We are aiming to reach the creative community that lives in the western part of Norway a great potential for creative growth.
We want to work with energetic and insane characters.People who are willing to stand by their brand, do-or-die, and go on adventures with their brand-strategies.
uting design from bergen, norway
On my trip to Social Media Days Bergen, I became fast friends with Arjun Ahluwalia, a really cool creative dude and co-founder of Uting Design. Uting Design is comprised of 3 awesome musketeers taking a lead in cultivating the young creative scene in Bergen. I’m really excited to introduce to you a Bergen native and design-preneur, Arjun Ahluwalia, on today’s #DesignWithDot post! (Photo credit above: Veronika Stuksrud)
1. It was so cool to meet you in Bergen during Social Media Days. I was really honored to be the inaugural guest on your Design Revision Podcast!!! Can you tell us a little bit more about what exactly you hope to aim with this brand spanking new podcast? I’m really excited about it and can’t wait to share it with the community!
The pleasure was all ours. The podcast is a design podcast, only on paper; We are aiming to reach a niche audience; interested in the creative community that lives in the western part of Norway (“Vestlandet,” translates into: The land to the west). We often see funding and attention sent to the capital of Norway (Oslo). When, in fact, Bergen has a booming economy and a great potential for creative growth. Yet there aren’t enough people talking about it, or shouting about it. Point is, we want to talk to everyone. You make music? Great, sing on our podcast? You make unique shoe-laces? Cool! come to the podcast! Let’s make people feel like being creative, opens doors and borders, rather than confining you!
2. Let’s get deep, what’s your dream/hope/vision for your near future?
The dream is to establish a company that is able to take on adventurous Design Strategy projects for companies. We want to shake things up in this city, as well as internationally. We want to work with energetic and insane characters. People who are willing to stand by their brand, do-or-die, and go on adventures with their brand-strategies. But that’s just the business side of things.
The end goal is to also build a community, that would be interested in collaborative efforts, to boost the creative prowess that already exists here. Students can learn things you normally would not learn in creative schools. This includes bringing in veteran/well-established international creatives (like yourself, Dot), to hold workshops and seminars. Our community can grow along-side the rest of the world, and not always have to play catch-up. This community, in turn, will be a learning-experience-hub. Where creatives can come in and stay true to themselves like they did when they first started their creative (ad)ventures (and not becoming just another cog in the machine).
3. What’s the creative community like in Bergen? How does where you live impact your creativity?
The creative community in Bergen is interesting. It has a lot of creative individuals and teams, however, it ebbs-and-flows as to how much exposure they get for their work. There are well-established platforms for musicians and (believe it or not) print-makers in this city, but not enough for designers, service/ux-designers, painters, craftspeople or even teaching (and etc.). There are also a growing number of Environmental Designers, that are working tirelessly to make the city/country more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
However, little to no platform to stand on, so the general public cant see their work; Awareness is not spread. Ironically, there are many creative agencies in Bergen that do a lot of big projects. There are a lot of people doing things. They continue to do things, regardless of how little “buzz” they are getting. So people push forward.
And that always impresses me about the creatives in Bergen (both native and international people). They push hard and do it for the sake of doing it. There have been attempts at creating unions, groups, hubs, but most those tend to become extremely commercialized, where investors and members of that “group,” only use it as a means to get client work. That’s fine. I am not blaming companies for wanting to make a profit. But I want to remove the illusion of the barriers a young/new creative sees when they encounter the “working-life” of a creative.
$0.50-Ramen noodles is not healthy, and not part of a normal diet.
4. You were a professor and now you run Uting, a design agency in Bergen to be exact. What was that transition like from prof life to entrepreneur?
I need to correct that. I taught at the University of Iowa – School of Art and Art History, but as a Teaching Assistant or an Assisting Professor. I assisted professors in their classes, as well as taught classes of my own with a curriculum. Not as fancy, but got a lot of experience that way, while working on my Masters.
Teaching was a great way to test my own skills of communication, as well as discover how others “ticked.” Nothing is more satisfying than seeing a student finally “get it,” watching that spark ignite.
Since I stopped teaching, I kept holding workshops and doing design work. Both as a full-time designer for a company and as freelance. The transition was exciting but quite difficult at first. Things were rapidly changing, I was back in Norway after having lived in the U.S. for 9-10 years. I had to rebuild my network slowly (Norwegians are a shy and stoic people) and curate who I would work together with to realize my dreams.
I realized then, that I needed to forget a lot about what was taught in design school, and just jump into the fire and “fail forward.” It was really the best way to learn and then teach it to others. There was honestly a lull in my design-career, because I just believed I was not good enough. Which led me to one day just browsing design-channels on YouTube.
Enter: watching TheFutur on YouTube. Chris Do is freely telling people how to get over their imposter syndrome, how to price, how to think, and ultimately making you feel like you mattered. It was incredibly empowering. I Then met Chris during a meet-up in Manchester, and my own spark was ignited.
I got in touch with a friend of mine who is a 3D Designer and Web-Designer, and we started getting the ball rolling. Its been pretty hectic since that day, and I am loving it. Eventually, through Chris Do, I got in touch with a fantastic creative Project Manager, and he joined the team, adding a huge organizational boost to the company.*
Now, as an entrepreneur, I am much more focused and decided on whats important, and how to convey those messages and ideas that were not taught in school. Most importantly, I have learned to love the process. Failing, losing, winning, building, growing, empowering others…its all so soul-fulfilling. It has resulted in so many opportunities and learning opportunities, it has been fantastic.
5. What advice would you give to your younger self 10 years ago?
- It’s not a sprint, its a marathon.
- Learn to fall forward.
- Nothing is more serious and permanent than ‘death.’ So what’s stopping you from trying to reach for your dreams?
- Invest, invest, invest. In yourself, in others, in growth.
- Talk to a therapist. Even if you don’t feel like you need it. It is probably one of the most important things you will do, so you can be more honest with yourself.
- $0.50-Ramen noodles are not healthy, and not part of a normal diet. Please stop so much of it.
6. What are your thoughts on social media? Hate it? Can’t live without it?
I am terrible at using social media. I used to be that emo-nerd that posted some really cringe-worthy emo-opinions when the various platforms started out.
I think social media is a powerful tool if used correctly. There are times with it has been instrumental in giving aid to countries, as well as help build and grow businesses. However, it can be this dark place, that has an adverse effect on your mind and mindset. The rule is always, and should always be: Too much of anything is bad for you. Learn to disconnect whenever you can. Sure, grow your business, and work hard on being active, for the purpose that you have chosen for you (your “why”), but then remember to be kind and to disconnect from it, so you can experience life and silence.
That being said, I am working on being more active on social media, while keeping the stuff I said in mind.
Knowing your surroundings, helps you move around and network a lot easier – and networking is key.
7. What is your philosophy about life? Or a mantra, quote or proverb you want to share with us?
I have two mantras that I love to try to stick by: This one is from my friend, Tiela, who said some of the wisest stuff I have ever heard, on friendships, relationships, and life in general:
“I come with baggage. If you aren’t going to help carry it or just accept that I have it, then don’t put more shit in.”
2nd one is just a general rule I have for how I deal with negativity:
How much does this REALLY matter to you? Should you give a fuck, or not? Will this be something you reflect over when you are laying in your death-bed? Does this really go against any of the virtues that are important to you? If not, then let it go. Stop wasting time and energy. If it is important: Reflect, plan, take action, move on.
8. What’s your dream travel destination or the next place you want to visit? #TravelWithDot
I have never been to Greece. I would love to go, to experience the colour and all that amazing food. I really want to visit my aunt who lives in Dolce Aqua, Italy. She has an amazing olive-farm, and a cute little house. She raises Border-Collies. She’s an amazing and empowering person I would love to visit. I keep promising, but I am terrible at keeping that promise. Sorry Cindy aunty!
9. What’s your favorite food experience you would take me to in Bergen, and what would we eat? #EatWithDot
I think the next thing we have to try is Pinnekjøtt and Ribbe. Its basically highly salted lamb and pork. You have this with root vegetables, and its a super rural hearty meal (consumed traditionally during Christmas and Easter times). It’s an amazing dish if you are a lover of smoked and salted meats.
10. Who has been a mentor or someone you have looked up to for advice and inspiration?
Chris Do – Honestly, he gets most of the credit when it comes to me starting my own thing. It really lit a fire under me, when I saw how much potential I actually had, and how much what I said mattered. It was also just super helpful to be heard. He gave away so much knowledge, it really inspired me to get to work.
Aaron Draplin – I love midwestern culture. And this guy was the epitome of midwestern work-ethic. He also has a design style that I am a fan of, and similar to mine. Makes me feel happy when I make awesome chunky logos, and not fancy minimalist stuff all the time (I say this knowing full well, my company has a minimalist logo haha!).
Milton Glaser – The legend. There is always something serene and peaceful in the way he speaks about design and illustration. He truly cares about the process and has always left us with a sense of romantic love for craft and art. He has over time become much more philosophical, and that is important for the soul when working as a designer. Over time, things become very corporate and business-oriented. I don’t like to think I am that one-sided. There should be moments when you reflect on the beauty of yourself and your craft.
James Victore – He is a badass that also inspired me to have a Fcking Opinion. He, not only is a great designer but is a huge proponent of helping people be true to themselves. He loves creatives and loves to see people really kick ass. His works on Disney, censorship and Native Americans, inspire me to always remember to use my voice for good.
11. Dragon or Unicorn? Why?
A hybrid. Be a dragon at your craft and for your niche, but be a unicorn that is aware and keeps up to date with what’s going around in the creative industry. Awareness only helps you grow. UX, UI, web-design, motion-graphics, print, photography etc. Knowing your surroundings, helps you move around and network a lot easier – and networking is key.
The Fast 5
Your favorite Instagram feed right now:
Currently on a fashion design kick. T-Michael is an amazing designer and makes clothes that are just so jaw-dropping-cool. Currently, his fusion of Norwegian and Japanese design senses has seen great success.
What is the Best Life advice (or lesson learned in business) you ever received:
You are always falling forward. Try your best not to fall, but when you do, brush off the dust, and get back to it.
Best website/destination you go to for inspiration:
Behance, dribbble, Awwwards and abduzeedo. I also love to pick up architecture magazines-the interpretive-lines made using space and construction is an awesome inspiration.
The App you can’t live without?
Instagram (check US out @arjun_uting & @uting_design) and Slack!!!
Book we should all read?