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Episode #

3

Julie Bonnemoy: Discovering the World of Freelance Design

Josie Young

May 20, 2021

Episode Show Notes

May 20, 2021

Julie Bonnemoy is a freelance graphic designer originally from France but currently living in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Her story is truly unique, as she’s not only travelled the world, but also moved with her family every 2-5 years during her childhood. She’s lived in places like Thailand, Gabon in Africa, and even Columbia. And we asked her how these experiences growing up have really influenced her career as a designer.


Featured in this episode

Jens Bringsjord

Co-Host

Megan Luedke

Co-Host

Episode Transcript

Jens Bringsjord

You're listening to Design Atlas Season two.



Jens Bringsjord

We've all had this feeling at some point in our lives that we crave a change, a desire to fulfil a need or change of setting. Just think about it. Why would so many people go on vacation each year if we didn't need to change things up from time to time?



Megan Luedke

In today's episode, we meet Julie Bowen, a freelance graphic designer originally from France but currently living in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Her story is truly unique. She's not only travelled the world, but also moved with her family every 2 to 5 years during her childhood.



Jens Bringsjord

She's lived in places like Thailand, Gamble in Africa and even Colombia. And we asked her how these experiences growing up have really influenced her career as a designer. So buckle up. It's going to be a wild ride as we head over to Amsterdam and meet up with Julie Bowen and more.



Julie Bonnemoy 

We don't all have to have the same path, you know, to design, to.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I'm Julie. I work as a brand and digital designer for design agencies around the world. But I also work for my own clients freelancing. I'm based in Amsterdam, but I'm French and I've lived here for six and a half years now and in my free time, I like to travel. I really like to hike in camp. I love to be around nature.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I really love to be surrounded by people, by my family. I'm a very, very social person. So being with people is very important for me. So I was actually born in Thailand because at that time my parents were living there because my dad was working for the oil business. He was sent to all these different countries. And so we lived, for example, in Gabon, in Africa.



Julie Bonnemoy 

He lived in Colombia at the time where Escobar had just been shot. You know, all these different countries, of course, there's a lot of political ambiguity because, you know, they have this richness of oil. And, of course, Western companies want to, like, take advantage of that. So we were sent to all these different countries where you have, you know, some difficulties at some point.



Julie Bonnemoy 

It was quite strange for us to be growing up like that because we kind of had to move every two to maybe five years. Actually, now today, Amsterdam is the place where I've lived the longest six years. I do get a little bit used to things quite quickly and maybe that's something that's happened because it's like we were moving a lot.



Julie Bonnemoy 

But it also means that I'm really, really adaptable. I kind of feel at home everywhere. I never get homesick when I'm travelling or when I'm, you know, moving around. It's quite comfortable for me. I never feel like I'm lost or that I really, really need to go home. So that's cool.



Megan Luedke

As you just heard, Julie has certainly travelled the globe while travelling and seeing all these different places, giving her an appetite to see the world and feel comfortable no matter which culture she found herself in. We wanted to know how she coped from leaving friends and having to make new ones, as well as changing schools and countries every 2 to 5 years.



Julie Bonnemoy 

That was one of the conditions that my dad would accept to go to a country or another. It had to have a French school in most countries and most capitals of countries, you have international French school. And so we went all the time to these schools. It didn't feel like I was completely out of society or yeah, that was okay.



Julie Bonnemoy 

You know, we kept that stability. At least that was fine.



Megan Luedke

French was the language used in the schools that Julie attended. But because most of the students at the schools weren't actually from France, they spoke Spanish outside of the classroom because of this. Julie realised she had to learn to adapt quickly to the local language.



Julie Bonnemoy 

When we were living in Colombia, for example, I was in an officially French school, but only 10% of the students were French. In some countries like, you know, Colombia at the beginning of 94, in these times, you know, it's a very, very poor country where actually going to one of those schools, it's like going to an elite school, you have to pay for it.



Julie Bonnemoy 

So it's actually good. It's in a good state. And so a lot of people, 90% of the students there, were not at all French. Actually, I had to learn Spanish because no one spoke French outside the classroom. So I learned Spanish super quickly. But I was tiny. I think I was six when we moved there, so I picked it up quite quickly.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I could speak Spanish as well as French, but yeah, like for example there I picked up Spanish when I was living in Indonesia actually that's where I learned English.



Jens Bringsjord

When Julie and her family moved to Indonesia, she started intensely training in gymnastics because the French school she attended there didn't have such training. She participated in the gymnastics lessons at an American school nearby. Coincidentally, she needed to learn English to understand her coaches.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I was doing gymnastics competitions quite intensely, and I was training in an American school, so I also had to learn English there because no one spoke French. Of course, I was spending 12 hours a week in a gym, so I had no time to explore anything else. My parents said, You have gymnastics, and that sounds like you're not going to do dance.



Julie Bonnemoy 

You're not going to like learning instruments or anything. I just had gymnastics and that was like the only thing I could get. So, yeah, it's what I did . I didn't have the chance to pick, you know, languages while moving around.



Jens Bringsjord

Doesn't it feel as though famous designers say they always knew from a young age that they wanted to pursue art and work in some sort of creative industry? Well, for Julie, this was certainly not the case. She grew up hearing very little about design, having gymnastics as her sole extracurricular activity outside of school. Design was never really highlighted by her mathematician dad or in any of her high school courses that she took.



Jens Bringsjord

Yet there was one thing that she did notice.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I just wasn't good at school. I've always been a very average student. I never felt comfortable learning texts and lessons by hard solving mathematical problems that I couldn't even understand. Using formulas that I didn't understand either. It was just not my thing. I never almost had some sort of fear of school, always, always feeling inadequate and as if I didn't belong.



Jens Bringsjord

Then one day, something happened. Julie was introduced to the world of design.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I went to see a friend of mine who was actually studying in a design school. And so I visited her when they have their open doors, weekends and and you know, when I was there, as something happened, I was like, oh, that sounds actually cool. I mean, you know, these people, they were exploring different mediums. They were creating things with their own hands.



Julie Bonnemoy 

For me, it sounded like something I could actually do. You know, it wasn't about having to study pages and pages of text that you would have to learn by heart. No, it was something more intuitive and that spoke to me. That's the only time that I was like, Huh, actually, that could be cool. And so I, you know, I felt that I wanted to be part of something like that and just like seeing all these people explore different mediums and stuff.



Julie Bonnemoy 

So that was the first time I thought about that. We had moved back to France when my big sister graduated high school. My mom, she was a bit like she had enough she wanted to do to settle somewhere and just like to have friends, you know, that she does. She doesn't have to leave in three years. You know, they had a house in the mountains close to Chamonix.



Julie Bonnemoy 

So that's just like what felt, you know, just normal to her to go. And so actually I moved back to France. I was a little bit less than 50.



Jens Bringsjord

Back in France. And in her last year of high school, Julie made up her mind to pursue design in her university studies. She didn't have to look far when it came to figuring out what school she wanted to attend. She applied to a friend's school formerly known as a cool double cool in Lyon, France.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I got accepted based on paintings and drawings that I just did the week before, just for the interview, because I had never done anything like that. So after a week I was like, okay, I have to, I don't know, make some drawings or whatever or like paint stuff and make a portfolio and like all of a sudden and well, I got accepted and yeah.



Julie Bonnemoy 

And then I did my bachelor's degree there for communication design. You have to go through a general year where you do like painting, where you do architecture, product design. And then at the end of that year, when you've explored everything you can choose, which field you want to go to. This first year, it was all about exploring all these different things that we were doing, like nice painting where the model is just in front of you.



Julie Bonnemoy 

We were doing, yeah, architect, teacher, product design, all these different things. But for me, the thing that spoke a little bit more to me was graphic design because there were more concepts behind it, whereas going into arts, arts as in painting and stuff, for me it was less about concept. So that's why I chose graphic design.



Megan Luedke

After graduating from her bachelor's degree in graphic design and communication, Julia was ready to make a move again.



Julie Bonnemoy 

At the end of my three years, I was like, I think I need to move again. I had been in Leo for three years and I think it was a no for me. Like, I've seen the city, let's do something new.



Megan Luedke

Julie's mind was set on moving to the capital city of Paris, home of the Eiffel Tower. Some really delicious baguettes and lively cultural events. Julie began her master's degree there at a school called A Cool Allure.



Julie Bonnemoy 

So I looked for another school and I found that school in Paris, and it felt that one felt like it would be more free, actually, and which was good, because then I had learned how to be restructured for the 2/1 years, and then I could, you know, take all of that baggage and explore more or like play with it naturally.



Julie Bonnemoy 

But then when I graduated from my bachelor's, I was 20 years old. Now, I was definitely not ready to start freelancing. Right. So I feel that the way that I did it worked really well because I knew I learned structure first and then I pushed it, but I couldn't say if it works for everyone. Maybe the lack of freedom in the beginning can be something that can feel a bit like it's blocking you.



Julie Bonnemoy 

In the beginning I'm not sure. But for me it was reassuring to get that structure within.



Megan Luedke

Julie graduated in 2011 from her master's degree. It was networking that led her to her first full time job as a designer.



Julie Bonnemoy 

So the school that I was at in Paris, they had a really nice thing. There is that at the end of your, you know, your masters, you would get one day where a lot of different agencies would come and judge your work. So that was, you know, part of your diploma. But it also meant that you could meet a lot of people from agencies and be recruited.



Julie Bonnemoy 

And that's what happened to me, actually. I got a job through one of the people that came to see my work. And so I actually started straight away like at the end of when I graduated. So I worked in total, I think three years in Paris before I moved to Amsterdam because when you work for companies like L'Oreal or even Solo, all these luxurious companies, especially for packaging, the restrictions are quite intense for a designer and the concept is not as important.



Julie Bonnemoy 

It's more about using the right material, using the right finish. For me, that was really interesting to learn, but then I kind of wanted to go a little bit further.



Jens Bringsjord

After Julie made up her mind to leave Paris, she started applying to design studios all over Europe.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I had been thinking of the fact that I wanted to leave my company for a little bit more than six months already. I was kind of stuck in that junior position and I wanted to either change companies or move. You know, I always thought I would move countries right after I graduated, but because I got that job offer, you know, I couldn't refuse it.



Julie Bonnemoy 

You don't refuse a job offer when you just graduated school. That would have been crazy, right? So I took the job. And, you know, fast forward three years later, you're still here. And I was like, Oh, it seems that I'm never going to do it because I moved my whole life following my dad. I kind of wanted to do it on my own, you know, that's a different thing, like following your family, travelling around.



Julie Bonnemoy 

That's easy right there, organising everything. And so I really wanted to do it like myself. I didn't care where I would go. I just wanted to leave Paris. Yeah, I got a contract for six months in Amsterdam, so that was great actually, to just move to a new city and to always already have a contract to get a head start there.



Julie Bonnemoy 

That's how I started. I started with a contract for six months and then I started freelancing.



Jens Bringsjord

Julie doesn't just see the new chapter in her journey as a mere ending point in her life. She has an innate ability to detach herself from her current situation and move forward to see where else her life will take her. Her biggest tip: Never be afraid of failure.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I mean, you can always leave. It's not, you know, it's, you know, getting married to that place if it doesn't go well. I mean, you know, life never goes the way you plan. And now I'm 32 and I've learned that if it doesn't fit, you can just always leave, right? It's not that big of a deal.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I think it's quite common to be afraid of failure. And I was definitely afraid of failure when I moved here because like I mentioned, I got a job here. So you're packing your whole life for a company where you've never worked before. You just met them at one interview. Crazy, right? But weirdly enough, it was actually my grandma who kind of pushed me to do it.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I was freaked out because I was afraid of failing. And she was like, if you fail, you just come back home. It's not a big deal. Okay, fair enough. You know, and that's the thing. Like, we forbid ourselves to do a lot of things just because we're afraid that it's not going to work out. And as Super says, because in the end you just don't do anything.



Julie Bonnemoy 

And it's not going to define you if you fail, right? Like everybody fails. Everybody fails.



Megan Luedke

After signing her six month contract, Julie moved to Amsterdam and began her job at a small design agency.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I was their first employee, so they had just started, I think a year before, before I joined, but they seemed really cool like that. One time I met them for the interview and it was kind of like, you know, the dream, right? I think you're the first first designer of a tiny little studio. It didn't end up to be that great of like that dream that I had in mind.



Julie Bonnemoy 

It was really tough, actually, because, you know, I didn't speak a word of Dutch. And they would speak a lot of Dutch during the day. And I kind of felt that there was like this disconnect between them and me. So actually at the end of my six months, I just, you know, I didn't continue there.



Jens Bringsjord

Shortly before Julie decided to leave the Small Design Agency, she started applying to other design firms in Amsterdam. There was something at this stage in her life that clicked for Julie. Could she maybe do freelance design projects full time a.



Julie Bonnemoy 

Month before my contract ended, I started anticipating my next step. So I started, you know, sending up portfolios and meeting new people from different agencies and stuff like that. So, you know, while I was meeting a lot of people in a lot of different agencies, I met with one company that's called A Green Room. It's a British company, and they had just opened like six months before their offices in Amsterdam.



Julie Bonnemoy 

They had two at the time in England. I was looking for a contract. I didn't even think of going freelance, but they actually called me one day and they said, Yeah, we have this, this project. And it was, it was a really cool project for ethics at the time I hadn't planned on going freelance, but I actually went to the Chamber of Commerce the same day and started working for these guys the next day.



Julie Bonnemoy 

So that's how I started freelancing actually. And I have to say that because it was like on a regular basis, let's say in the beginning I was working for them like one, two to like two and a half weeks, four months that was enough for me money wise to to continue living like that in Amsterdam. It was like an epiphany.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I was like, Oh, but freelancing. This is what works for me actually, I had never thought about it before, but this is what, you know, it works. It makes sense for me with my personality. You know, you meet a lot of different people all the time. There's like this freedom of different opportunities. That is something that really, you know, it works for me.



Julie Bonnemoy 

That's when I started freelancing. It wasn't really a choice? Actually, it wasn't really planned out.



Megan Luedke

While it may not have been super easy for Julie to start off her new adventure in freelancing, she decided not to take failure as an answer.



Julie Bonnemoy 

When I started, I was not thinking at all. Of course I would take anything, anything that would come right, but always graphic. But like for different industries and.



Jens Bringsjord

We all know how important a website portfolio is when applying to new jobs or acquiring new clients. For Julie, this really made a difference. After she published her website in 2018, she received greater recognition for her designs and became more well known around Europe. She also started getting more freelance projects, giving her the luxury of being able to pick which clients she was going to work with.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I'd say that since they were something like three years, I haven't really looked for clients. Also, Amsterdam is so tiny, like everybody knows each other and I get a lot of clients from more channels. Amsterdam is really, really tiny. If you compare it to the amount of work that there is and the amount of companies that there is, you know, it packs a lot of companies here.



Julie Bonnemoy 

And we also have all the big ones and it's going to be more and more because of Brexit. So, you know, we have Nike, Adidas, we have TomTom like all of Netflix and all of these big companies. So there's a lot of work. It's a great opportunity to be living here because this word of mouth works really well here.



Julie Bonnemoy 

So I get a lot of clients through that. I think that also in general, like, you know, when clients are happy with you, they, you know, they talk about you afterwards and we're all also collaborators. You know, when I work with developers, then, you know, I got some jobs through people who contacted a developer or they also needed a designer.



Julie Bonnemoy 

So they were like, If you know any designers, then you know, that person talks about me to the client. So that's something that happens.



Jens Bringsjord

When it comes to the types of freelance projects Julie takes. She really likes to work with a lot of mediums from big installations and malls to digital products for e-commerce. She does it all, and while some of her projects challenge her to learn or stretch her thinking, she aims high and achieves what she commits to do.



Julie Bonnemoy 

For me, it's more about having creative freedom or, you know, I try to look for projects where I can, you know, there's space for concepts because for me, concept is, is something that's like my favourite parts of projects. So, you know, I try to look for projects where I can have an impact to where I can be there in the beginning of the projects and just things that are, you know, fun in general.



Julie Bonnemoy 

But I don't specifically look only for web design or brand design or whatever. I do a lot of different things and that's cool. I think a year ago I did a huge illustration for installation in the middle of the mall. I had never done that before, but it was just cool, you know. So I, I, I take stuff that is completely unrelated to what I use and things like the freedom of going from one medium to another as well, having freelance.



Megan Luedke

Now, for the past five years, Julie has learned her lessons, working with so many different types of clients. For anyone looking to go into the freelance side of the design industry, here are some tips that Julie would recommend based on her past experiences.



Julie Bonnemoy 

I would say that something that's really important is to always sign a contract. You know, it sets the rules from the beginning. As much for you as a designer, like for your deadlines, for your timings, how much you're going to invest time into all of these different tasks. But also, you know, for your client to know where everyone stands and where the project stands.



Julie Bonnemoy 

But especially here in Amsterdam, it's super, super important to plan sheets. You know, it still happens now that people that I met five years ago who I've never worked for are finally like, oh, we have a job for you now. And, you know, I try to keep these relationships going. So I always send like a nice thing for Christmas or like one year I actually created designs for actual postcards that I had printed and I would send like a selection of those.



Megan Luedke

When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, Amsterdam shut down and Julie felt the pressure the pandemic had placed on all the clients she had been working with over the past few years.



Julie Bonnemoy 

While the pandemic was tough for two months, I didn't do anything, and for me it was like I felt so useless, you know, and really guilty of not working. And it's not our fault, right? But you would still get that pressure. You're in. You need to be creating stuff. You need to be designing stuff. But why? It's like this.



Julie Bonnemoy 

This is, you know, unprecedented. Like, what are we going to create now? It's so strange. When I moved to Amsterdam, I had never worked on digital design ever before and I did have to adapt actually when I moved here because Amsterdam is like most of the design work is digital. So I had never worked on a website in my life before and you know, now I do a lot of digital design.



Julie Bonnemoy 

So, you know, I've kind of had to learn on the job because this is you know, this is the kind of job that you get here. It's very focused on digital design and not that much on, you know, the things that I used to do when I was in Paris. So always have to be, you know, to adapt.



Jens Bringsjord

As I'm sitting here right now speaking to you these words, I can't help to think about how inspiring the last part of our conversation with Julie was. For me and Megan, creativity flows within herself to create beautiful branding, whether it's packaging, digital designs or large murals in the malls. Julie starts with an ideation exercise purely on words that describes the brand she's trying to build.



Julie Bonnemoy 

Diving more deeply into words. For me, it helps me go a bit deeper into the concept itself. For example, for Web Design, I actually am inspired a lot by books, which is a bit strange. I like to like mix and match mediums in general, so I like, you know, the elegance of print design and I kind of like want to find it again, you know, on web design and on on screen is very different from on paper, but it doesn't mean that it has to be like less elegant or less beautiful.



Julie Bonnemoy 

Right. And I think that's quite a trend right now as well. You see all these websites that have a lot of space, you know, a lot of beautiful typography. You can play with that. You can play with all the different reflexes that are user has when when they are in a web design, you know, when they're using that web design, it's it's interesting to understand, you know, this user experience how how these things are becoming more and more common to users and how they become reflexes.



Julie Bonnemoy 

And, you know, it's interesting to play with that and and just push as much as possible the boundaries of how we use those things.



Jens Bringsjord

Julie has shown us that you should never be afraid of failing and instead strive to be resilient in everything you do as a designer. Just as the old saying goes, failure is certainly not fatal, but failure to change just might be as designers continue to learn to adapt and change as the world continues spinning.



Jens Bringsjord

So go ahead and fail because it just might be what comes out of failure. That will be the best thing that ever happens to you.



Julie Bonnemoy 

You and this is Design Atlas.



Jens Bringsjord

We hope you join us next Thursday as we travel to Cape Town, South Africa, to meet up with Al Luke brand identity designer and owner of Black Sheep Design Studio. Want us to remind you of when the next episode comes out? Simply subscribe to our email updates by visiting design atlas pod dot com.



Megan Luedke

To find out more about Julie Bonnemoy and why we've included her Instagram and website links in the show notes below. We definitely recommend you check them out.



Jens Bringsjord

Also, don't forget to join us for our next episode by subscribing to the show and leaving a positive review. We really appreciate it.



Megan Luedke

To learn more about Design Atlas and to sign up for updates, visit our website at Design Atlas podcast. If you want to get in touch with us or have a topic idea for our next episode, feel free to send us an email at Hello Design Atlas podcast or DM us on Instagram at Designer Inspired. Thanks for listening. I'm Megan Luedke.



Jens Bringsjord

And I'm Jens Bringsjord.



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©2021-2024 Design Atlas Podcast. All Rights Reserved.

Created with love in Barcelona, Spain and Los Angeles, CA.

©2021-2024 Design Atlas Podcast. All Rights Reserved.

Created with love in Barcelona, Spain and Los Angeles, CA.

©2021-2024 Design Atlas Podcast. All Rights Reserved.

Created with love in Barcelona, Spain and Los Angeles, CA.