Tina Roth Eisenberg: The best way to complain is to make things.

My job is “sitting behind a computer and laugh.” Tina Roth Eisenberg, also known as ‘swissmiss’, explains her principles how to live a happy and fulfilled work and personal life – filled with confetti, good people and the intent, to make things better. Her talk is a mix of advise from the heart, case studies and great stories of how she became an equally happy and successful person.

After the “best intro I ever got” by her first twitter date Erik Spiekermann, Tina Roth Eisenberg, steps on stage very comfortably. You can tell she has fun right away and is an experienced speaker on stage. Tina moved to New York 16 years ago, for an internship, but the three month in Big Apple turned into basically forever.

Two old friends – speaker Tina and host Erik. © Norman Posselt (Monotype)

Her presentation starts off with an image her daughter drew and the story of how she almost could not make it to the conference. Shortly before leaving her apartment in Brooklyn to get to the airport, she realized that her green card just had expired 10 days prior, so she had to try to get the card extended at the immigration office within one day. Nearly impossible.
“I had to charm my way through the immigration office to getting the stamp for my green card, but then the registration officer asked me, ‘What do you do?’, and I had to pause and think about it.”

As a graphic designer, blogger, manager, boss, office mate and mother, Tina not just has one job, but lots of “Labors of Love”, as she calls it. When asking her daughter at their weekly mom and daughter dinner, what the eight year old would say her mother does for a living, she replied: “You sit behind a computer and laugh” and “ Isn’t that the point?”. Tina expresses her joy for these words, because this is what she is also trying to teach her two children; to create and work for something, that makes you happy.

During the last 10 years she has been working on different projects: She opened her first design studio in 2008 on the day her daughter was born, her blog swissmiss is incredibly successful, she is also founder of Creative Mornings (which she was attending in Berlin today) and Tattly. She created TeuxDeux and runs a co-working space in Brooklyn since over six and a half years. On the day her son was born, she decided to not work for clients anymore.
After telling the audience all of this, she pauses with a GIF of Marty McFly’s confused looking face from a scene in the film ’Back to the Future’.
She said, most of that was possible, because of her kids, whom she loveably refers to as “kick in the pants” (when it comes to re-evaluating her life and career).

Telling all of these stages of her life, she is clear about, that in her opinion, being a boss makes you a better mom, being a mom makes you a better boss. Following, Tina starts sharing seven points of advise, that helped her to be the boss (and I guess mom) that she is, and how she creates her and her colleagues work environment.

1. Don’t complain, make it better.

Tina started working from home, like lots of freelancers do. As this got boring and a bit lonely after a couple of month, she started renting a desk at different companies – but that didn’t really work for her. People just don’t rent out desk to connect with people, but to compensate the office rent. This was not a place she felt good and motivated in, so rather then to complain about it, she started her first co-working space ‘Studio Mates’ near the east river in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Now she was surrounded by like minded people, who she said, inspired her to most of the projects that she started in her career.

‘Studio Mates’ existed for eight years, and had up to 60 people in the space. But it had to be closed. Tina re-evaluated, because an end of one thing, can mean the beginning of a new thing. 60 people in the space got a bit large, so she scaled down to 30. Two weeks after ‘Studio Mates’ was closed down, she got a call from a landlord of the space ’Invisible Dog’ in Boerum Hill, for a studio space she could have, that was not even on the market yet.
The new space was found, or it rather found her.
In the new space, that she started renovating in February 2015, Tina is surrounded by not just great office mates, but also by lots of other artists and creative folks, like Jon Burgerman, who is also talking at Typo this year. In April “Friends work here” opened. Tina makes clear, that the community that you do surround yourself with, has a high influence on you, and that you should clearly choose the people that you work or hang out with.

2. Always push to be better.

The logo of “Friends work here” is a pineapple. The pineapple stands for hospitality, so she bought a fake one, to bring to the office. One morning, on the way there, she went into a grocery store to grab snacks for the team, putting the foods down on the counter, even the pineapple. She couldn’t get her wallet out with the fake fruit in her arm. While Tina was searching her bag, the cashier already charged and packed her shopping, including the fake pineapple.
The shop owner had charged her six bucks. While she explained that the pineapple was fake, she thought about just grabbing a real one, as she had paid for one already. But there were no pineapples in the store.
The guy, further refered to as the pineapple guy, did not even apologize. He had charged six dollars, for something that didn’t even exist. That dude was just wanting to make his money. He was just thinking about what is below the bottom line at the end of his day. Tina says: “We need to run businesses, were we don’t just think about the bottom line. Don’t be the pineapple guy!”
(Editors note: Tina uses images of this scene in her presentation, that she re-enacted with the original pineapple guy. He calls her pineapple lady now.)

“Don’t be the pineapple guy!”. © Gerhard Kassner (Monotype)

3. Start from the heart.

During the renovations of the new studio space, she hired a new studio manager, Hayley. “It was the best thing that happened to me”, she looks back. Every morning, the two spent together on the building side, to manage the construction. The builders told them, to not get any materials until they were told to, because of the lack of storage space, but suddenly, they needed to organize 35 lamps. Her studio manager Hayley just said: ”I get this”. For Tina, the best sentence she ever heard. One hour later Hayley bought and transported 35 lights to the construction side, in her tiny car. She gives it all, and loves it.

4. Yes means yes: Think before saying “yes” because saying yes means an unwavering commitment to deliver and figure shit out.

In 2008 she started Creative Mornings, a creative 20 minute talk that takes place once a month. She never intended to grow Creative Mornings, but in 2010 she hired Kevin Huynh “to grow this thing”. He put his leadership head on and grew the event from three to 112 chapters – Berlin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oslo, Warsaw, Lima, Bangalore, Seattle, Paris, Oakland, Atlanta and many more. The dots on the Creative Mornings map keep multiplying. Creative Mornings still grows by three to four chapters a month.
Tina explains, that if you give smart, intelligent people trust and let them go – they will over deliver. Trust breeds magic.
Creative Mornings is visited by between three and 800 people – 787 was the biggest one so far with a talk by Paula Scher. Tina makes clear: ”Real connections are not made behind a screen”. As the talks get bigger and bigger, Tina and her team created the Field Trips – a workshop concept, that puts people on the Creative Mornings waiting list in workshops that run while the event is on. Tina’s team committed to this idea, they said “Yes” and this commitment is the driver to make things happen for them.

TYPO-Berlin-15-05-21-Norman-Posselt-Monotype-0040Trust breeds magic. © Norman Posselt (Monotype)

5. Flip it: enthusiastically embrace every challenge as an opportunity.

Here, Tina talks about generosity – she thinks about her mom. “Generosity is like a muscle”, she says, “that can grow, and that you can train”. “There is not much you can lose when you are a generous person”, Tina continues. She runs her company with that thought in mind. All artworks for Tattly are licensed really highly for the artists. Also the artist or illustrator is celebrated on the website and on the packaging.
Creative Mornings “in its nature is generosity on steroids.” Illustrators, organizers and hosts are high lighted on newsletters and online.
A big part of her day is also meeting students and young creatives. (Editors note: She here refers to the book “Give and Take” by Adam Grant) She remembers her start in New York as a young designer. She wanted to work and just needed someone to give her a job and a change. Someone did, and she wants to give it back. She ends this with a quote by Kevin Spacey: ”If you have done well in whatever business you are in, it is your duty to send the elevator back down.”

6. Shine the light.

So, with all the fun she has in her job, with those great people around, does she actually get her work done? Yes, she gets a lot done, but fun is a big part of her environment. As her Halloween ‘Bacon’ costume came late she wore it at a Creative Morning presentation.

In her office, the prop box is essential, “because sometimes you just need a viking helmet to answer a difficult mail.” You can find GPS coordinates to the studio on the support page in case you need to send carrier pigeons. None has arrived yet though. The Creative Morning website can be filtered by color and by participating singles! Tina and her team have a growth chart in the office – a wall that actually captures the height of each employee, so investors can have a look at it.
And last but not least, there is a big, giant draw full of confetti.

7. Keep it light.

Have fun!

Tina ends her talk by telling us, what she still and constantly thinks about: what it means to be a good mom and a good boss and how to create a great working environment. She wants to measure successes by the happiness that surrounds her, not by numbers and growth. She is a firm believer, that we all can make a huge impact on society, by being generous and happy human beings that can influence our community in a positive way. And we all should do that.

Start by just emptying out your desk draw and filling it with confetti!

Tina Eisenberg

Tina Roth Eisenberg

Graphic Designer, Entrepreneur (New York)

Tina Roth Eisenberg is a New York based, Swiss born and raised graphic designer. Over the past nine years she started numerous side projects that have organically turned into businesses: a collaborative co-working space called FRIENDS, a global, monthly lecture series called CreativeMornings, a simple to-do app called TeuxDeux and Tattly, a designer temporary tattoo shop. Tina is often referred to as Swissmiss after her popular design blog which is also the name of her Twitter handle. Photo: Amber Gregory