Interview with Carsten Glock

When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment. Drawing floorplans of huge buildings when I was six or seven is probably one of my first creative memories, but back then I didn’t really know what a designer was.

I think the creativity is something that lives inside you. It’s more than the physical act of designing – it’s about understanding how you approach challenges and a mindset that guides your approach to life. And in hindsight, I can see that I had this from a very early age.

How did you get started? What was the biggest obstacle?

I was my own biggest obstacle for a long time. It took a lot of trial and error to figure out what was right for my skillset – architect, photographer, designer – which is even more difficult when you don’t know what jobs are out there.

When I was starting out there was no Google. We had to go to the Job Centre, sit down with someone and try to figure out what role would be the best fit based on their knowledge and experience. Most of the time I was told to become an engineer or architect, but neither felt quite right.

It took over 10 years for me to find myself a role that properly fits my personality and skillset, so I’d caution against trusting one person to give you all the answers. You need to know yourself and trust your gut to overcome your obstacles and reach the path meant for you.

What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?

Connections. When I first started out, I would look at the disciplines I wanted to explore and seek out the right partners to get me there. You need to place yourself in the environment you want to be in, but to become a creator in that environment – and keep those clients – you need to gain their trust. At the end of the day, it’s a relationship. The right skills are necessary, but a strong connection will be the ultimate deciding factor for any new client.

How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?

Again, connections are the crux. Skirting around issues may sometimes work in the short-term, but for long-term success there needs to be a consistent exchange of honest, constructive, and compassionate feedback.

It’s something we heavily advocate at GLOCK, and I think it’s one of the main reasons we are now celebrating client relationships that have withstood 17 years.  There’s a foundation of trust and mutual respect that allows us to have the conversations that will produce the best work.

Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?

Of course! That’s just part of the business world and usually we can flex around it as most of our clients are on retainers, with payment terms of up to six months.

We run a pretty conservative business model which gives us the solidity to withstand drier periods. It’s about balance, not sacrifice, and has meant we’ve never found ourselves close to being desperate, even when the economy has been tough.

What does your typical work day look like?

Through many years of trying to do everything, I’ve recently been putting my energy into ensuring my days are streamlined and the wellbeing of me and my family are prioritised.

I usually get up around 5am to spend as much time with my two sons before school and work kick off. I do the school run every day and refuse to let anything disrupt this time.

Once they’re dropped off, I’ll head to the office – or my personal studio – and make a start on my priorities for the day. I try to keep things flexible, so do my best to keep this list as short as possible to work around the many meetings I have with clients and staff during the day.

An hour per day of either exercise or meditation is another non-negotiable, it’s necessary for my mental and physical wellbeing and means I can keep my head above the craziness.

In the evening we do our best to avoid routine, but just spend time together as a family. Once I’ve picked the kids up from school, we’ll cook, play games, or just hang out – it really is some of the most special time.

Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give to the readers at This Design Life?

Don’t overplan. It might sound counter-intuitive, but these days it’s so easy to have a picture of where you want to end up and fixate on how to get there.

Learn from others, keep an open mind and enjoy the journey – it will teach you a hell of a lot and may lead you somewhere you never would’ve expected.

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Carsten Glock

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Carsten is the founder and chief creative officer of interdisciplinary creative agency GLOCK. Since starting the agency in 2006, Carsten has worked with some of the world’s leading brands, including Bombay Sapphire, Revlon and Burt’s Bees.

Starting his career in his native Germany, Carsten has worked in a range of disciplines, from animation to photography, and positioning to pack, and quickly realised the value of being surrounded by a team of experts and specialists.

This became the catalyst for creating GLOCK, an agency of curious and conceptual strategic thinkers communicating through design.

Interview published on: Sep 21, 2023

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