Born and raised in East Berlin, the opening of the border changed everything for Jan Pautsch, as it meant in 1991 he was able to move to London to study BA (Hons) Graphic Design at Camberwell. Since graduating Jan has gone on to become an award-winning Digital Creative Director, and a headhunter for Cogs, a global specialist talent consultancy.
We spoke to him about his time at Camberwell, and how he moved from graphic designer to specialist talent consultant.
Why did you choose to study at Camberwell?
I was born and raised in East Berlin. In the last months before the wall came down, I started to study Visual Communication at Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin - an art academy based on the tradition of the Bauhaus. The opening of the border then changed everything for me, and my first and deepest desire was to go to London. For me, London was the epicentre of pop culture but also the origin of my punk and new wave socialization in the East - and it attracted me magically. Since I was very interested in art, Camberwell College of Arts was recommended to me as a school with a strong focus on experimental artistic illustration and a high standard of craftsmanship - a perfect enhancement of my studies. And so I started in September 1991 on the BA (Hons) Graphic Design, supported by a UAL scholarship from the Southwark Council.
What are your fondest memories of College?
I loved the perfectly equipped workshops of the school. I spent all my time there and I realised several large art book projects in printing, bookbinding, and typography. At that time I was fascinated by the mystical poems of William Blake but also by the eccentric imaginations of Lewis Carroll - and my illustrations were interpretations of their works. South London was a rough neighbourhood in the early 90s and my fellow students introduced me to the underground club scene and the first London warehouse rave parties in Camberwell, Peckham and Brixton.
You originally studied Graphic Design. How did you move from Graphics into working at a specialist talent consultancy?
After my diploma and master class of Visual Communication, I studied for one year Fine Arts at NYU in New York and then worked from the mid-nineties as an artist in Berlin. I entered the digital startup and agency scene in the period of the dot-com boom and made a career there over the next 15 years. Design excellence and storytelling were my drivers and my artistic background the perfect basis for a large number of very successful and highly awarded projects. Over time I have held business leadership and executive design positions in big German digital agencies and I led design on complex platform projects for blue-chip clients. Growing into design leadership I developed an interest in how to set up highly efficient teams, how to establish processes that allow design to succeed at scale, how to facilitate a design-driven culture and how to recruit for specialist talent. This interest has opened up an exciting new area for me: talent strategy and headhunting. Currently, I jointly run Cogs Berlin and I’m also the head of their design practice in Germany.
Tell us about Cogs Berlin?
Cogs is a global specialist talent consultancy in the product, design and transformation space with offices in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shenzhen and Berlin. This year we opened another studio in Tokyo. We work with both tech-first and more traditional companies going through digital transformation, working in a variety of industries - always with the mission to help individuals and businesses reach their full potential.
What is your role there?
Together with my business partner Kimberly Bohle I run the Berlin Cogs studio. Because we're both from the digital industry, we have an excellent understanding of the demand for highly specialized transformational senior and executive talent for the German market. Moreover, I see it as my task to build and mentor a team of talent-consultants and providing a framework that supports a creative studio culture - that enables us to explore how we work together and most importantly; making room for learning and having fun. This also includes the implementation of design thinking methods in our recruiting toolset.
What types of talent do you work with to help foster links with companies?
We work across all areas of digital roles: Management & Strategy, Design and Tech. Management Consultancies, Innovation Labs, Agencies and Tech Brands – they all want a wide reach of transformational, business savvy and hybrid talent. Especially in the field of Product Design, our clients are looking for candidates with a specialization in visual- or interaction design as well as an understanding of agile development and UX-strategy/ user research. Due to the fact that the business value of design is increasingly recognised, the role of the designer also changes. As a problem solver, they have to think and work in a holistic, user-centred and strategic business-oriented way - always in close exchange with product management and development.
What changes have you noticed in the needs of clients in Germany and internationally?
With around 500 new tech startups per year, Berlin is Germany's capital for startups. German Fortune 500 brands build innovation labs in Berlin to attract the best talent pool, and internationalisation is growing. There is a noticeable influx of UK talent due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and businesses are very open to it. As Cogs has such a global reach, we have a vast network – relocating candidates from Asia and across Europe – providing an eclectic mix of exciting talent.
Tell us about the current Berlin design network?
The Berlin design and tech community are very international and well organised. There are various formats from meet-ups to festivals and conferences. Recently, for example, I joined a panel with design leads from Berlin venture builders and startups. The theme was: ‘Embrace Variety’, and we gathered young professionals and hometown design heroes at the new Betahaus in Berlin to discuss how globalisation affects UI designs through standards and trends.
What is next for you and Cogs?
Extended Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud and Analytics, Blockchain and Cyber Security - sci-fi visions becoming business factors. Customer-centricity and building a design-driven culture – from product to experience – is a top priority for many companies. And access to a specialist network in a talent-short market is becoming a huge competitive advantage. My team and I are looking forward to keeping our fingers on the pulse of these exciting developments and to further strengthening and rolling Cogs service out across Europe.