Interview by Mateja Plaskan
Samsarah Lilja is the head of Lilja Design, and specialises in corporate graphic and web design. She offers a wide range of services, such as logo development, logo optimisation for various types of media, vectorisation of image files, and business cards. She has developed an overall design and utilisation concept which integrates many elements into her work.
Samsarah has had over 10 years experience in the fields of web design, programming, structure, and marketing and has gained substantial know-how through working at the Department of Architectural Theory alongside Prof. Fritz Neumever at TU Berlin, as well as completing an internship at the well-known international architecture office of Prof. Hans Kollhoff in Rotterdam. She is also the founder of archinoah.de; an internet platform for architects, and tektorum.de; an affiliated discussion board.
Samsarah has been a member of betahaus for over a year and a half.
What inspired you to start working as a freelance corporate designer? How did you get involved in the field?
I started out as an architect, and after working in this field for a while, I decided I simply was not happy there, so I had two options; to either change firms, or to become a freelance architect, which would not be so easy in Berlin. I then found myself looking for a different option. I had some experience in programming and contacts from having founded an online platform for architects. I had also done many single projects in that area while still working as an architect, so I decided to make web design my second path, and that’s how I eventually ended up here.
The website of Lilja Design states that “the company logo is the most significant graphic element for all visual representation.” How do you create a logo that successfully represents and communicates the identity of a company?
I always start by having a long discussion session with my client – and it really depends a lot on whether they are already an established company, are just starting up, or are working as a freelancer. There is a lot of psychology involved - I try to figure out things like who my clients are, who they want to be, what they want to become, what their company represents, who their clients are, and so on. I then take into consideration which colours would suit them – colours represent emotions, so I would need to know whether they wish to appear strong or gentle, masculine or feminine, and so on. Through all these questions, I get an idea from which I make a draft, and then work towards the final product. My clients are usually pretty happy with the finished work.
You have been based at betahaus for more than one and a half years. What made you decide to start working from here, and how has working at a space like a betahaus affected your work?
I had the option to work with my friends who had offered me space at their office. Unfortunately, they were all architects, and all I wanted was to leave that branch, and not be in that environment anymore. I had two friends who were working at betahaus, so I decided to have a look one day, and talk to Madeleine. I then made my decision right away, and two days later I got my fix-desk and began working from here.
Working at betahaus has had a great effect on me and on my work. I had never thought I would make a good coworker – I’m more of a loner, so I thought I would have problems with socializing. As it turned out, I could be a pretty good networker, and I made contacts really quickly. Now I even have some in-house clients, as well as external recommendations from people at betahaus, so it served as a multiplier for me. I find I’m also able to “outsource” my work to other members, so if I happen to have a big project and a lot of work to do, I sometimes find a programmer in betahaus to help me out. So now I’m able to take on big projects that normally would be done by an agency.
You have participated in many projects. Out of all those, which would you consider to be your most treasured work?
I wouldn’t say that there is one particular project of mine that I value more than others. I think of each one as a new challenge. As an architect, I’ve worked on a lot of nice things, but those often took a long time – often a few years – and I’m not a very patient person. As a web designer, I find I’m working for the moment – perhaps that’s why I decided to change fields. Every month or week, I get new projects which I have to start from scratch, so there are a lot of challenges, and also moments of success.
What are some future plans or projects for Lilja Design?
I started my new career two years ago, and right now I am pretty happy with where I am. I have a couple of a big clients that come back frequently, as well as some smaller clients, and some single projects. I would eventually like to employ people or even start an agency. But right now, I am happy just being independent, being on my own and working at betahaus – and since I’m in a coworking space, I may not even need employees! For me the most important thing right now is simply to keep doing a good job and to keep making my clients happy.
Want to join Samsarah and other entrepreneurs at betahaus? See how here!
In addition to the betahaus locations, we've formed a close relationship with some of the world's best coworking spaces. With your betahaus membership, you can work from any of our partner spaces for 1 day per month.
Republikken // Copenhagen, Denmark // Vesterbrogade 26, 1620 København V, Denmark
Le Laptop // Paris, France // 6 Rue Arthur Rozier, 75019 Paris, France
utopic_US // Madrid, Spain // Calle de la Colegiata, 9, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Nest 71 // Saravejo, Bosnia & Herzegovina // Milana Preloga 12, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Toolbox // Milan, Italy // Via Agostino da Montefeltro, 2, 10134 Torino, Italy
Edspace // London, England // Block D, Hackney Community College, Falkirk St, London, UK
Bios // Athens, Greece // Pireos 84, Athina 104 35, Greece
CoWorx // Kristiansand, Norway // Markens Gate 8, 4611 Kristiansand, Norway
CRU – Loja / Cowork // Porto, Portugal // Rua do Rosário 211, 4050-524 Porto, Portugal
SPARK // Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina // Bleiburških žrtava, Mostar 88000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
StartUp Armenia Foundation // Yerevan, Armenia // 0019, 1 Marshal Baghramyan Ave, Yerevan 0019, Armenia
Tøyen Startup Village // Oslo, Norway // Hagegata 23, 0653 Oslo, Norway
Smart Coworking // Prague, Czech Republic // Václavské nám. 806/62, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
Lighthouse // Tel Aviv, Israel // HaHaroshet 14-16 Ra'anana, Tel Aviv, Isreal
Fueled // New York City, USA // 11, 568 Broadway, FL 11, New York, NY 10012, United States **Maximum 3 Days
Capital Factory // Austin, USA // 701 Brazos St, Austin, TX 78701, United States
Público // Mexico City, Mexico // Puebla 403, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Area Tres // Buenos Aires, Argentina // El Salvador: El Salvador 5218, C1414BPV CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina // Soho: Malabia 1720, C1414DMJ CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
HubBOG // Bogota, Colombia // Cl. 98 #18-71, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
CIT // Taipei, Taiwan // 10452, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongshan District, 玉門街1號
Of10 // Mumbai, India // Prudential, Ground Floor, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400076, India
Kibar // Jakarta, Indonesia // Jl. Prof. Moh. Yamin No.1, RT.7/RW.5, Menteng, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10310, Indonesia
Midori.so // Tokyo, Japan // Midori.so Nakameguro: 3 Chome-3-11 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0042, Japan // Midori.so Nagatacho: 2 Chome-5 Hirakawachō, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 102-0093 // Midori.so2: 3 Chome-13 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 107-0062, Japan
Launchgarage Innovation Hub // Manila, Philippines // Level 2, Industria Mall, Circulo Verde, Calle Industria, Bagumbayan, Quezon City, 1110 Metro Manila, Philippines
Independent Studios // Melbourne, Australia // 39/40 Porter St, Prahran VIC 3181, Australia
Urban Station EGYPT // Cairo, Egypt // 2 Wadi El Nil Mohandeseen, Cairo, Egypt
Nairobi Garage // Nairobi, Kenya // Nairobi Garage, The Mirage, Chiromo Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
BONUS: Cowork & Relax at the Coliving Space, Coconat // Brandenburg, Germany // Klein Glien 25 14806 Bad Belzig, Germany // Get €10 off your stay
Toni: Currently, we’ve somehow ended up in this niche of building a lot of internal tools for startups and teams. But this is not the only thing we want to do. What I like about it is that we’re starting projects from scratch and we have full control over them.
Martin: The first project we worked on was a tool for a large scale real estate development company. What they needed was a tool for their Sales people - to be able to mark their different spots and locations at different stages of the sales funnel. So we created a tool that helps them in this process.
Toni: And this one actually served as a starting point for the tool we’ve developed for betahaus, which aims to allow the Sales and Management team to see which team rooms are occupied right now, which ones are free or will be occupied in a few weeks or months, so no double bookings appear.
Alex: These two projects were more focused on real estate, let’s say, but we’ve also done more design-heavy projects like the one we did for Artique which is an online artists agency. For them, we built a whole website and an online system to present their artists starting only from their logo. It had to be very flexible, because the artists needed to be able to edit their own profiles, putting their resume, changing colours.
Toni: Honestly, we have skillsets that you don’t usually find in developers. Because we've had lives that were not just about computer science. I think to some extent this is what makes us different.
Martin: I believe one of the reasons why people pick us over other studios is because it can be very hard working with developers. If you’re not understanding their work, if the communication is not flowing, you, as a client can feel lost. We're easy to communicate with and we’re always open to feedback and we're open to discuss anything. In the end, after all iterations, if you say we need to start the website from scratch and that you don’t like the idea, we won’t take it personally.
Alex: Also, I think, since we all work as coding teachers, we are officially qualified to explain what coding is to people who don't code, which is actually really rare because a lot of developers, as Martin says, don't want to, or literally just don't know how to articulate what they're doing. Whereas we are trained in articulating what it is that we're doing, why it's meaningful and why it takes a certain amount of time.
Alex: Zimt & Mehl - the Turkish bakery around the corner. It’s just soo good.
Martin: Oh, there is this Italian restaurant called Ristorante del Arte
Tony: Oh, my God, this place is so funny. It looks like a pretty average Italian restaurant, but the whole interior design inside is just decorated in such a weird way. The entire place is covered in frescoes. They have crystal chandeliers and Easter bunnies. Some Greek columns. It has a different name on the menu, on the side and on the Internet. And it was an ex-shoe-store.
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