Final meeting Building Talent

Many participants, two inspiring interviews with experienced creatives and starting designers who participated in Building Talent, round table discussions with professionals from the creative field and an inspiring moderator. Those were the main ingredients of a very successful Thursday 9 June 2022.

Photo: Alex Heuvink

That afternoon participants of the Building Talent program 2021 – initiated by the Creative Industries Fund – came together in The Grey Space in The Middle in The Hague. Here they could meet each other and a number of experts (for the first time), exchange experiences and gain new knowledge.

Nelly dos Reis, film and documentary maker, presenter, vlogger and moderator of this afternoon, interviewed a number of participants of the program in which they reflected on their collaboration, discussed their position as starting designers in the creative world, the importance of talent development and good commissioning.

access wanted

An exciting blind date turned out to be a successful match between Cyril van Sterkenburg of Vandejong Creative Agency and graphic designer Natasja Bökkerink. They developed a manifesto and toolkit with a step-by-step plan for setting up or participating in a traineeship within the creative industry under the name Toegang Gezocht or Access Wanted. Cyril started herself as an intern at Vandejong in 2003 and is now a partner director of the

33-year-old agency. She was eager to participate in Building Talent: 'It offers the opportunity to choose one of the interesting research cases we have on the shelf and to collaborate with a talent in a new way. That ties in with the agency’s mission: make the world a better place,' says Cyril. 'We do this by educating young talent, letting them fail, learn and discover what they want and what they don’t want. We have a one-year trainee program for that.'

So it’s not just for ourselves, but a project with which we give something back to the creative industry – Cyril van Sterkenburg
Photo: Alex Heuvink

Like many others, it was quite a disappointment to graduate in the middle of the pandemic, says Natasja Bökkerink. No graduation show, it is difficult to build a network or find a job, because you have no work experience and an internship is often too short to really get to know a company, she outlines the situation. She ended up in the so-called black hole. But then she discovered Building Talent.

Toegang Gezocht is a perfect fit for both participants: it is a tool to prevent other starters from ending up in that black hole, to better attract talent, to work well together, to better regulate the trainee program and to tell other agencies how to do that. “So it’s not just for ourselves, but a project with which we give something back to the creative industry,” Cyril tells the audience.

They find the three-month Building Talent program to be short, but they have taken it step by step, setting goals per month. There was a good connection and they are even further internationalizing the toolkit. Cyril: 'Natasha and we were equal, but she really owned the project; she took up responsibilities and involved everyone.' Natasja adds: 'A collaboration like this is quite challenging, because we didn’t know each other and they didn’t hire me. Yet they were very open and informal, I could always ask questions and I felt like an equal. During your studies you often work alone, here you work together with everyone and we help each other. It was a great and educational experience', adds Natasja. Her tip for this year’s upcoming Building Talent open call: 'Even though it’s scary to work with an established agency as a starter, do it!'

love for photography

A second successful collaboration is between Rotterdam-based, internationally operating photographer Rubén Dario Kleimeer and the Latvian designer Gundega Strauberga. She graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven last year, is particularly interested in how people relate to their environment and has a love for photography. Therefore, she saw this open call as a perfect opportunity to work with a photographer, she tells Nelly and the audience.
In the project The New Coastline they together examined how the Netherlands is prepared for the threat of flooding due to climate change.

'We don’t solve problems, but photography is a powerful tool for addressing unnoticed issues, such as the rising sea level combined with subsiding land. We wanted to highlight that without scaring people,' says Gundega. And they did that in a special and clear way, by combining photography with maps, a timeline or infographics.
Rubén was so enthusiastic that he immediately would participate in Building Talent again, he says. 'I often work alone, which is why I deliberately have a studio in a multi-company building. I shoot urban landscapes and public spaces, but this collaboration allows me to work in a different way than I’m used to and it gives the photos extra value and layering because we work in a broader context. That is interesting and a good way to reflect on myself.'

We don’t solve problems, but photography is a powerful tool for addressing unnoticed issues – Gundega Strauberga
Photo: Alex Heuvink

'We have so much faith in our water management, we feel so safe because of the dykes, the Delta Works and the Afsluitdijk, that an entire generation does not feel the real threat,' Rubén says. 'Our project gave room to delve deeper into this problem by going out every three weeks to do field research in places in the Netherlands that lie on the border between lowlands that are threatened by the water and the safer higher parts of the country. Seeing, studying and capturing this with our own eyes gave us the opportunity to excite or warn the viewer. That is our ambition,' they both say.

unconventional matches
Afterwards, all participants were able to join round table discussions with six experts from the creative industry. Here they could talk and ask questions about portfolios, creative development, strategy, entrepreneurship, networking and financial matters.

After the sessions, all experts agree on one thing: ‘unconventional’ matches promote equal cooperation. After all, you add expertise that an experienced creative or agency does not have in-house. Their advice to starting designers: listen carefully to what they need and work on your positioning. What distinguishes me, what do I have that they don’t have? 'A good example of such a surprising match is the multidisciplinary MAISON de FAUX', says Joost Emmerik, garden and landscape architect and advisor to the Creative Industries Fund. 'They formulated an open application, were matched with an architect and the collaboration resulted in a scenography. Those crossovers add a lot of value.'

Lotte van Laatum, social designer, teacher at ArtEZ, mentor of BNO Start and also advisor for the Creative Industries Fund, spoke about a studio that expects a junior architect for example, and then receives someone from a completely different discipline. 'I find it interesting that they develop a role and a language in which they find each other,' she says.

Knowledge about impact and artistic development was exchanged at the table with both Joost Emmerik and Lotte van Laatum. The Building talent participants were mostly enthusiastic about their experiences and collaborations. You get to know yourself better, learn a lot from an equal collaboration, are given responsibility and build up a portfolio. It leaves many wanting more.

Set yourself long term goals as well when it comes to your free work. – Tim Terpstra

The theme of Esther Muñoz Grootveld, project developer and strategic advisor in the field of fashion and design and also advisor for the Fund, was professionalization. In particular, research and ownership were discussed. Some participants found the steps they had to take difficult when developing a new material which value you cannot yet determine, while partners only contribute when there is something concrete. They agreed: it is good to have an equal partner before you start your research. And you have to pay for research, because you’re doing something that has value, otherwise it’s volunteer work. “Talk about the intentions in advance, about sharing the results, about paying for research. That is the first step”, advises Esther.

Tim Terpstra, general director of The Grey Space in The Middle, where we are that afternoon, is a sector specialist Digital Culture at Cultuur + Ondernemen and advisor for the Creative Industries Fund. Starters joined him to talk about the further development of their practice. They discussed how to find a balance between their autonomous work and assignments. One of Tim’s pieces of advice: “Set yourself long term goals as well when it comes to your free work.'

Ben Wiegman, advisor business development at Cultuur+Ondernemen, spoke to the starting talents about business and entrepreneurship and was asked the common question: how do I find subsidies? “Of course, it depends on what you’re doing, but you have to make sure your practice doesn’t depend on it,' he says.

Cyril van Sterkenburg from Vandejong also received a frequently asked question: How do you, as a starting designer, end up at an agency, especially if your background is a different discipline? Her advice: 'Ask people how they do it, who to talk to. Knock on people’s doors!'

Curious about other outcomes of Building on Talent? In our online dossier (in Dutch) you can read more stories about collaborations originated from this program.

Do you have any questions about funding possibilities within the Creative Industries Fund or any questions or remarks about Building Talent? Contact

Text: Viveka van de Vliet