There is a saying in Dutch that goes “Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg” that roughly translates to “Just act normal, then you’re already silly enough.” Suzy van der Velden has always embraced this mentality. Originally from the small town of Limmen in the Netherlands, she had a passion for creating in a place where there was not a lot of arts and culture. Despite this, van der Velden could not hold back her desire to create, and her artistic instincts quickly took hold. From a young age, she would sit behind her desk and draw, and slowly drawing transformed into design.
Now, van der Velden is a leading Dutch graphic designer. She is internationally sought-after working with some of the world’s biggest brands. However, she did not always know graphic design would be where her creative predisposition would lead her. From the time she was a young teenager, van der Velden found herself interested in fashion. However, it was not until her work with the Dutch company Oilily that van der Velden realized she could combine her interests.
“I see myself as a problem solver. More than anything I’m trying to find an aesthetically pleasing solution, through the use of all sorts of media, to solve a problem or need. I have talks with myself whenever I’m working on something on how to achieve the best result. One day nothing might happen and the solution seems far away, and the next day it just pops in my head and I know exactly how to handle something. In my work, I don’t tend to stick to one type of media so I’m constantly learning and thinking of new ways to come to innovative results. Often it feels like my job is all about balance and how to reach that balance. Next to the technical side of things I hope my work as a graphic designer adds that extra joy or connection to a product,” she said.
During her time at Oilily, van der Velden quickly rose up the ladder, impressing both customers and colleagues with her talent. She designed a wide range of artwork for both the Women’s, Kids, and Toddler lines. She worked to bring the themes alive through allovers prints, placement graphics, embroideries, engineered prints and trims. She was also a part of both the ‘Oilily Summer of Love’ and the Fall collections that were shown at the Amsterdam Fashion Week of 2009.
It wasn’t long after this when van der Velden’s reputation became extremely reputable in her home country, and she went to work at sporting wear brand O’Neill. O’Neill is originally Californian surf wear and surfboard brand started in 1952 by Jack O’Neill. The company produces wetsuits, performance water and snow sports inspired apparel for young adults. The products are distributed internationally to 86 countries worldwide.
While with the iconic company, van der Velden managed all the artwork that included swimwear, active wear, lifestyle and snow wear. She was part of a global design team that created art that would be placed on products throughout the entire world. She directed and groomed lower level designers to grow and enhance their skills. She also took on the highly important role of emphasizing the importance of making unique artwork for specific regions around the globe some including Australia, Japan and Germany, helping to increase sales in these countries with her work.
“Suzy was part of the creative team, where she was responsible for all the graphics, allover patterns and presentations for each new seasonal collection for the women’s, swim, apparel and snow line. I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with Suzy, and came to know her a as a truly valuable asset to absolutely any team. She is an incredibly hard worker, honest and dependable. Beyond that she is a very inspiring, creative person who always delivers the results. Along with her undeniable talent, Suzy was always an absolute joy to work with. Her knowledge of sportswear and casual wear, and her expertise on creating artworks from scratch, her color use and feel and her skill-set on printing technique were all huge contributions. She is very independent and always had a secret box of unexpected, new and original ideas,” said Mareine van Beek, Senior Designer Swim/Lifestyle Women & Girls at O’Neill.
After years of creating dynamic imagery for O’Neill, van der Velden caught the attention of Lululemon, a Canadian athletic apparel retailer. It is a yoga-inspired athletic apparel company and a designer and retailer of technical athletic apparel. The company makes a number of different types of athletic wear, including performance shirts, shorts, and pants, as well as lifestyle apparel and yoga accessories. It is extremely popular around the world, and working for the company was the highlight of van der Velden’s esteemed career.
After being headhunted for the role, van der Velden moved from the Netherlands to Vancouver to work for the brand, helping them revolutionize their look. With the company’s shift to reach a more youthful and progressive demographic, van der Velden’s versatile skillset came into play. Due to her great artwork and design aesthetic, she works on the global design team as Senior Graphic Designer for both the men’s and women’s divisions. Since her employment, the company has acknowledged the success of her design artwork and has increased her number of designs to grow the overall business. She was also a part of a select design team that traveled to Switzerland to create a small collection in collaboration with Europe’s leading supplier of technical embroideries. On top of this, she was also chosen with an exclusive group to travel to a Lululemon retail store in Toronto to give a detailed product presentation when the first collection with the new aesthetic was launched. The company has grown and advanced in their overall design aesthetic largely due to the success of van der Velden’s artwork and design theory.
Her role with the company is absolutely essential. Not only does she design, she brings on new team members and trains them to follow in her footsteps. For those looking to do so outside of Lululemon, she offers important advice.
“Go for it. It’s hard work, but the joy you get from it pays off. Try and work as free as you can to discover new ways of working. Take a look at other graphic designers if you don’t know where to start and go from there. It’s a very specific job and chances are that if you don’t become the best in your field it might be hard to stay in the game. Therefore, you have to keep practicing and experimenting. See where and how you can push the limits to come to new solutions,” she advised.
And with a career like hers, we can all assume that van der Velden’s guidance will be fruitful.