Designers / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Michele Verzè, Head of Design at The Idea Shed

Michele Verzè is the Head of Design at The Idea Shed, a multi-media agency, where he manages a team and provides guidance on the art and design direction.

This conversation is sponsored by graphic design platform Canva. Empowering millions of people around the world to design.

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

Born and raised in small town in Northern Italy, after school I dived into the advertising world and started my career in a multi-media agency in Verona as junior art-director, working with national and international clients.

This provided a great learning curve that allowed me to move to Australia in 2013. At 23 I arrived in Sydney without a network or a job and very little English.

I began to work as designer freelance in medium sized studios and agencies and by 2015 I landed a role as mid-weight designer at Saatchi&Saatchi Sydney. Working in this environment surrounded by tremendous talent helped me craft my skills and create a vision for my career.

Since November 2019, I’ve been working at The Idea Shed a multi-media agency, as Head of Design. Our clients work across FMCG, beverage, pharmaceutical and many other industries. I am able to guide the art and design direction of the company as well as manage my small team and facilitate their growth.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Well I joined the 5am club so my morning is characterised by an early awake followed by exercise and a sunrise walk by Manly beach.

I’ve recently incorporated a 15 minutes meditation practice into my morning routine and then I’ll get ready for work.

Few podcasts later I’ll get to my 8.30am black coffee.

The ritual will also involve a 15 minutes read of news on my computer. I’ll never miss this.

And then the work day starts by checking and reply to a few emails. With the Design/studio manager, we’ll read and review some of the briefs for the day, to classify them in terms of priority, creative potential and opportunities.

I work closely with Account Service, the CCD and the other departments because it’s all about trying to get everyone involved and up to speed. This facilities communication and the quality of the work.

At the agency we are constantly pursuing for the best creative outcome and opportunities. However, meetings and creative presentation with clients are part of the daily flow.

And then the day ends. I don’t leave at specific time, but whenever I’m done.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

My work definitely allows flexible working and remote working. And I’m pleased that this is an option and an opportunity for the employees to create more work life balance for themselves.

Although I’m a bit ‘old-school’ and love face-to-face interactions, so at the moment I work physically at the agency 5 days out of 5. I won’t exclude in the next future to implement the ‘flexible’ philosophy in my week’s routine.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance to me means being in control. Means that I don’t have to feel guilty or stressed if I leave on time, or I don’t check my emails on Sundays.

It also means coming into the office with a positive attitude and a smile and leaving with the same feeling at night. If my work-life balance is good, I won’t dread Mondays. And honestly, I don’t.

I tried to be competitive, so I trained myself over the years on being even more productive and fast. Aiming to deliver, and sometimes deliver a bit more, in time.

So, when I leave my desk at night, I don’t feel guilty or worried that something hasn’t been done or addressed.

Furthermore, I limit, when possible to take work home. I believe in a clean break, between office and home.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

I’ve limited the use of my phone. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning until the time I go to sleep. By the time I wake up, I don’t check my phone until I’m on the bus on my way to work. It’ll also be in airplane mode, one hour before bed.

Luckily, my job doesn’t depends entirely on phone communication, so often, during the day I leave it in my bag. That allows less distractions and enhance my productivity. This is a skill that I firmly believe, and apply in my day.

Another habit I tried to cultivate is being proactive. I started long ago to share my thoughts, my ideas or suggestions without my internal restrictions. I don’t often wait for the right time, I make the right time. I guess I can say that helped a bit in my career.

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

  • 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan P. Most of the rules are basic life notions I might had forgot, but they’re always good to read as reminder.
  • Out of One Thing Comes Another by Bruno Munari. Open my mind when I was a teenager. Not everyone has be a creative genius to be a creator.
  • Steal Like an Artist Book by Austin Kleon. Easy read but still original.

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I’ll try to have the least distractions, and avoid gaps of time. I like to complete big tasks as much as I like to complete small ones.

So, when I’ve a slow-down moment, I’ll try to find something to do and fill that gap. That helps me to be productive and achieve something and tops up my intrinsic motivation.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I love soccer, and maybe I sound mainstream, but it would be about Cristiano Ronaldo. He came from literally nothing, became one of the best in his field, thanks to his mindset, dedication and hard work, on and off the field. His story fascinates me.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I believe there isn’t a written formula. Like many other things in life, everyone should find their own template for work-life balance. Try, experiment, whatever works for you and makes you happy. Do it.


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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.