Danny Miller on High Tide’s ‘Design Director in Residency’ programme and the value of mentorship
After putting out a call for applications in April 2021, New York-based agency High Tide have appointed Austrian designer Kristina Bartosova as their first ‘Design Director in Residency.’ Taking place over the course of five months and taking full advantage of remote working, the programme will see her mentor High Tide’s designers, lead projects and co-create an internal passion project with Creative Director and Co-founder Danny Miller.
EM Can you tell us about what your Design Director in Residency programme is all about?
DM Every five months, a new Design Director will join our team, bringing their unique skills and strengths to High Tide. The Design Director will focus on three key areas: creative vision, mentorship, and collaboration on a passion project where we produce something tangible together. So far, it’s been great having Kristina Bartosova in the inaugural role, as we love her hands-on approach to mentorship. We’re also really excited about the passion project – which will be a limited edition product available on our site later this summer.
EM Is there a chance for the Design Director to stay on after the five months?
DM The agency is growing at the moment, so the thought of offering our residents an opportunity to stay on sounds wonderful as long as it feels right. That being said, the rotating residency would continue thereafter, even if someone ends up coming in-house.
The initial disruption actually gave us the freedom to act on ideas.
EM More than a decade since the launch of High Tide, why was it the right time to launch the programme?
DM The idea really sprung from the situation we all found ourselves in at the beginning of the pandemic, when all the old rules about how a design agency should function came into question. The initial disruption actually gave us the freedom to act on ideas we’ve been throwing around for a while. Our Managing Director, James, proposed the initial idea, and it immediately resonated with the broader team. Working from home this past year has meant that our first residency could be a global opportunity, rather than a local, NYC-based position.
EM What convinced you Kristina was the right choice to kick it off?
DM What struck me when I first met with Kristina was her genuine enthusiasm and excitement for design and brand thinking, and that passion really comes through in the quality of her work. Living in Austria, she brings in a fresh perspective and isn’t afraid to take risks. Her work is bold. There is always a healthy amount of tension beyond the form and function aspect, and I find that very compelling.
She brings in a fresh perspective and isn’t afraid to take risks.
EM How did you find the process of interviewing people and appointing Kristina having never met them in person?
DM The process was interesting, to say the least. Although we talked to a lot of amazingly talented people, Kristina’s strong personal work and great energy managed to shine through, even on Zoom.
EM Why do you believe mentorship is so important?
DM Mentorship has influenced my life and career in innumerable ways, more so than any class or schooling. I’ve never had any formal schooling in graphic design, but I did have an amazing mentor who nurtured my love and interest in design and imparted ways of thinking that are embedded in the way I approach not only the creative work but also the way we run the agency.
When I first started High Tide, I was worried about not getting recognition and failing to make a mark and he gave me great advice. He said, “If you do great work and put a lot of love into what you do, people will pay attention,” and that’s advice I follow to this day. We’re only as good as our most recent crop of work, so keeping the level of craft and consideration high is paramount to High Tide as an agency.
EM What do you hope will be the end result of Kristina’s spell in the position?
DM Beyond the delivery of excellent client work, we’re really looking forward to being able to share Kristina’s personal project with the world. We’re already seeing her energy, experience and creativity shine through the wider team in the short time she’s been with us. We truly believe Kristina’s residency is going to leave a lasting positive impact throughout High Tide, our team, and our agency portfolio.
EM Would you consider doing a residency for other roles in the studio?
DM We haven’t thought about it, but it’s an interesting idea. Part of the ambition for this project is to educate and inspire our core team, so bringing in experts from different fields – perhaps a packaging specialist or someone from the advertising world – would be a great way of grooming the team to become more well-rounded in their craft. That way, everyone can become exceptional generalists as opposed to masters of a singular discipline.