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Last week Seoul, this week Riga! Throughout “Membership March,” SEGD is traveling the world to introduce you to our international chapters. This week Ingūna Elere (Partner, Design Studio H2E) reports from Riga, Latvia, where “networking and being part of the world’s larger professional community” has helped Latvian designers get through the Covid crisis. In turn, Latvian designers, inspired by their country’s own historical challenges, are aiding Ukrainians fleeing the destruction of their home country.
Learning About SEGD—in Latvia!
Design Studio H2E learned of SEGD from a book about wayfinding design at a time was preparing lectures for students at the Art Academy of Latvia. We appreciated the extensive information on the organization’s homepage and detailed comments from a jury about entries in the SEGD Global Design Awards (GDA’s). The entries and jury comments served as great examples to present to design students for analysis.
In 2014 H2E decided to submit two of our works for consideration in the GDA’s. To our surprise, one of the works, the Ventspils Museum, won a Merit Award! As a result, SEGD offered our firm an annual membership, which we greatly appreciated. Almost every year since then, we have entered our projects in the competition, awaiting the results with interest. Professionally, this is a very healthy way to get a critical view of our works.
The Benefits of Participation—An International Perspective
Participation in SEGD gives us a feeling of support. This manifests in the form of shared interests in an inclusive and quality environment and a sense of community. And although this is an international community with representatives from different countries, we speak one visual language. SEGD is a wonderful source of professional resources, offering valuable lectures and inclusive events.
From an international perspective, H2E has made wonderful friends within the SEGD community, such as Despina Macris (Dot Dash, Brisbane, Australia), Hringur Hafsteinsson (Gagarin, Reykjavik, Iceland) and Tim Ventimiglia (Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Berlin, Germany), who we invited and involved in the work of the National Design Awards of Latvia. We also continue our collaboration in other ways. For example, together with the Gagarin team H2E has organized joint workshops and prepared joint entries for design project competitions. As a result, we have reached the important conclusion that physical distance is no obstacle in producing engaging and inspiring work.
Design During Covid—Challenges and Opportunities
Although the Covid period brought great changes to each of us individually, as well as to the business, it must be said that a lot of the changes have helped us to become stronger, to realize our strengths and to adapt to the environment, which is currently extremely variable. At the start of the Covid crisis, H2E was able to switch to hybrid work mode very quickly—working both remotely, as well as in person. We can also see that this has changed our clients’ thinking, and in turn has enabled us to make our work more efficient.
Prior to Covid, H2E had already become one of Latvia’s leading design companies, accumulating vast experience. We had no difficulty holding onto our existing clients or attracting new ones. We have unequivocally concluded that our work in previous years on projects and with clients has been repaid in full, because, since the onset of the Covid crisis, H2E has not lost a single client or a single order—quite the opposite.
We can definitely attest that networking and being part of the world’s larger professional community has helped us a great deal during this period, both in terms of understanding industry challenges, as well as talking to industry professionals and sharing our experiences. Recognizing the value in sharing experience, from the outset of the Covid crisis, H2E gave a great deal of thought to how we could give our SEGD community in Latvia the opportunity to be together, to be part of something bigger, and to draw on experience to put to use in our work.
Last year, the SEGD Riga Chapter’s “Design Walk” (Oct 1st, 2021) included topics focusing on Covid, ascertaining various solutions to Covid, and sharing experiences with the future in mind. These events were very well attended and highly acclaimed. (YouTube videos of the Riga Design Walk lectures and videos can be found here.)
The Situation in Ukraine—Fighting the Power
Our nation has a complex history. Latvia regained its independence in 1991 after an occupation lasting 50 years. In the course of our professional activity, we have done a lot of work on exhibitions that tell the story of both World War I and World War II, and the subsequent occupation of our country. These are stories about people afflicted by war—about fear, horror, uncertainty, bemusement—stories of hope and longing for a free and democratic Latvia.
The consequences of World War II and the Occupation are felt by the families of every member of the Latvian population. Likewise, the families of our colleagues at Design Studio H2E have been severely affected by the tragic events that occurred under the regime of occupation. We feel for the Ukrainian people and condemn the ruthless aggression demonstrated by Russia. Each of our team tries to help as much as possible.
As a design studio, we are doing our best to help. H2E has offered a job to a designer from Ukraine and donated funds in support of Ukraine. We have publicly stated our opinion and condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is resulting in the destruction of a nation, a culture, a language, its tangible and intangible heritage, and its people. Through this attitude, H2E was among the initiators of the call by the Latvian Design Council to other Latvian designers to help the people of Ukraine and to stop cooperating with companies and individuals who support or receive any kind benefit from the Putin regime. We invite design companies from Latvia and other countries to be inclusive and helpful, to support the creative professionals from Ukraine, both with full-time and remote work and other possible opportunities for cooperation. Many people today are suffering, in particular, from anxiety and depression. We suggest paying attention to the mood of colleagues and loved ones, and if necessary, to take time to regain the mental balance.
What H2E can do as a design company: keep doing our job—always better, clearer, more understandable, and more convincing. Our work is related to the environment in which we live. By telling historical stories, it matters how the audience reads these stories and what conclusions they draw. It matters in what environment we live in and how that environment will affect us—how it will help make us safe and promote the work we do.
We unequivocally stand for freedom and democracy.
In 2021 Design Studio H2E leaders Dagnija Balode, Inguna Elere and Holgers Elers were awarded the SEGD Chapter Chair Award. To learn more about the Riga Chapter past and upcoming events, visit the SEGD Riga Chapter webpage.
“Latvians in World War I”
“Stories about Man and Power in 10 objects”
Red Terror Museum, Estonia
Travelling exhibition “Latvia’s Centenary”