When viewing Atelier Brenda’s website for the first time, several questions are bound to pop into your head. The plethora of graphic and type design makes you think they could be an agency, but the repeating mention of Brenda leads you to believe it could even be just one person.
This is purposeful, Atelier Brenda is a made-up persona, created by three female personalities who encapsulate creative skill to produce graphic design full of fun. Based in Belgium, the several arms of the studio is made up of Nana Esi, Sophie Keij and Amélie Bakker, three friends of multi-faceted design capabilities.
Intrigued and bemused by the site, we spoke to Atelier Brenda, as a group and individually, to find who on earth Brenda actually is…
How did Atelier Brenda begin?
In 2012, it started out as a joke to celebrate astrology, water and decor.
Brenda is an alter ego. She’s the girl next door, new in town, living in her own world. It started out with decors and little installations, more spacious things. It was a way of expressing all creative emotion and energy we had, seriously needing more outlet than just the routine of school.
We didn’t want to limit ourself to one medium, although we all studied graphic design. We called ourselves creative directors, now I feel awkward when I use that term. We had many pictures and needed a platform to post on, this was on Facebook back then, but we needed a name. Sophie came up with Brenda because she was watching Beverly Hills 90210 at that time and was inspired by Brenda Walsh. The name made sense because were young and naive.
We went to the same school, so we started out as friends. But later on, after finishing our master’s, we decided it would be much easier to find clients if we joined forces. Amélie joined Brenda and we started to build up our website together, it became a studio based mainly in graphic design.
Do you each have different design capabilities or interests?
Sophie: Yes we totally do! We are different which can be nice, but also a pain in the ass. I see everything on a bigger scale, I love to look at details but I don’t get lost in them.
Nana: For me, image and typography, cooking with them is the challenge; collage, knowing every ingredient in the whole picture and why it’s used. I need people to inspire and get inspired, that is what drives me, all the pleasure of sharing and learning.
Amélie: I totally agree with Nana! Other than Sophie, I am a perfectionist, I love details! It leaves us an interesting course, but we also learn from each other to look at things differently.
What is the day to day routine at Atelier Brenda?
We each have a different work style, but some essentials we need to work are:
First things first, agenda setting and a to-do list! Coffee or tea, food, a computer, a daily horoscope and a good online radio channel. Stroom.tv which is one of our projects and NTS radio both can get weird sometimes.
We start to create a vibe. Everything can be inspirational, from a piece of paper, to an outfit on a runway, or even a sign outside a shop at night.
How do you approach projects?
Sophie: When I sit together with a client and we discuss the content most of the time lots of ideas are popping into my head. This is one of my favourite aspects of the process I guess. After the meeting I try to create a mood board as soon as possible to keep my mind fresh on the project.
Nana: I love finding things through research and coincidence. Then comes the experiment. I’m quite eclectic because I dive into the identity of the client or project. After sponging, I squeeze out and the residue is me or Brenda. It’s a way of growing and discovering myself.
Amélie: Each project is approached in a different way. We first get to the know the client so we can pick up the atmosphere and then, quickly, the first ideas arrive while brainstorming (with a glass of wine). It is a conversation, first between us and the client and next between ourselves. We don’t always agree on everything, so there are no ‘easy’ decisions or solutions.
Can you talk us through your work with multidisciplinary arts centre Beursschouwburg?
Beursschouwburg is a really interesting place, it’s a mix of low and high-brow activities in the centre of Brussels. We are really grateful to have this job. There’s a lot of room for experimentation but at the same time you need to be really clear and communicate. We just started this and need to grow more. It’s like moving into a new house, it needs some time until everything is set, but at the same it already functions.
It is one of our most challenging projects because every six months the identity has to change. We have now designed one identity for O Solitude and we are moving to the next one. It is nice to have that quick rhythm, we will never get bored. Each Thursday is ‘Beursschouwburg-day’, we come together at its location to work, so we are directly in contact with the client. It is an interesting, more unusual way of working.
What do you like to do outside of Atelier Brenda?
Amélie: Enjoy! We like to relax with a glass of wine and good food! A terrace in the sun is a delight. Personally going to Hammam is my ulimtate chill.
Sophie: The usual stuff; going out, eating, drinking, checking out exhibitions and doing a lot of yoga to relax the mind.
Nana: What are you talking about!? Work is so much fun! Haha. Friendship, love, wellness and good cuisine.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) is the senior editor at Insights, a research-driven department with It's Nice That. Get in contact with her for potential Insights collaborations or to discuss Insights' fortnightly column, POV. Lucy has been a part of the team at It's Nice That since 2016, first joining as a staff writer after graduating from Chelsea College of Art with a degree in Graphic Design Communication.