Aleks Pietrzykowska & Kim De Haas | Els & Nel
Simple, usable and reminiscent of the classic American composition books. Welcome the Weekly Journal. The designers of the time management tool, Aleks Pietrzykowska (1984, Gydnia,
Poland) and Kim de Haas (1985, Utrecht), work together as stationary design duo
Els & Nel
in their new studio in the
center of Amsterdam (and yes, it may look familiar; it was previously the studio of textile designer
). Fueled by
a love for printed matter, a desire to "keep things neat", and a knack for problem-solving design, Aleks and Kim first designed the Weekly Journal in 2012. Now in its third year, the
journal succeeds in making our somewhat chaotic lives a little more manageable. We talked to Aleks and Kim about their design aesthetic and their plans for the future.
Can you tell us a little about yourselves?
We met during our fashion communication studies at the Utrecht School of Arts (HKU) in 2005 but only started working together in 2012. We were working on our own projects back then, but that’s when we thought of the idea for the Weekly Journal. Aleks founded Oh! You Simple Things, an accessories brand that embraces youth and individuality, back in 2010. It started with a few pieces of jewelry and then expanded to the Totepack (or tote bag that can be worn as a backpack). Kim founded Bedford , an Utrecht-based cooperative celebrating art, design and music through various forms, in 2011. More recently we collaborated with G-Star as part of RAW & RISING: The Gallery of Arts and Crafts , initiated by Glamcult Magazine. We created a simple yet classy denim case , a translation of the ‘mobile office life’. The denim case includes pockets and compartments for a Weekly Journal, tablet or notebook, smartphone, pens and business cards.
Why the name Els & Nel?
Some of Aleks’ friends dubbed her Els - a great nickname if she were to become a DJ or do something else that required an alter ego. Aleks never started DJing so the name was just there, waiting to be used. Nel is short for Kim’s Facebook persona ‘Pieternella’. And it sounds catchy with Els. So, Els & Nel it is!
What inspired the Weekly Journal?
At some point we talked about how none of the journals we could find fit our needs. We had this ‘idea’ that we could create something better so we simply set out to make one. Well, actually 70 copies and they were sold within a few days! We were so surprised. We never set out to start a brand; we just wanted to create something we thought people needed. Turns out they did and suddenly we had become a business. With the Weekly Journal, we wanted to make people’s lives easier and create an aesthetic and practical solution to contemporary issues. This vision is something we hold on to and hope to expand in the future.
How have things changed over the past three years?
Over the past two years we have grown from 70 copies to 500 to now 2,000! We have also become more professional; our idea literally turned into a business, which required us to think more strategically about where we want to go with the label. We also just moved into this (great!) studio space a few months ago.
Do you think there's a difference between using online tools and print to plan our days?
Digitalization plays an increasing role in our lives, there’s no doubt about that, but we believe that the need for something tangible, such as pens and paper, has never disappeared. We wanted to create something that’s really there. We don’t uses online tools - we don’t really find them helpful in bringing about structure. Somehow we can’t manage to get organized when using with these tools. Maybe we’re a bit old-fashioned in that we believe we always can depend on pen and paper instead of technology.
How does the Weekly Journal differ from other agendas out there?
It has been adapted to the urban lifestyles we’re living. For example, we eliminated all the clutter you don’t really use. We formatted the journal so that all weekdays are shown equally on the left page. Then there are squared pages for notes that give the journal an additional function: that of a diary or notebook. That’s what makes it so practical and simple.
Does the city of Amsterdam inspires you?
We think it helps to change up your daily environment and travel someplace in order to really be inspired. We love cities like Berlin and London, and observing how people there live, move and go about doing their daily things. Every city has its own pace and dynamics. We love to just take that all in and bring our observations back to the studio to use as inspiration. But when we return home we realize (again!) and appreciate all that Amsterdam has to offer. What we like most is the openness or open-mindedness of people living here. No one judges the way you look, subcultures blend at party’s, and you’ll find a mix of styles and cultures out on the street.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Our days vary, and the only fixed moments are on our day together at the studio, which is Monday. We both bike to the studio (20 min), have our morning coffee around 9.30 and make a list of what needs to be done. Then we work until 1pm and take our lunch break. Our daily tasks range from shipping journals to emailing customers and retailers and maintaining our social media. Lately we have been working on the design and production of a calendar for a client. And of course we brainstorm and collect ideas about new products. It’s a lot of work, because being your own boss means doing everything yourself. Luckily we’re both quite flexible so our minds adapt easily to any sudden change of plans.
Can you name a few of your favorite places in Amsterdam?
We like Trouw for dancing and De Waterkant down at the river for drinks and nachos. Struik is great for Tuesday night drinks and their dishes of black beans, rice and chicken. Broodje Daan is a trucker’s café that serves a cheap, down-to-earth breakfast and Back to Black is our new favorite coffee place. Restored has the perfect mix of products and we’re big fans of the magazine shop Athenaeum (hello, printed matter!) We’re also like Foam and the Mini Galerie for upcoming artists. Oh, and the view from the bridges across the Amstel and Weesperzijde; you really feel like you’re in a big city.
In the near future we want to expand our product line. And in the future we would love to collaborate with like-minded people and brands. We would love to be surrounded by a great group of friends and acquaintances who have started their own initiatives – we can learn so much from each other. Together, we create a ‘culture of making’.
Thanks Aleks and Kim for this interview! Find out more about the duo or order the Weekly Journal on their website . Be sure to follow them on Facebook , Instagram and Pinterest .