Edwin van Praet – Executive Creative Director
Sieds de Boer – Strategy Director
Joppe Andriessen – Head of Digital Impact
IDA 2022 Graphic Designer of the Year
Tell us about your definition of design.
We believe design is not just making a nice little something. It’s a bigger picture. At Total Design, we do see design as total design. By this, we mean a holistic, integral approach. Design connects people; it’s a dialogue that evokes emotions. An interaction between means and ends.
Ultimately, total design forms a platform on which all aspects come together: activation, digitalization, communication, and visualization.
What do you see as the strengths of your winning project (‘Limburgs Museum – Van ós. For everybody’) and what does winning this IDA 2022 ‘Graphic Designer of the Year’ Award mean to you personally?
Our work for the Limburgs Museum was an honorable project for us. We are very pleased that the work is not only liked and appreciated but truly understood. The message was conveyed and evoked a desirable response.
The aim of the Limburgs Museum was to show more than some historic pieces. They wanted to give the visitor a true experience in which history comes to life. It is a cultural historic museum, made accessible to all ages. The displayed art and exhibits showcase personal perspectives, that contribute to a social interest.
During the design phase, we made sure there was a conceptual idea in which identity, positioning, and brand personality were represented.
The content, shape, and digital animation contribute to the brands’ symbolism. It shows the rolling hills and river Maas that emphasize the cultural movement the Museum essentially is. We reinforce that true meaning and inspired feeling with the tagline ‘from us, for everyone.’ It’s an ‘open’ invitation for everyone to be transported. Insights from the past open new perspectives for the future. The strength of this design is that it can beautifully be deployed both statically and digitally.
For us, it confirms that our integrated approach in branding, communication, and technology works very well.
What impact has winning this IDA Award had on your career/opportunities?
The museum uses the tagline: ‘Van os, voor iedereen’, a local (Limburgs) dialect which means ‘From us, for everyone’. It makes us proud to see that this inviting message did not only reach the local people from Limburg but works even across international waters.
Aside from branding and communication, technological implementation plays an important role in this project. We think we found the optimal synergy by bringing all disciplines together to support the concept. Winning this award is the ultimate ‘proof of the pudding…’ So, we will use the IDA Award in combination with our holistic approach to promote our ‘services’.
What is your guiding design principle?
Well, that’s very clear: Total Design. We have a holistic approach to work. Not just recently, but already since 1963 when Total Design was established. The agency started as a multidisciplinary agency as there simply weren’t any design agencies offering that kind of full service. There were only freelancers with their own ‘one-dimensional’ approach to clients. The vision behind the foundation of our company was to start a multidisciplinary agency, combining graphic, industrial, and spatial design. Hence the name Total Design. Now, after 60 years, we are still loyal to this approach.
When starting a new project, we always begin from the bottom line, to connect the mission of our client to their brand strategy. Our designs are based on the brand strategy of our clients – and of course, they are always aligned with the identity and positioning of the company.
Our designs make the brand personality and brand values explicit, which applies not only to the tone of visuals but to the tone of voice as well. No frills, pretty or ugly but whether it’s right.
How do you think your own culture and environment have shaped your personal and professional creative vision?
Well, it’s common knowledge that Dutch people are direct. Direct in giving their opinion, but this directness is also found in design: Dutch Design. It is designed with a clear message, direct and to the point.
The founder of Total Design showed leading work in its own kind. Design that’s effective and smart but that is distinctive in creativity at the same time. After 60 years that philosophy is no different as we still want to create monumental work.
Total Design was founded in Amsterdam. The capital city’s attitude reflects the company’s spirit: creative, freethinking, and progressive. Entrepreneurial and cooperative, functional but with a clear and characteristic purpose.
How do you feel design has evolved over the past years and how do you see it evolving in the future?
It’s very clear that we’re in a phase of fast digital transformation. We’re surrounded by digital impulses and devices. Our source of information mostly comes from screens. The result is that the design we make should be able to go along with this and should be able to be applied anywhere: from print to digital visualization.
We see a trend in visual simplicity. Minimalistic design ensures clear and optimal message delivery. No distractions and ranting but coming to the point. That is not to be seen as “simplicity” but rather as a strength. Minimalism is therefore bound to stay. The ‘less is more’ trend is not only aesthetically appealing but also functional and sustainable. This doesn’t imply colors cannot be used. On the contrary: no black-and-white, colors have the gift to distinguish.
On the other hand, a trend is also emerging in which many three-dimensional and even four-dimensional design elements are used. Unique and striking compositions can be created with this, and it provides extra levels of depth. We’re excited as these developments are opening so many possibilities for new designs, communication means, and digital innovation!
What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities in your career/industry now?
Technology is evolving so fast and new possibilities are being invented at breakneck speed. This makes it a challenge to keep up, stay relevant and keep innovating, also in design. But we try to stay ahead of the game and master new techniques and work with partners to create innovative, complex platforms in the backend, at the same time making it understandable and accessible for the user ensuring that the user has the overall experience: from seeing to using and interacting.
How do you decide to take on certain projects?
With our knowledge and experience and quite a track record, we look at what suits us as an agency. Mission-driven brands are preferred because they suit our integrated approach, slightly drawn to serving a social welfare or cultural purpose. We strive to work only on projects that are relevant to us. Assignments that help us solve problems and help us to move forward. As an agency, we try to help the brand find its purpose and live its promise and we do this by aligning the creative power of design, communication, and technology. We want to help brands, to help people.
What would be your dream design project?
Nice question! Well, we have done a lot of work for major international corporates, for instance, financial and insurance companies. Also, we like to work for public organizations, such as a museum, educational organizations, and government institutions. So, some sweet spots there…But ultimately, we are passionate about providing solutions to major change issues in everyone’s living environment: work, recreate, reside, or relocate.
When you look at our best of the best award, it’s a museum. In the past, we worked for various museums such as the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. So, if we’re allowed to dream away, we would love to design the MoMA in New York or the Guggenheim Museum.
What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a design project? What piece of information is of utmost value?
First, it’s essential to get the added value and mission of the organization defined. Then we dive further into the DNA and culture of the organization and start with ‘designing’ the brand personality of the organization.
What kind of culture or structure needs to exist to foster successful team collaboration?
At Total Design we work in teams, covering all disciplines. So, each project team preferably starts an assignment from the beginning with somebody from tech, communication, and branding. They all have their own perspectives on the task which strengthens the synergy.
From the beginning of a project to completion, we work with the client, not for the client, and share the same ambition.
How do you deal with feedback?
Feedback, positive or negative is always of great value. We don’t see clients as clients but as partners. We embrace their challenges, and we do the work together.
Not standing in front of the client but engaging in the process together. It’s a very dynamic and interactive process in which we’re agile and working with sprints to avoid surprises and kick-ups. We present a pair of scenarios and options for clients to choose from, so they’re never forced into a corner. Throughout the process, we conduct qualitative and quantitative research so we can adjust and tweak where needed. Additionally, we evaluate every (main) phase in the project or program together and implement the learnings in the next.