South by Southwest brings endless talent to Austin for University of Texas at Austin students to enjoy right in their backyard. SXSW is also an excellent opportunity for Austin students to showcase their talents to thousands exploring the city. This year, 18 third-year design students from UT utilized SXSW as a way to showcase their designs and sell handmade memorabilia around the city. These students are each part of a student-run, faculty-led design agency called “wkrm design.” Though wkrm is less than a year old, it offers an unusual and rewarding experience for the design students participating, especially during the week of SXSW.
Story By Rebecca Sostek
Photos by Natalie Campbell
Specifically for the festival, wkrm decided to design and build a mobile pop-up booth to travel around Austin and sell eight different, student-made products. Only a month before the start of SXSW, 16 students were paired and tasked with creating one product to sell from the mobile pop-up cart. Each pair’s product presentations were due on February 10, leaving them only one month to create 20 of each product to sell on the wkrm cart.
Natalie Campbell, a design student and co-founder of the agency, sees the benefits of a hands-on experience like wkrm. “This is doing something for real life versus doing something that’s just hypothetical,” Campbell says. “It’s an awesome experience. Another student in the agency, Nicholas Osella, says that the agency serves almost as an internship. “These are supposed to be portfolio pieces as well, that’s what I think I am getting most from it all,” he says. Though students in the agency work with clients as they would in an internship, wkrm is listed as a studio class at UT that is open to all majors.
Co-founder Jac Jeungst, further highlights the real life experiences that wkrm gives its students. “It differs from a typical design class in that we have to work within a budget, and we had to pitch our idea to the class in order to then execute our projects within that budget,” Jeungst says. The agency also gives students an unusual amount of autonomy. “You do not get to work on what you want in a typical design class, but in this studio, you do,” Jeungst says. Being a relatively new class, the agency has gone through much iteration. However, after much guidance from agency director Jiwon Park and extensive time spent in the studio, wkrm’s SXSW pop-up booth is experiencing its first successful week in Austin. The booth traveled around Austin from March 13 to 17.
Campbell, Osella and Jeungst were in charge of building the pop-up cart from scratch. Designing the portable booth was a new experience for each of them. “We had to consider branding, how everything could fit, how it could be biked around easily, and many other different factors,” Campbell says, “I had never even worked in a woodshop before.”
In addition to building the booth, the three students are also selling a product. No one in wkrm, however, has only been working on their own SXSW product. Each designer has also created a unique graphic design for a SXSW music artist, both on top of their work for wkrm clientele and regular college schoolwork. “There is a lot going on for each of us,” Campbell says. “Time management is key.”
Austin Linkinhoker and Haley Williams were in charge of promoting the wkrm brand before its first appearance at SXSW. Because the student-run agency is on a strict budget, they have utilized social media to promote the cart. “We have Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat,” Linkinhoker says. “If you find us in Austin, send us a Snapchat or tag us on Instagram and we will select a winner to get free products that we produced.” Those who tagged wkrm design in a photo on Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat were entered in a raffle to win a wrkm design product. There was an interactive map of the booth’s location on wkrm’s pop-up website, popup.wkrmdesign.com, and regular updates on the agency’s Instagram account, wkrmdesign.
Aside from social media and the cart itself, wkrm created stickers and posters to promote its brand and its SXSW pop-up project. The graphics created by each student were inspired by a musical act, band or song who performed at SXSW. The designs were turned into wearable buttons and helped further promote the agency and its work.
Students in wkrm are appreciative of the hectic experience. “We’re all really tight-knit now,” Campbell says. “Doing all of this in a month, plus creating products too has been insane, but a really awesome, real-life experience.” The agency is open to all juniors at UT, regardless of major. If the wkrm pop-up shop is successful, they hope to return to SXSW in future years. Eight products were sold on the pop-up cart last week.
Here’s are some of the products from the SXSW wkrm pop-up cart:
Austin Maze Flasks
Designers: Brianna Graves, Maddie George
Upon thinking of things that would sell well at SXSW, designers Graves and George thought of alcohol. They created a flask wrapped in a maze-like design made of wood. In designing their product, they wanted to create something that would allow buyers to always find their way back to Austin.
Austin Multi-Purpose Magnets
Designers: Whitney Chen, Joel Weber
Chen and Weber created a set of magnets that celebrate Austin. The collectible Austin magnets also double as pins, so they can be put on the fridge or worn to a show. Each pin is a laser cut design of different places or activities around Austin. The set of six pins also comes in a small collectible tin.
Keep Austin Beer’d
Designers: Judy Oh, Hillary Henrici
Keep Austin Beer’d is a set of six coasters that profile different local Austin beers. These beer coasters are laser cut with a stylized label of six different beers from Austin on one side. There is a distinctive design of the Texas State Capitol’s ceiling laser cut into the other side of the coaster.
The Taco Lover’s Dozen
Designers: Emily Jarvis, Jenny Seh
The Taco Lover’s Dozen is a taco guidebook, which features the 12 best tacos in Austin. Each page features a picture of the taco, where to find it and its ingredients. For double the fun, each page can be torn out and sent to a friend as a postcard. Plus, this handy book comes wrapped in foil-like paper, so readers can feel like they’re getting ready to chow down.
Designers: Nora Greene, Nicholas Osella
Greene and Osella’s product includes two vials packaged in a laser cut box. One vial is filled with bits of Austin keepsakes, such as water from Barton Springs, red marble from the Capitol or confetti made from posters and stickers found at local Austin spots. The second vial is empty so that users can fill it with their own keepsakes. The box is meant to be a precious keepsake to help commemorate popular landmarks in Austin.
CD Music Map
Designers: Moses Lee, Jac Jeungst
Lee and Jeungst designed a map of major Austin music venues open for SXSW. The map shows each venue’s location and details about how to find it. The map is packaged in a CD case, to commemorate the SXSW music experience.
My Fest Friend
Designers: Natalie Campbell, Denise Zaldivar
My Fest Friend is a festival essential. The product fits around one’s arm and has the function of a wallet. The packaging comes with a humorous instruction pamphlet to help users get the most out of their “My Fest Friend.” Campbell and Zaldivar’s product provides a safe way for SXSW goers to carry their belongings without using a bag.