For creative professionals juggling graphic design jobs and personal projects, work-life balance can start to feel like a fantasy, but Italian designer Silvia Stella Osella somehow manages to pull it off.
Her schedule is jam-packed with design jobs for brands like Zara, Topshop, Pull&Bear, Mango, and Adidas, working on her own sustainable fashion line, and traveling between Milan and Rome meet with clients. On top of all that, she also teaches a class in Surface and Pattern Design at the IED Turin. Yet, Osella still fits in time to research trends online, go out with friends, and take off into the Alps for a hike.
We asked Osella to share the details of her schedule to give some insight into how you too can make the most out of your hectic work week, even with crazy commutes and about a million different projects on the go.
Name: Silvia Stella Osella
Profession: Textile and surface designer; sustainable fashion startup co-founder
Location: Milan, Italy
How long have you been working in a creative field: 10 years
Online portfolio: silviaosella.com
Ice creams eaten: Countless
Chrome tabs opened: Probably 150
Printed samples received: 7
Hours spent on research: 6
Chrome tabs closed: Hmm… 2?
Designs for Zara.
Day 1: Monday
8 a.m. Morning person? Definitely not me. This is probably the most difficult part of my day as I am very slow when I wake up. I check some news on my phone while I try to roll out of bed, have breakfast—fruit and yoghurt—and get ready.
9:45 a.m. Around this time I usually arrive at my studio—which I share with three awesome guys—biking whenever the weather allows it. We meet up for a quick coffee in a typical Italian torrefazione and chat about the last movie we saw or the newest pizza spots in town.
10 a.m. Since morning, as already mentioned, isn’t the most productive time of the day for me to come up with particularly brilliant creative ideas, this is when I catch up with emails and admin work.
11:30 a.m. I usually have a snack with fresh fruit while I mentally organize the work plan for the day. I start with easier or more urgent tasks and leave the most complicated for the afternoon.
1 p.m. Lunchtime! Me and the other guys sharing the studio gather in our lunch/meeting room and often share home-cooked meals or things bought in the nearby little stores and markets.
2 p.m. I move on to more complex projects, test color ways in my prints, and try to make the most out of my afternoon!
7 p.m. I go to the grocery store to get everything missing to fill up our fridge for the whole week. For fruit and vegetables, I try to stock up at the Saturday market.
9 p.m. I cook dinner with my boyfriend and catch up with the latest Twin Peaks episodes, eating some chocolate on the sofa.
12 p.m. We rarely go to sleep before 1 a.m. I really quickly prepare my bag for my work trip the day after.
At the studio.
Day 2: Tuesday
8:45 a.m. I catch the high speed train that connects Milan to Rome in only 2 hours and 40 minutes. Luckily, I travel a lot, since I also work as a consultant. I get to see many lovely places!
12 p.m. Meetings in the design department of a big printing supplier, where we discuss the next steps to plan the collection. We spend the day seeing the designs printed on different fabrics, and discussing trends and the customers’ latest requests.
8:30 p.m. I meet up with local friends for a drink and something to eat! After having lived in Rome for over three years I enjoy coming back as a tourist, with different eyes, and I love getting to see my friends.
Day 3: Wednesday
8:20 a.m. I have breakfast with a cappuccino and an Italian croissant sitting outside, in one of Rome’s most beautiful areas. I then head back to the company’s office.
9:30 a.m. I choose which designs to develop with the team and check urgent requests from customers looking for prints to fit in their collection. I develop new designs for them or look for archive or vintage prints to re-elaborate to meet their needs, and suggest color combinations and possible fabric options. The team and I discuss the latest catwalks, and what would be interesting to develop for the future.
6:30 p.m. On the train back to Milan! I use this time to check my favorite design blogs and magazines like Milk, Papier Mache, Honestly WTF, and World of Interiors, while catching up with the new albums of my favorite bands.
Day 4: Thursday
10 a.m. Back in my studio. My work requires me to be always up to date for what concerns trends and design in general, and I consider myself very lucky because I get to travel a lot for research trips. But I try to save some time during the week to thoroughly check the main trend platforms, like WGSN, and online magazines and blogs like Pattern Observer and The Impression. This keeps me informed on what’s going on in the fashion and interior design worlds—my main areas of expertise. It also helps me offer my customers fresh and on-trend ideas and color combinations, and advise them on which direction these fields are going.
1 p.m. Lunch at a typical Milanese restaurant nearby (yes, it features red and white checkered tablecloths, just like you’d expect), eating a cotoletta and catching up with some friends. I am super proud of all my talented friends, and in Milan you never stop meeting interesting new people! Lunch is a perfect break to discuss this amazing city’s latest contemporary art shows and restaurant openings.
2 p.m. I prepare mood boards for a new wallpaper collaboration. I especially focus on colors and clear images to most effectively convey to the customer the direction I want to follow. Then I move to the designs I am preparing for a NYC-based yoga apparel brand that produces garments made out of recycled bottles. How cool is that?
7 p.m. I run home, eat something quickly, and start a conference call on Skype with the other two co-founders of our sustainable fashion start-up, a brand called Iluut. Elina lives in Helsinki, Vj in London. We are super proud of it because we started it all by ourselves, and we work on this project from three different European cities during our free time. It was made possible with the help of many incredible people who financed our crowdfunding campaign.
Day 5: Friday
9 a.m. I receive new design briefs for children’s wear and patterns for packaging. I just love how varied my work can be! Then I prepare some new material for next week’s Pattern Design for Illustrators and Graphic Designers course I teach at IED, the Istituto Europeo di Design.
12:30 p.m. I sometimes like to hop on a tram, a typical Milanese cable car (I love the old wooden ones!), and cross the city to meet my boyfriend Flavio for lunch. We usually grab something quick to eat, like a piadina (an Italian flatbread stuffed with different ingredients), and go for a walk in the park, deciding our next destination. We have a slight obsession for travelling as much as we can. Oh, and gelato often comes next.
2 p.m. I meet with one of my customers. We discuss which color palette to choose for her spring/summer collection based on the reports I sent her a week ago.
7:30 p.m. A glass of wine is another great option to meet with friends. And in Italy this means it could easily turn into a dinner. We don’t like to plan much—improvising always sounds better.
10:30 p.m. Even if it is a last-minute decision, a good movie at the cinema is never a bad idea.
Day 6: Saturday
10:30 a.m. Sleep in? Definitely. Breakfast sitting outside at the nearby bakery/cafe, and off to the farmers market to shop for groceries.
4 p.m. Working a bit on Iluut. Choosing sustainable fabrics for our next collection, writing to innovative fiber suppliers to arrange meetings, and preparing some graphics for our Instagram channel. Then, off to the park with our bikes!
Day 7: Sunday
We often like to take some time off from the city. Milan is pretty close to the beautiful Alps, and many other interesting spots to explore for the whole weekend, or even just for a day trip! Today we go for a hike up in the mountains, enjoying the fresh air and lovely scenery we are so lucky to have so close to us.
Left: Silvia Stella Osella. Right: Wallpaper design for Wall&Deco.