ico-D interviews tyra von zweigberk
Photo credit: Märta Thisner
ico-D: Can you talk a bit about what does as an organisation for designers?
TVZ: We represent visual communicators with our main groups being graphic designers and illustrators. At the moment we have around 1400 members. The majority of them are not employed but work as freelancers. ST does not promote our members and their work, but focuses on strengthening and developing the terms and conditions for professionals in our field. We also organize educational seminars, run a design award, and distribute a magazine. These projects are all in the spirit of educating, raising awareness and discussing our topics, but also strengthening the network and community.
ico-D: What initiatives carried out by ST are unique, and how do they reflect the cultural tendencies of the Nordic environment?
TVZ: It is hard to say what is unique about what we do, but I believe that it is unusual to have two legal advisers on the staff, providing everyday help to our members. We are also very happy about having a close collaboration and sharing offices with other organizations representing artistic or literary professions.
In general, Sweden is a small country and as such, we are used to looking around and learning from the rest of the world. This is why our international relations are so important to us.
ico-D: The backgrounds and training of your staff are not only related to design; why did you choose to hire a lawyer to work in a organisation for designers?
TVZ: Actually no one on our staff is a designer. Everybody on the board is, however, so it is important for us the get the expertise we need in other areas in our office. We have two legal advisers on our staff who are of great value to us. For example, they contact important companies and negotiate recommendations for collaborations with designers. Also, Svenska Tecknare is the consultation body for questions such as copyright, labor market, freedom of expression, cultural diversity, social security and tax schemes.
ico-D: How, on a day-to-day basis, does the work of Svenska Tecknare take care of the professional, juridical and economic interests of its members?
TVZ: Perhaps the most concrete example of this is our open lines going to our legal advisers everyday for a few hours.
"Members and non members can call in with questions regarding their specific projects to get help and advice when it comes to stipulating suitable contracts, point out problems, offer advice on how to act in a certain negotiation, and give pricing advice for the work about to be done. In some cases we also negotiate directly with the client on behalf of designers."
For us, these contacts are valuable because we have the possibility to discuss the design process and the value of design for the client.
ico-D: What are the main issues that you see designers facing in the Nordic context?
TVZ: I believe designers are facing a lot of the same issues around the world. The everyday challenge of getting enough work in a very competitive profession, obtaining understanding, recognition and the right pay. In Sweden, a very large group of designers are working freelance. This is especially the case for illustrators, for whom it is of course almost impossible to find employment. The lack of security often poses a great a challenge.
ico-D: In your work to safeguard the freedom of expression and intellectual property rights of designers - what have been the most rewarding outcomes so far? What still needs to be done?
TVZ: We have been working together with a network in Sweden about Cities of Refuges, within the ICORN-system. The main objective from our side has been to encourage more Swedish cities to become ICORN members and to receive and host writers and artists in need of refuge, but also to broaden the concept of guest writers and artists to include all cultural professionals. The outcome of this so far is that Swedish cities of refuge now accepts other creative professionals, and as of now we have two musicians, Ramy Essam from Egypt and Khaled Harara from Gaza in Sweden. Also, as a result of our efforts, Sweden now has the most number of Cities of Refuge in the world.
Another big issue for our organization was the recent shooting of the Charlie Hebdo journalists and cartoonists in Paris in January. ST and Reporters Without Borders arranged a huge demonstration in Stockholm the Sunday after the shooting.
"We have been active in many ways in the debate around freedom of expression, the role of satire in society, the responsibilities of illustrators of designers in terms of values, equality and diversity in relation to freedom of expression, by hosting seminars and discussions, articles on our website and in our magazine Tecknaren and participating in the media debate."
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Svenska Tecknare official website here.