• Interview Excerpt: Tjeerd Veenhoven, Founder, Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven, Groningen, Netherlands

    Check out some great work from Tjeerd Veenhoven.

    AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?

    TV: Designers should try to develop their unique selling points, especially now in times of financial crisis. You are still a little bit of a luxury item to many companies. Design is still a very small element of the product design process in general. Of course, designers would like to change this but sometimes it’s too difficult and too expensive to do so. What I’m doing right now with our studio is making sure that throughout different projects we clearly state what our benefit is.

    Our studio is so eclectic in the things we do that it’s sometimes very difficult for companies to assess how we would be of any value to them. We try to work towards establishing proper descriptions on our web page. In the last few months, as we have been working with a lot of bigger companies, we noticed that for them design is just not as easy to understand as we may think.

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    AH: How many designers work with you?

    TV: Right now we work with freelancers as it’s too difficult to work with full-time employees in Holland. We have a team of about three designers, one in India and two in Holland and several junior assistants.

    AH: How did select your designers? What about their portfolios stood out and said to you, “Yes, these are the people I want on my team”?

    TV: In my studio I’m not too involved with the business aspect, so I have an associate in place to handle the business side. When hiring staff, it was important to bridge the gap between my point of view and my associate’s point of view by hiring people who would fill up this gap. We have a very style- and aesthetics-oriented designer, and we have a designer who is very good with content. I knew them from before and they were both designers who wanted to get their own career started. They saw our studio as an opportunity to learn a lot, especially how to get a project from concept to business, which is always difficult.

    AH: What would you say are the characteristics or qualities necessary to be a successful designer these days?

    TV: I can only tell you about the elements that should be successful and will be successful in the future. I think it’s very important right now for a designer to get a place in the entire process of design of the product. Not only to think about the consumer experience or what’s already on the shelves or what’s going to be the next trend. Right now, as a designer, you should really get more involved. Where does the sourcing come from? The raw materials? The production techniques? The energy consumption? The afterlife of a product? All of those things are key for designers to focus on to become successful…

    So many people can just make a nice 3D rendering, but what’s your unique selling point? When everyone is tight on budget, you have to make sure you know a lot.

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    AH: If you were just starting off now, what advice would you give yourself?

    TV: The danger is that, over time, you become more of a project manager than a designer. For me designing is about curiosity and wandering. Stay pleasantly surprised by your surroundings, pay attention to small things and—I know it sounds corny and cliché—but be curious. Keep that in mind. Be aware.

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    Tjeerd Veenhoven of Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven

    Tjeerd Veenhoven of Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven

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