Angela Domenici, a ‘Digital Nomad’ in the world of Licensing
Digital Nomads: the definition applies to those professionals able to live and work anywhere in the world, engaged in a variety of business areas, and making the most of the new opportunities offered by technology’s latest development.
All is needed is a computer with an internet connection, a smartphone, electronic payment systems and applications, which allow this professional activity to be free from the confinements of a particular geographical location. In today’s society, Digital Nomads embody a new and flexible working model, which is gradually replacing the traditional working model bound to an office desk and a rigid, pre-defined routine structure.
In Italy, this new working model is not yet quite established; conversly, it is developing fast in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and Northern Europe.
Licensing Italia interviewed Angela Domenici, Art Director and Consultant, a creative pioneer of Digital Nomads with over twenty years of experience in the licensing world (https://www.licensingitalia.it/fornitore-servizio/angeladomenici/).
L.I. What was the main reason that led you many years ago to such an innovative choice?
A.D. Actually, this working modality is one that organically unfolded without a pre-defined direction, and one that was prompted by a love story.
My only resolution at the time was to close down my own company, Lapislapis.
After fifteen years working in the field of music – creating album covers and working as a creative consultant in the entertainment and consumer products world, I decided to move Down Under with my New Zealander partner. I was certain at the time that I could not take my work and my clients with me, and envisaged I had to re-start my career from scratch in the new world.
It was not easy at first in Australia, I was granted a Distinguish Talent Visa for the quality of my work, however I found a lot of resistance from my prospective clients and agencies, who perceived me as as an over-qualified freelancer. I think the peculiarity of my work was part of the issue. I had been collaborating for years with Disney’s global creative team, Mattel, Panini, Ferrari. These big company names of the Entertainment Industry dominated my portfolio and perhaps contributed to intimidate my prospective clients. I should also add that not many global projects are born in Australia, not at that time and not at present, so opportunities have been scarce.
Eventually, I accepted a few job proposals from my old customers back in Italy, who offered me to continue with my consultancy on special ongoing projects. I no longer pursued local work opportunities and focused exclusively on overseas projects.
Over the years, projects and customers have grown and technology has taken quantum leaps, freeing my job from the constraints of an email account and a land line.
This is how I became a Digital Nomad, a label that applies today to a growing number of professionals working this way, envied by many as the new trend. Previously I was just ‘one-that-worked-from-a-distance’. I like the fact that I was able to turn my initial disadvantage into a strength. Is this not the basis of creativity?
L.I. What does it mean for you to be a digital nomad?
A.D. ‘Freedom‘ is the word that firstly comes to mind. I am free to live and work in any part of the world. My only requirement is a good internet connection. Over the years I have been based and worked in New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Bali, Australia. The only requirement for my clients is for them to contact me via email for the first brief. Once they become aware of my current time zone, every step of the job is handled via Skype, WhatsApp, Slack, Dropbox etc. If required, I am always ready to board a plane for a meeting face to face.
Once or twice a year I fly to my clients for an update on their new projects and to experience first hand the latest trends of this part of the world.
My work is no longer confined by geographical boundaries. I can collaborate with any customer anywhere in the world; today’s technology allows it, the only limitation is the human resistance to change. We struggle to leave old habits behind.
L.I. What are the pros and cons of this working model?
A.D. My geographical freedom also extends to my work team; I benefit from the collaboration with the best freelance professionals scattered across the globe.
Depending on the needs and budget of the customer, I gather a team, whose members also benefit from the opportunity to collaborate to global projects from the comfort of their own homes.
We recently finalized a project with a newly opened Theme Park between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Motiongate, where we supplied almost a kilometer of 20-meter high illustrations throughout the area dedicated to Dreamworks and its movies.
The project was conceived in Dubai, supervised by American Dreamworks, managed from Australia, printed in Shariah (the emirate next to Dubai); all team members took part in the project without leaving their desks, respectively in Tuscany, Lombardy and Sardinia. Incredible, right?
On the downside, I obviously do miss the element of human daily interaction, brainstorming together around a table, the vibrancy of a real time discussion, as meetings mostly happen via a screen. I’m bound by different time zones, working days and holidays which vary according to each different country.
I often work after dinner, early in the morning, on Sundays… I no longer have a regular working schedule and I end up making myself always available and reachable. Often this represents an advantage for my customers: I work when they sleeps. If something is urgent, we discuss it in the evening and they find the completed job in their incoming email box the following morning.
L.I. What about the particular world of Licensing, what are the most requested services? Do you work more with Licensors or Licensees?
A.D. It might be just a coincidence, however lately I have been working more on style development guides and creative research and trends, rather than product development, and in this instance the contact is with the Licensor. Often it is the very Licensor who then suggests the Licensee to avail themselves of the services of my creative team, given that the same team is benefitting from the in-depth, already acquired knowledge of the property. Anyhow, having been in this field for almost thirty years, I have worked at all levels, making sure that both Licensor’s and Licensee’s needs are met.
L.I. What is the last licensing project you worked on?
A.D. The last project I completed is a very comprehensive style guide for a production property. An Arabian animation property called Siraj aimed at schoolchildren, highly educational, and commissioned by the Qatar Foundation, a semi-private non-profit organization founded by Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Tani and his wife Moza bint Nasser.
Creativity and drawings of Siraj were the product of the creative mind of Mohammed Saeed Harib and his Dubai production studio Lammatara, CGI was done in Singapore. I managed the style guide project with a very precious collaborator from Sardinia.
The previous project was the new Licensing Style Guide of AC Milan 2017, delivered a few days before the club was sold to China.
L.I. What do you think is the added value of a Digital Nomad for Licensing Clients?
A.D. An advantage not to be underestimated when it comes to professionals working like I do is my opportunity to observe and know what goes on in various market places and countries around the world, their latest fashion and trends, such as the preferences of Australian kids compared to those of Asians or Europeans.
This added knowledge then facilitates the creation of connections that wouldn’t otherwise unfold. A more comprehensive view of what is happening in the world and in the various areas of expertise is definitely a big plus for my clients, who often ask for news or even reports on a particular country’s fashion and habits.
I believe that globalization has not always brought good dividends, even in the case of licensing, and as Seth Godin says: “Trying to please everyone a little is a great way to please most people not at all”. However when it comes to my work as a Digital Nomad I think the advantages definitly outnumber the disadvantages.