Stephanie Specht, founder of Specht Studio, didn’t always plan to become a designer. In fact, she began her studies thinking that she would enter into the realms of architecture, and even took a course during art school at the age of 16. But what initially pointed her towards graphic design was a certain concern regarding her maths ability from her teachers: “I should have known,” says Stephanie, “since I was always fascinated by the lettering on buildings – mainly old buildings – and the way architects would have their name on houses like a signature (as seen in Belgium during the 1930-40’s). I did not realise I was already looking at graphic design back then.”
Since this realisation, she went on to complete a master’s in graphic design at the Royal Academy for Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium, and later “ran off to Cape Town to follow love, abandon graphic design and to study oceanography.” Swept away by romance and the ocean, she tells us how she had always been a fan of the French explorer and naval officer Jacques Cousteau, so surely this would have been the right choice for her. But, again, this came to an end shortly after she heard that her maths wasn’t strong enough – “and that was the final sign to stick with graphic design.”
In 2006, Stephanie became self-employed and travelled across Brussels, Princeton and Brooklyn, working from “home” – “where ever that ‘home’ was” – and later moved back to Antwerp in 2013 following a break-up. “I feel like all that experience and having lived in many different places has had a huge effect on me, because in my head I am so free,” she says. “Every day I wake up and feel like anything’s possible if you have the right mindset. When you have a certain trust in life and you love what you do, the right people pick up on that.”
From her varied past and experience across the globe, Stephanie now lends her hands solely to design. She has worked with numerous clients and collaborators, including Ace & Tate, a publication design for Noord Zuid Limburg, a new logo for Sip Snack – a new market in Highland Park, Los Angeles – a poster for Community Day in Belgium, as well as Elusive Archive, a project for The New Masters at Biennale Interior 2018, Kortrijkin, in collaboration with Levi Lanser. Her recent project, Like Water, sees a self-initiated poster project featuring text by Mooji. “This text really matters to me,” explains Stephanie. “I often make these types of posters and print them out and hang them up in my office as a reminder. It’s also a nice thing to do something else outside of commissioned jobs – to experiment and to be free.”
When designing, Stephanie prefers to wake up with the sun to experience a moment of calm before her working hours – “sitting outside with a tea or coffee and listening to birds really is the best.” Then she sits behind her computer, starts to plan and begins her day. “My creativity is sparked by music and architecture, so I listen to a lot of different genres. There are some jobs where I want to be in a certain mood and music really enhances that.” Most importantly, however, is that architecture still remains a constant influence throughout her work and daily life. “When I look at a building that I find interesting, my brain does this thing where it exports the structure into single lines and shapes. The building or house suddenly becomes a layout,” she explains.
“I like the fact that the profession I never turned out doing became an important source of inspiration.” A gentle reminder to all that change is never a bad thing.