Ever meet someone who seemed to just do it all? Anne S. Ditmeyer is a globe-trotting designer, travel expert, blogger and communications consultant based in Paris whose blog Pret-a-voyager brings you the best in new hot spots, food and drink, travel apps, digital and product design and more. We caught up with Anne for a glimpse at how she turns her travel experiences into beautiful visual work.
What came first? Blogging? Travel? Design?
First there was travel. I grew up in a family where we traveled at least twice a year. I always thought travel was the norm, and then I met a girl in middle school who had never been on an airplane. That was so foreign to me. Then came design. I always enjoyed visual culture. I was really shy growing up and I think photography helped me break out of my shell. I didn’t really know what design was, but I still remember my first trip to Paris as a junior in high school and discovered how smart design can be through posters in the metro (they were a bit more clever and less commercial back in the day). Last came blogging as a way for me to record my experiences and share them with others.
I’m particularly interested in the way your design work renders travel. It almost seems like you are able to distill the essential aesthetic elements of travel and make them into something playful, eye-catching and informative. Can you talk about your creative process?
For some people their blog is a perfectly curated version of their life. For me, I see it as a playground and excuse to experiment with different tools and mediums, whether it be using a stylus and Wacom tablet or making a video with my iPhone and editing it in PhotoshopCS6. Storytelling is really important in what I do these days because so much of the internet is fluff and doesn’t credit the author. I love the process of clicking through links and discovering new people and places. I sometimes thing people don’t realize how resourceful you can be with these tools of social media. It’s like I’m a detective. Sharing is also really important. I think one of my missions that has emerged in the past year is to celebrate creatives in Paris, and around the world. I love the feeling of excitement when I discover new work. I realize I could get a lot more likes and followers on Instagram if I only posted clichés of Paris, but that’s not what interests me. I’m interested in framing and connectivity as I share my stories. I like to document everything – particularly metro posters and cool type – as I never know how it is going to inspire me later.
I keep a running list of interesting places and people in an iPhone note. I also am always jotting down notes in a Moleskine. I like the idea of revisiting “the archives” when I’m struggling through a creative problem. In this day and age there is a lot of temptation to always have to be in front of the computer to feel like we’re working, but my best ideas come from swimming in the pool (do I have stories!), walking through the hallways of the metro, or exploring a new neighborhood.
When did you first start Prêt à Voyager, how has it evolved over the years, and how has it informed your other visual work?
I started Prêt à Voyager on Bastille Day 2007 when I was living in Baltimore. Coming up with the name was the hardest part, but the idea “ready to travel” still applies, so I’m pleased. At the time I had recently discovered design blogs (like Design*Sponge – who I’ve been a contributing editor for nearly 6 years – Print & Pattern, and SFGirlbybay) and started to see there was a community forming around sites like these and wanted to be a part of it. My immediate thought was to do city guides because I love travel, but D*S had already started those. Ultimately I decided I just had to do it. My focus has always been the intersection of design and travel, showcasing the projects that I find the most interesting. Blogging has come a long way since I started. Back then it felt like people “in the know” (but not in an exclusive kind of way); now it feels like everyone has a blog. The quality overall is way higher than before, but it also takes a significant amount of time. I’m fortunate that my blog has become a version of my business card and leads to most of my work these days, or at least legitimates me. I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to, but spend more time on twitter and instagram. I’ve created pages on my blog for those visiting Paris or looking to live in France. So much information lives on blogs it’s important to continue to make it accessible in a way that’s not necessarily linear.
What is your favorite medium to design for and why?
How I define myself as a designer is constantly in flux. These days I like to think of myself as a communications designer. I like to design things that are pleasing to the eye, yet highly functional. I honestly like to take what would be really boring information and make it more engaging. I did this for standard production documents for a client in New York (who constantly gets complimented on them), and designed a flow chart to help with proposals and contracts for my Designer/Entrepreneur students at Parsons Paris. I tend to create documents that work both for web or for print. The internet is convenient, but I myself am addicted to printed books. I’ve been inspired by the work of Edward Tufte and Ellen Lupton, both who have their own way of making design functional, communicative and accessible.
What is next for Anne? Any new projects, ideas, goals?
I feel like I’m in a good place where everything I’m working on is playing into something bigger. Whatever that is is still a pipe dream, but I like having ideas and something to work towards. Unfortunately, the creative industries tend to be under valued, so I’m continually looking for ways to do what I love while still making a living. I’m hoping in the new year Studio/Practice will launch. It’s a project I’ve been working on for over a year with a friend in New York that is a curated library of tips + tools for creative business. My goal is to help other creatives properly value themselves as well. I also have been loving teaching (I teach Map Design and InDesign on Skillshare), and hope to continue with that, as I learn so much from my students. Teaching undergrads this fall has also been an eye opening experience. I’d also love to spend more time writing next year that is more long form. I have so many ideas in my head, the challenge is to find the time to get them out. Two and a half years after I started running my own freelance business I finally feel like I have my bearings, so I hope there’s more travel to come too. For now I know I’ll be in London in May to speak at Blogtacular. I think conferences and workshops are the next generation of blogging – getting together and connecting in a physical place while sharing your ideas. Funny, that sounds a bit like school…