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Q + A with designer Emelie Cheng Pollard

June 13, 2021

Emelie! We met back in 2001 (agh!) whilst on a university exchange programme to Parsons School of Design in New York City. You were on exchange from Emily Carr in Canada if my memory is right? But I'm sure that graphic design was your second degree? Can you tell our readers a little bit about your background and how you ended up in the inspiring city of Stockholm working as a graphic designer?

Hi Laura! Wow, 2001. That seems forever ago, but then again sometimes not at all! I'm actually really impressed with your memory. Indeed, I first did an undergraduate degree in Economics, but instead of going on to pursue an MBA like most people in my class, instead I decided to study design at Emily Carr in Vancouver. In my third year there, I went on exchange to Parsons, which is where we met. And like you, that semester at Parsons defined so much of the years that followed! Firstly because it was my introduction to NYC, which I fell in love with in a big way. I knew immediately that I needed to find a way to get back there as soon as possible after finishing my degree. Luckily while at Parsons, I did an internship at a small design studio which not only turned out to be a fantastic practical experience, but ended up giving me my first job offer, allowing me to return to New York directly after graduation. Those first few years in New York were exciting, exhilarating, and intense. It was exactly what I had hoped for and I learned so much, but after awhile, I also yearned to travel – something that is really difficult to do within the American work norm of 2- weeks vacation per year, which basically allowed me to go home to Canada for Christmas with my family, but not much more. I grew up with travel as a major part of my life, and it continues to be one of my biggest passions. Since I couldn't ignore that feeling, the only way to make it happen was to quit my job and take off for a few months. I had no plan at that point except to satisfy my wanderlust as far as my budget would take me, and then see what happened. So I spent 3 months traveling alone in Southeast Asia, and as it so happened, met a Swedish guy while trekking up a mountain in Borneo. I eventually left New York to pursue that relationship, but also my other longtime wish – to experience living in Europe. As a designer who has always admired the Scandinavian design sensibility, I knew that moving to Sweden would be interesting professionally as well. And here I am in Stockholm, 14 years later! 

Do you have a dream client you'd love to work with?
I don't have a specific dream client, but I do know that my main goal in the next phase of my career is to try to work with individuals and organizations that truly reflect my personal interests as much as possible: the arts, culture, travel, food, kids, wellness. Even though it's such a catchphrase these days, I really want to work with clients that are genuinely purpose-driven. 
It would also be interesting to go beyond my current areas of expertise, to see how my skills could contribute towards efforts in more cause-related initiatives, such as environmental and social justice. 

Travel is a big passion of yours, but obviously that's a lot harder to do just now so have you discovered any new places in Sweden this summer that you'd like to share?
Yes! With much of our family in North America, our summers are almost always spent visiting Canada or the US because it's the time of year when most businesses in Sweden shut down and longer vacations are possible. But this year, without the possibility of international travel, we finally started really exploring Sweden. We spent some time in the Stockholm archipelago, which is so beautiful. We were lucky to be able to stay with friends who also have a boat, which is ideal for exploring the islands – and there are 30,000 of them! We also took a short road trip to Höga Kusten (the High Coast), in the northeastern part of Sweden, which was a first for us. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its dramatic coastal mountains and beautiful seascapes, definitely inspired to go back and explore it more. And then in August we spent a couple of weeks in Småland in southern Sweden, the area where my husband grew up. This is basically the land of Pippi Longstocking – picturesque farmland, lakes, and forest. It turned out to be a really lovely summer overall – having experienced various different geographies –  archipelago life, coastal mountains, and idyllic countryside. There are plenty of other parts of Sweden which I have yet to visit– but I must say that after this summer, I'm definitely inspired to explore more! This must be at least one of the silver linings to this whole pandemic situation – people discovering that you don't actually have to go that far from home to have great travel experiences.

For when we can travel again (I remain an optimist!) can you recommend a couple of must see Stockholm sights?
I always recommend a visit to Djurgården – a beautiful island in central Stockholm which is home to forests, meadows, and walking trails as well as many museums. The Vasa Museum, Skansen open air museum, and Rosendals Trädgård are among my personal favourite destinations there. Gamla Stan, the old town, is very touristy but still worth a visit, and is especially charming if you explore the many small back alleys away from the main tourist roads. In the summer, a trip out to the Stockholm archipelago is also worthwhile – even to a nearby destination like Vaxholm, which gives you a real sense of the city's unique geography, being a collection of islands with access to water everywhere.
How about the best breakfast place in town?
When I first moved to Stockholm, a real brunch was hard to come by – but the concept has since really caught on, and now it's almost impossible to keep up with the new breakfast places that have opened in the last few years! But two of my go-to favourites are Greasy Spoon and Pom & Flora – both in my neighbourhood, Södermalm.

Over here in the UK, like many other countries, we've had months of full on lockdown which has made many of us re-examine our living spaces in finer detail. Have you got a favourite room to relax in at home and if so, what makes that space so special to you?
My favourite room is actually the kitchen, for a few different reasons. First and most importantly, it's the sunniest room in the apartment, and where there is abundant natural light is where I feel the happiest. I also love to cook, which I guess also counts as a form of relaxation! Sitting in the sunshine on a quiet weekend morning before everyone else wakes up, with a book and a pot of tea and the french balcony door wide open – is one of my favourite ways to relax at home.

Finally, can you recommend a podcast to us and our subscribers?
Even though it's been around for awhile, I only recently discovered  "Call your girlfriend" – which is a weekly dialogue between two best friends who live on opposite coasts – LA and Brooklyn. They discuss everything including politics, pop culture, relationships, work life, and everything in between – and they're unapologetically honest, opinionated, and also really funny. I appreciate their support of female and minority voices, and the way they can have equally intelligent and entertaining discussions regardless if they're talking about the latest Netflix series, how to do your taxes, or body image. But I think I relate to it especially because it reminds me of so many of my own long-distance friendships, and those ongoing conversations which have been such an important part of my life – and continue to be more than ever now, when we are more physically distant from our social circles than usual. 


To see more of Emelie's work, visit her website or visit her Instagram account @smallnomads where she shares an insight into her travels and life in Sweden with her family.

Please note for accuracy purposes that this interview was made during the summer of 2020.


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