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Interview w/Marcus Johnson

by , November 3, 2011

Interview w/Marcus Johnson

Question time w/Marcus Johnson

Working in Carry often means that you will be working with the far east. Some of us are lucky enough to be tied to a local based producer and have the ability for direct communication, without boarders, language and geographic considerations. For the rest of us, dealing with Asia is an everyday requirement.

But what’s it like living there, working there, being there? Day in, day out, dealing with those problems and dream scenarios? We thought we’d find out. So, here is the first of a 5 part series which asks 5 questions to 5 ex-pat designers on working in Carry overseas.

Note: Thanks to James Jeffrey for getting this project up and running.

James: Everyone knows the nervous feeling of sending a brief off and wondering what will come back. What things will be misunderstood, what happy accidents will take the bag into an unforeseen direction?

Many of us know the immense amount of work that can be achieved with a visit. All of the sudden the sample room is open for you only! 3 day sample turn arounds reduce to hours! Imagine what you could do if you were always there!

So what about those jobs floating around based in Hong Kong, China or Vietnam? What about those positions that are based near the factories? Normally a week is enough time to overwork and share a few beers over a language barrier and table filled with food that’s unavailable back home. But what happens when this is stretched to months or even years?

What are the positives? What are the negatives?

I spent 3 years based in Vietnam and left the country a different man than I arrived. I had a blast and can totally recommend it. However, on the flip side, when I left I was glad to do so. There were ups and downs, some cultural hurdles to fumble over and some amazing experiences. How about others? How are other people enjoying their time based overseas and what opportunities are out there? Every person has a different experience, different feelings and a different working environment.

Interview w/Marcus Johnson

So here is the first of a 5 part series which asks 5 questions to 5 ex-pat designers. We’re starting with Marcus Johnson, who is currently based in Hong Kong working for OSM. Originally from Sweden,  Marcus has a great deal of ex-pat experience, having previously lived in Singapore.

– What are you up to now and how did you get here?
I lived in Singapore for a few years but am now living in Hong Kong where I’m working as design director in a Swedish company called OSM. I’m currently in the middle of a rejuvenation job of the brand Dicota together with our design team. It’s really interesting work as we are bringing life to a twenty year old German IT case brand through new brand and design direction. Looking in the rear mirror seeing how far we have come so far makes you proud and engaged to see what we can do with this. I believe we’ve only seen the start of something big.

– How long have/had you been based in the far east? Do you plan to stay/return?
It’s been a bit over 4 years in Asia so far and I really enjoy it. Sweden is a great place but it doesn’t really attract me at the moment. I might move back at some point but it’s not in my near future plans – that’s for sure.

– What is the biggest opportunity from being abroad?
You learn to see things in a different light, and being a designer that’s an important ingredient in doing a good job and staying inspired. Being in Hong Kong is great in so many ways and a great balance of work and private life; you’re in the middle of a metropolitan city surrounded by small islands perfect for trekking or relaxing at the beach and at the same time just a bus ride away from China and the manufacturing sites.

– What is the biggest challenge with being abroad?
People always think that the language barrier is a big issue but so far I haven’t had any direct work related problems with it. Sure, I do wish my Mandarin and Cantonese had more to offer from a social point of view as that would open up for an even better understanding of the details that surrounds you.

– What is your preference Backpack or Messenger?
Backpack. I have to admit it’s easy to feel like a point dexter wearing one but it’s way more practical in terms of weight distribution – especially since I’m often carrying a laptop, SLR an iPad etc. when jumping between home, office and factories.

The messenger has a more appealing street look to it but I believe that we will see more backpacks taking that place as it, at least from an Asian aspect, is a growing trend.

– One piece you’ve been a part of creating and are quite proud of?

DICOTA Sling Bag for iPad
The growing usage of tablets has opened up a need of a new type of sling bag. We developed the DICOTA Sling Bag for iPad to fill this gap in the market. Our main goal was to create something slim and attractive with added functionality requested by iPad users.

We are very happy with the result where we managed to incorporate a smart stand function on the front of the bag. The multi-angle stand function makes the bag optimized for watching videos as well as writing emails on the go. In order to make it a true DICOTA product we spent a lot of time sourcing a durable material that could add a personal touch to the appearance of the bag and yet meet the high quality standards of DICOTA.

Check out what Marcus is up to at www.dicota.com/2011

Interview w/Marcus Johnson

Interview w/Marcus Johnson

There will be another 4 follow ups to this post. We will try to give a quick insight to a number of different locations of work and company styles. If you have any questions, throw them up in the comments.


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