Tell us your background and how you got into graphic design.
Initially I wanted to be an architect but soon I realised I wasn’t good enough in math. I’m also bored too quickly to be able to work on the same project for several months/years. I started as an illustrator, but as the son of an illustrator I was constantly compared to him which was kind of annoying because he is better than I am…
I did the opposite of what most designers do: first I worked for 16 years as a freelance graphic designer mainly in the cultural sector to then join a big studio. In 2010, I started working at Base Design as a Senior Designer, became Design Director, then Creative Director and am now again Design Director.
Collaborating with people from other domains or designers with different interests has enriched me and my work. I have this naïve aspiration to make the world better through design. Working at Base has given me the opportunity to work on projects on a more global scale, maybe a bit less edgy but certainly reaching a broader audience.
What is your role as a Design Director at Base?
As Design Director I am responsible for the final output of the Brussels studio in terms of design. This being said, it doesn’t mean I have an input to each project. Base has a great team of designers who can perfectly handle their work without me, but if a project is stuck I’m there to help. I also teach, guide, show references.
Actually 80% of my time, I’m a designer working on my projects.
Would you say you’re less hands on as a director than being a “regular” designer?
Yes and no. As said, most projects don’t need my help, my input can go from ‘nothing’ to ’a little guidance’. For other projects I decide the direction the design should take, which is almost always determined by designing myself. I really like to design.
Walk us through your design process.
Understanding the client, the domain he operates in and what he stands for. Looking for what makes him different from his competitors, what makes him unique? This is what you want your identity to be built around. At Base it is really about telling the unique story of your client in a nicely designed way.
What’s good and bad about being based in Brussels?
I don’t think the location is crucial. Base works with clients from all over Europe and clients come to us because they want to collaborate. For bigger clients who aren’t based in Belgium most of the time our task ends with the delivery of a guideline. In those cases we work with a local or internal designer within the company, who we invite to our office to work together with us on the guideline. This way they take part in creating the identity they will be implementing.
On a personal level I think life is easy in Brussels. The quality of life is ok, you can afford things you couldn’t in big cities. But it’s a bit dirty here.
What drives you to create, and how do you stay motivated over time?
It’s one of the most pleasant things in life, I don’t need anything to stay motivated. Creating is an addictive drug – if I’m not creating I quickly get bored.
Do you have a design philosophy?
We don’t want to design for designers, we want to design for people, and with people! In the same way, we don’t design for brands, we design for people interacting with brands. I like to think we are where design bumps into pop culture. We are in constant evolution, in quest for a better tomorrow.
How do you keep a good life/work balance?
If work is a hobby, the balance is always good.
What are your influences and how does it affect your work?
Could be anything or anyone, wanting to learn or discover new things… Also I like to take the time to look closely at things.
As a designer – what are your main subjects of interest?
I love building the toolbox of a visual identity. I love the pressure of a competition or a first presentation.
Do you have a dream project or client?
No, I don’t have a specific project or client I dream of. If they have a fascinating story, are open-minded and pleasant to collaborate with then they are a dream client.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Family, painting, drawing, drinking with friends, renovating, cycling, gabbers, NYC hardcore, to love, to hate… I like to do many things.
Tell us something important you have learned.
The best memories come from bad ideas.
If you had to choose a different profession, what would it be?
I would renovate and lease houses. It is very rewarding when you turn a dump into a nice place to live in. It gives me the same satisfaction as designing.
I’m starting a signage system company with two colleagues as a side project.