Sirah Nying, Natasha Sebben and Jill Böhringer: How three design graduates transitioned from arts university to their careers. Sometimes groping in the dark, sometimes holding firm and standing their ground, but never losing sight of their goal: to work as creative professionals.
Her day kicks-off with an editorial meeting and exchanging information: Who does what, when, where? Next she’s off to a shoot, where she interviews people or operates the camera. Or she stays at the office, doing research, contacting potential protagonists and editing contributions. Sirah Nying, who graduated from ZHdK in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in cast/audiovisual media, works as a journalist and presenter at Swiss Radio and Television. She submitted her portfolio a few months before finishing her degree — and received a job offer shortly after graduation. Starting out as a journalist was challenging: in the documentary series “Enter the Circle,” Sirah told the stories of female rappers who have established themselves in the German-speaking hip-hop scene. In the Instagram series “White Eyes, Black Skin,” she interviewed her protagonists about the emotional consequences of the racism they face every day. And recently, she co-hosted the legendary six-hour freestyle rap marathon “Bounce Cypher.” “I enjoy having creative freedom,” she says, “and the seriousness with which my proposals are approached. I’m now producing a format that I first presented at a workshop.” Despite her fairly abrupt and intense transition into the professional world, Sirah sometimes misses her student days: “I particularly enjoyed practice-oriented classes, the freedom to experiment, and especially the time spent in the studio with my peers.” During her studies, she mostly worked alone and was able to plan and implement her projects accordingly. Working as part of a team was the biggest change for Sirah, who wouldn’t give up her job for any other at the moment.
TELLING INTERACTIVE STORIES
Ophelia, sitting in a bathtub, is overwhelmed by a psychotic episode. She begins to interact with her surroundings: a glass of wine and a pack of medicine are within reach, a rubber duck ready to engage in conversation floats in the red bath water; and if that’s the end of the line, the tub can be filled even further. Ophelia is the protagonist of “Psychotic Bathtub,” a multilinear story game which is also Natasha Sebben’s degree project. “I was interested in studying game design because I wanted to tell stories: interactive, immersive and innovative ones.” “Psychotic Bathtub” brings into play tensions between mental illness as a serious issue, bitterly ironic dialogues and the game format: hand-painted graphics meet a gloomy and minimalist tapestry of sound. The game, which she developed towards the end of her studies, opened doors for Natasha to work as an independent designer after earning her bachelor’s degree. The Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia is currently funding a small team including Natasha to further develop the game and appear at international festivals, which enables her to network with the international scene. Besides developing “Psychotic Bathtub,” Natasha is also working as a game design teaching assistant. She finds her day-to-day work richly faceted, challenging and fulfilling: “Right now, I spend some time every day (as a rule a morning) at ZHdK, teaching and supervising students. Afterwards, I work on “Psychotic Bathtub” and freelance commissions into the evening. My days are usually quite long, but I like it that way. Critical engagement is fun, provides structure and gives me a sense of doing something meaningful.” The only thing she underestimated was the paperwork that comes with self-employment. She enjoys it considerably less than everything else.
IN SEARCH OF DESIRABLE FUTURES
Experiences with bureaucracy and hierarchies at ZHdK first challenged her and eventually taught her to persevere or find alternative paths. Her studies have encouraged her to approach projects with an open mind, to do detailed research, to explore contradictions and faultlines, and to gain new insights through her creative work. Having earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Trends & Identity, Jill Böhringer stepped into the professional world. “Originally, I had hoped to have found my place in the professional world after my bachelor’s and to know how I could use design to co-create desirable futures. But that bubble ended up bursting.” The ideal notion of a degree as the key to answering fundamental questions didn’t materialize. However, the hard and soft skills she acquired, partly unconsciously, during her studies, have helped Jill get started in the working world. This took the form of an internship at the Real Time Trust, a private organization committed to preserving and further developing the arts and crafts tradition in the Indian state of Odisha. Jill supports local artisans in developing, producing and marketing their work. “I’m very glad things worked out at the time. If I hadn’t done the internship, I think I’d have felt pretty lost.” Why a master’s? Well, she says, she was eager to again explore a subject area in-depth. This led to her founding “Strobo,” an agency for futures design, whose fields of activity she is continuously expanding with colleagues, and which is also part of this year’s Z-Kubator’s “What’s next_Project” funding programme. “Having three jobs with no fixed working hours is making my life rather chaotic at the moment. My days start and end with walking my dog, while everything in between changes every hour. It’s exhausting and probably unhealthy, but never boring.”