OLIVIER DE VRIES
How to become a Design Strategist?
The foundation was laid with my transportation design studies at the Art Center College of Design in Vevey and at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. My first employment then led me to the Mercedes / SMH joint venture MCC – cradle of the pioneer car brand Smart – as an exterior and interior designer.
Is one degree sufficient enough to put your design ideas into practise?
Car designers are holistic designers per se, as each vehicle combines a variety of design challenges: exterior and interior design, colour and trim (material) design, and product graphics. Then there is aerodynamics and ergonomics. In addition, each concept must be embedded in the product family. Also, the brand history must be synchronised with the overall aesthetics. Due to the extensive development budgets in comparison to other product groups, design decisions are carefully executed with great responsibility. The sustainability of aesthetics has to merge into the architecture. Every line and radius will be part of the streetscape for decades.
Good Design Award Tokyo 2006
How does your expertise differ?
By the entity of the subtasks. Due to the lean set-up of the joint venture and the close cooperation of the business units, I had the early opportunity to work with all relevant interacting departments of product development. Take my assignment as project manager for the Smart Limited/1 for example. A "guerrilla task" outside the existing hierarchies. Its goal: a limited series of City Coupés with a series of special sizes available for launch.
Marketing recognised the necessity to establish a more sophisticated brand image by introducing an elegant upmarket portfolio of colours and materials that could not be derived from the existing scheme available for market launch. My task was to align engineering and production with the demands of marketing shortly before the launch. In terms of automotive product development and project management as a whole this was a highly instructive challenge. Quickly after the launch, Mercedes merged with Chrysler. This added more brands to the portfolio. By returning to the design department my new assignment became to capture Smart's product and brand values from the design point of view, format them into design DNA and then align it with Mercedes, Chrysler. and Jeep. This probably marked the moment when my professional interest shifted from the sketch pad and clay model to more strategic work. The fruits of this work process placed me right at the front representation line of the design department in committees as i.e. lifecycle management and product task forces and made me the PR-representative of the design department.
What where your next steps after the automotive industry?
This encounter was followed by a bundle of creative projects for various industries and branches. I designed products, interiors and communication and developed concept in trends, colours and materials. Being open and curious led me to doing interior design for Hilton Hotels, colour strategy for Nike Europe, tableware for Tchibo, flacons and packaging design for Cosmopolitan Cosmetics as well as a 3D-brand design style guides for Grey Goose. I established a portfolio of digital and analog communication media, such as art direction of programs, app interfaces and websites, corporate design for annual reports, stationary and marketing literature. I have extensively broadened my expertise in brand focused design combined with creative strategies for various industry sectors.
This includes consulting of start-ups in order to complete their project in terms of product and brand content and aesthetics, as well as increasing their outreach in terms of communication with investors.
What is your current consulting profile?
I focus on interdisciplinary design management. This includes analysing, capturing, mediating and optimising product strategies as well as communicating and matching creative resources within an entity. It is about impact, totality and pace in altering markets and product requirements, as well as collaborations between strong brands and innovative products.
A curious character, a creative being, a deep sense of product quality which was heightened by working with Mercedes engineers at Smart, as well as the interest in communication and design processes. Furthermore, I do provide 25 intense years of experience in product-, design- and brand development and their interaction in their overall aesthetics.
Who are your customers?
Who are your customers?
Every entrepreneur, with a demand for holistic product- and brand aesthetics. Manufacturers who do not work generically, but are in the market with their own identity and their own product performance or are about to do that. I also advise business consultancies, agencies and start-ups. In the case of the latter, the task is different. It is not a question of mediating, but recognising and contributing deficient product and communication content. Collaborations and co-branding activities are another customer segment in which various competencies are represented. Potentially coming from different business cultures those should be balanced in order to establish and implement a successful holistic strategy.