Meet Verena Michelitsch

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Verena Michelitsch is an Austrian freelance graphic designer, art director, and illustrator based in New York. She studied Communication Design & Exhibition Design at FH Joanneum in Graz, Austria. After graduation, she was granted a one year artist-in-residency program which led her to start her own business right after college. After a year, she joined two friends to start their own design studio, called EN GARDE, in Graz, Austria. With EN GARDE, she received several awards in the field of design, including the Red Dot Award and Cannes Young Lions. In 2012 she moved to NYC, and was lucky to work for Sagmeister & Walsh, Pentagram, and RoAndCo. Last year, she left her role as design director at Sid Lee NY to start freelancing again. Currently, she works between NY & SF for clients like Apple, Conde Nast and smaller brands in the field of fashion and accessories. She also runs  Sand & Such, a blog dedicated to sleep.
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on her morning routine

I get up around 8, either go across the street to get coffee or make some at home. I land in front of my computer pretty quickly, I like to drink my coffee while I read and answer emails. Every other day I go to a morning yoga class after my email session. I usually don't have breakfast until noon, this is a weird new thing since I went freelance. Around noon I make myself a proper breakfast (a smoothie, eggs and veggies), or I go for lunch with my boyfriend if he is working from home too.

on her inspiration

I grew up helping out in my aunt's photography studio and always saw her (and my grandma) running their own businesses. Plus, it was a creative business. This was an inspiration for sure. After college I went freelance right away, and then started a company with 2 friends. We were doing really well and the little company grew to 25 people when I left, but after a while I realized that I could use a mentor and somebody/something to push my design skills and I decided to move to NY to start over. I did an internship at Sagmeister & Walsh which was a great experience, as Stefan had been my graphic design hero while I was in college and I admired the work of Jessica.

on how she prices her work

My boyfriend helped me a lot setting up all the paperwork and walked me through the steps I had to do in order to have my own business, because he just went through the same process a year ago. In terms of pricing, I think I do have a pretty ok understanding of how much I can charge for what, on my last job I led a design team and had to hire a lot of freelance designers, and from conversations with friends I'd feel out what they charge for certain types of projects. Often it's also a conversation with the client about their budget. I do use an app for bookkeeping and sending out and tracking invoices that I can highly recommend called WaveApps.

Verena’s Favorite Books

Verena’s Favorite Books

Top, Acne

Top, Acne

on her process

My design process usually starts with a conversation with the client, ideally a strategist is involved too and works on the strategic exploration first. This gives a lot of insight and guidance during the design process. Often smaller brands can't afford a strategist though, and they have their own vague idea of what direction they want to go in. Then it's on me to ask them as many questions as possible (eg. who do they want to sell to, do they want to grow, is the business international, is it local, what other brands do they like etc.) I typically start with moodboards to set a feeling and a tone for the brand. This can include photography, illustration, typography, fabrics, paper swatches, materials, really anything. I'll print and pin those moodboards so that I see them even when I work on something else. I think I always need some time to get my mindset fully into a new project. Inspired by these moodboards I'll start to look for typography or start to sketch out logotypes or marks. Sometimes I present 2 different directions but I feel there's always one that I like better and I feel stronger about. That would be a typical branding process, lately I've been doing a lot of illustration, where the process is kind of similar but the process has felt more 'intimate' - I have to be more 'in the zone' and dedicate longer periods of time to dive into the world of illustrating.

Verena's favorite skincare products

Verena's favorite skincare products

“I literally carry around my sister’s birth necklace around my neck every day (it’s a clock with her birth hour engraved, she is wearing mine).”
— on her love for her sister
Pants, Cienne    ; Top, Acne

Pants, Cienne ; Top, Acne

on her nighttime + beauty routine

I stopped bringing any digital device to my bedroom a while ago. It really helps me to fall asleep super fast. I love nighttime beauty routines, I do masks every other day and put rose oil on my face if I feel fancy or if my skin is super dry. While doing this I'll watch random youtube videos. I had a lot of skin issues in my mid-20s which forced me to learn about products and how to use them. I have quite sensitive skin and I love micellar water. It's the most essential item in my beauty routine. It leaves the skin moisturized and takes off all makeup and dirt in a gentle way. Since having skin issues I'm more into proper pharmacy skincare products. I would recommend: La Roche Posay Micellar Cleansing Water, Glossier Moon Mask, Avene Hydrating Cream, Glossier Balm Dotcom, and Drunk Elephant Night Serum. Some of my favorite beauty products include: Chanel Lipstick, Purely Pro Brow Pencil, Chanel Blush, Surratt Mascara, Glossier Stretch Concealer, Saint Laurent Lipstick, and La Roche Posay Mousse Foundation.

on her style

A year ago I watched this fashion documentary about fast fashion and the inhumane cirumstances people work in to produce for brands like Zara, H&M etc. which really led me to think about what to buy. I minimized buying at brands like Zara & H&M and started to buy a lot of basics at Everlane. Every now and then I'll buy something at Acne. I try to be more aware of where things are made. I got these nice wide legged trousers with the straps from a NY based designer called Cienne. I think I like everything clean, minimal looking, in nice shapes and colors. When I'm working from home I mostly just wear a pair of good jeans and a top, but I have a whole variety and I'll never get bored of that look. I also recommend this store on Franklin called Pas Mal. Other stores: Bird, Homecoming, Home of the Brave.

verena’s favorite places in NYC

Transmitter Park, waterfront. I like McGolrick park in summer too, when McCarren is too crowded.

I am obsessed with the food at Selamat Pagi (Balinese) and my boyfriend and I love to go to Glasserie. And this Italian spot Naked Dog is really good.

During the week I frequently go to Littleneck Outpost or Eagle Trading Company.

Drinks: Ramona, 5 Leaves, Goldies.

Food shopping: The McGolrick or McCarren farmers market.

verena’s favorite summer activities

In Summer I sometimes go on exploratory bike rides with my boyfriend, it's fun to cross the weird bridges between LIC and Roosevelt Island (and there is another bridge more north I forgot). I love sitting at the Pencil Factory Bar and sip rose with my girlfriends, so cliché.

Ferry: I love the ferry. Just the best way to commute.

The galleries: I love to stroll through the galleries in Chelsea. But also since we're so close to LIC I like going to the PS1 and the Noguchi Museum.

verena’s favorite movies

The Big Lebowski by Ethan and Joel Cohen

The Fifth Element by Andrew Niccol

Clueless by Amy Heckerling

Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard

Verena’s favorite books

Shoplifters featuring work by: Heavyweight Foundry, Wrong Studio, Justin Hodges, Joel Evey, Isabel Seiffert, Ina Niehoff, Fabrizio Raschetti

Purity by Jonathan Franzen

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Indigo by Clemens J. Setz