Outstanding thesis on shared flats in the field of graphic design and visual communication

Tamara Orlovsky was recently honored - after graduating with a B.A. in Graphic Design and Visual Communication (dual) - by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) as Berlin's 2022 Best in the IHK final exam for media designer digital/print.  For her bachelor's thesis, she also spoke with residents of a variety of shared apartments in Berlin and documented their lives in photographs. In the interview, we wanted to learn more about these recent successes and projects, as well as her experiences during her studies.

Tamara Orlovsky, graduate of the dual study program B.A. Graphic Design and Visual Communicationlventin des dualen Studiengangs B.A. Grafikdesign und Visuelle Kommunikation

Tamara Orlovsky, graduate of the dual study program B.A. Graphic Design and Visual Communication

Congratulations on this award and, of course, on your successful graduation. What was your first thought when you heard about the award?

Thank you for the congratulations. I was actually quite surprised by the award. I unknowingly missed the invitation to the event, motto: "I'll definitely end up in 246th place," and got a package with a trophy and award sent home a few weeks later instead - it took me a few minutes of squatting in the hallway to figure it all out. But I was very happy.

What was your bachelor thesis about? Could you tell us more about it?

For some time now, I have developed an interest in how people live, how they design their living space and which living model they choose. This ultimately led me to my B.A. topic "shared housing in Berlin".

The relevance of innovative housing concepts due to housing shortages in metropolitan areas is obvious since the Corona pandemic and various other crises. Living has become a luxury, and also - or especially - noticeable for our generation. Everyone has certain associations with the "typical" shared apartment in Berlin: The interior, the people, the lifestyle, the constellations, the atmosphere. So what exactly is the "WG cult" in Berlin? Is there one at all? How and why do people living in shared flats nowadays get together and in which constellations?


What exactly I would encounter there, and what I could make of it later, I didn't know. A social experiment, so to speak, and that's exactly what I wanted on purpose. So I sat there with girls who told me about their WG-Hausgeist, or a former resident of a 70s commune in Berlin. I selected seven different shared flats in Berlin, documented the visits in photographs, interviewed the residents, asked people of different age groups to write texts about their experiences with shared flats, had discussions with experts and collected material from literature and the media.

The end result is a photo book and combines all the components together: in other words, a "hom(e)mage to the WG". The most fun was creating the haptic experience of the medium in the production process, the binding, materials, colors, every little detail.

The design of this shows the extent to which communication design can form an approach to the complex topic and promote the creativity and diversity of housing models without making judgments. The recipient can see him/herself as part of the complex and take his/her own perspective through interactive elements.

My dream would be if my work would be realized as an own exhibition, I believe that these intensive insights could interest quite a lot of people.

First of all, I'll submit the book to various photo book competitions and just see what happens - maybe it will attract some attention. Fingers crossed!



Why did you decide to study "B.A. Graphic Design and Visual Communication dual" a few years ago?

I've always been a creative goofball. So I just started studying because I couldn't imagine doing anything else than being artistic - and I was completely open to where my journey might take me. The horizons open up automatically thanks to the different design disciplines and the colorful mix of fellow students.

The strategic perspective provided by techniques such as design thinking or target group analyses helps to better channel creative energy. In the IHK modules in particular, you learn very intensively how to develop marketing and design concepts in the context of corporate identity redesign. This has helped me to work in a more structured way - I rather fulfill the image of the creative chaotic person, haha. The degree program suits people who basically want to work creatively, are open to experimentation and impulses, and are willing to invest their energy in a wide variety of directions.

What did you like best about your studies/the study program in general? And what was the biggest challenge during your studies?

The support of the lecturers is incredibly valuable. Since the study groups at HMKW are quite small, they can also provide very individual support. This often leads to collaborations and side jobs over several years, as the lecturers are always looking for cool people for projects.

That's what I always found to be the best, these extra projects that are trend-setting for one's own development - and really recommendable, even if they are often unpaid and involve night shifts (some lecturers are also known and feared for this).

The biggest challenges for me were/are:

1. to reconcile the rapid development of the outside world and my own inner development as a creative worker.

2. learning to distinguish myself. The comparison with other fellow students is obvious, but not very helpful, because everyone is totally different and creative in their own way. And that's a good thing.

3. Finding your own way is beautiful and at the same time really challenging and never ends - at least that's how it is for me. Everything is somehow a never-ending journey and that has its charm.



In which companies did you complete your professional training? Tell us more about your experience. How did you like it there and which tasks did you particularly enjoy?

I worked at Scholz & Friends in Hamburg and Dan Pearlman and Foxxbee in Berlin. The glittering Scholz & Friends advertising world as my first experience really impressed me - also how high the competitive pressure was and how they worked on "gold ideas" for competitions alongside daily business. It reminded me a bit of a factory. After that, I rather felt like working for smaller agencies that cover more of my individual interests.

Dan Pearlman offers Spatial Design, i.e. the design of space as an experienceable medium, e.g. in huge shopping malls or head quarters of international brands, in addition to classic advertising agency services. Adapting the third dimension has since helped me to think of designs in a more holistic way. I find it appealing to find inspiration in materials and textures or spatial atmospheres in order to then transfer them into the graphic, second dimension. Conversely, my graphic thinking influences me when I design spaces.

My time at Foxxbee, an interior design startup, showed me how much you can teach yourself autodidactically when you're on fire for a subject, and that just about anything can be built on a basic understanding of design. I had studied neither interior design nor furniture design, and yet I was able to pass on my enthusiasm for interior design to clients and take their individual interior design wishes into account. So there was a lot involved in my practical phase. And what I almost forgot: The internship phase is extremely helpful for networking: It is not unusual that an internship leads to a permanent position or freelancing for a company. But different internships are also great for the classic "who knows who" in the industry.


What advantages do you see in a dual study program compared to a study program in the traditional mode?

The knowledge, time and inspiration factor.

If there are two options, a) "study only" and b) "study and know a lot more," which would you take? The latter was the deciding factor for HMKW as a university, since this special study offer was only available there. Studying longer means more practical experience, more insights, more trying, but also gritting your teeth, for example in the IHK modules on printing technology or color physics. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to avoid scientific topics, haha. But such impulses also trigger new, valuable thought processes - even if you realize that certain topics are less to your liking - and have really helped me to rethink, adopt new perspectives and better grasp the range of the creative industry. At the beginning, you're still far too aimless, which is normal. A longer (dual) study phase is helpful to challenge yourself and become aware of your mission through "try and error" through internships, study module submissions and freelancing.

What are your plans after your graduation?

First of all, a creative break, and a bit of creative trial and error. The other day, for example, I went to an agency speed-dating event organized by "Stell-mich-ein": a great application exercise in which you have to convince an agency of your merits in just five minutes. At the moment, I'm particularly interested in the cultural sector, where my interests can be combined - art, interior design, fashion, theater, exhibitions. I can imagine leaving design for a while and looking more into strategy.

Through the WG project I realized that I am interested in backgrounds and contexts in their entirety from a bird's eye view and that one can also work very creatively in this. Meeting people and using communication as a tool to get into an exchange have become exciting. For me, this crazy, creative world is an interplay of discovery and experimentation - I think my own gut feeling and "What am I up for now?" are good companions for the future.

Thank you very much for the interview and the exciting impressions. All the best for the future!