talking to you.