Talking VDL & The Twists & Turns of a Mobility Design Career
I started at DAF Trucks as a design intern and was offered a job after that. It was a dream job — working with clay and full sized models. It was a good time. But when they went bust in the early 1990’s, I was one of the personnel they had to let go. I was able to stay on as a freelancer and eventually brought them over to MODYN (Vanderveer Designers at the time).
Tell me about your transition from working on trucks at DAF to working with the broader mobility sector at MODYN?
In 1993 I started working as a freelancer for MODYN and other companies, and during that time I had the opportunity to work with a lot of different agencies and businesses with their own specific way of working. For me, it was the ultimate learning process. And at MODYN, I got exposed to more products with wheels, like bicycles, wheelchairs and strollers.
I’m particularly proud of the Quinny ZAPP project, being responsible for the complete concept — from the folding mechanism to the concept engineering and looks, even helping get it into production. The ZAPP had a great impact in the market. Right after that, in 2003, Wim van Dijk and Peter van der Veer asked me to join the company as a partner.
What have been your favorite projects over the years?
Well I have always loved the bicycle projects. As we speak, we are doing some really nice vision projects, and these are just so fun and inspiring to work on. For SABIC we’re doing a lot of conceptual work, for them to strengthen their business and challenge their clients. VDL, of course, is another. I really love working for them.
When they first approached us in 2008, they had the plan to unite their 5 bus-related companies under the single brand ‘VDL.’ The introduction of the new identity was planned for the Busworld fair in 2010, and we took care of the new product-logo and the design of the Futura and Citea ranges, which were really successful. And that was just the start — in the years after, we designed new products across their bus and coach portfolio. Now, there’s more to come in 2021!
Definitely. When they first approached us they knew about the work I had done for DAF and that definitely impressed them. But, it was also that I had worked with DAF long term — all the way from my days as an employee through being a freelancer and a partner at MODYN.
Over the years I’ve met and worked with a lot of great people in our industry, and one of them is actually the former marketing director at DAF who went on to work at VDL. So that connection was part of it. Funnily, the current Design Manager at VDL also used to be a student of mine, and even interned at MODYN.
Wow. That must feel great to see so many parts of your career come full circle.
Yes! I was a Design Tutor at the Design Academy in Eindhoven for about 12 years — that’s even how I met Gert-Jan. He was a student of mine. I actually keep in touch with a lot of my students, and on a personal level, it’s really rewarding and inspirational. I love to see where they’ve all ended up in regards to their jobs, companies and geographical location.
It’s both exciting and challenging. I think we are more ambitious than we’ve ever been, but I love this new direction. I also love the fact that Gert-Jan is stepping up as our Managing Director, as this allows me to focus less on the day to day management and more on the core business by designing with the team and working directly alongside our clients that I love to work with.
What would you say brings you the most joy in your job?
Mainly, doing it! Being a designer. More importantly, doing it with a diverse group of people from different disciplines, contributing fresh ideas, and then seeing a project evolve into a product. I will never get tired of it. Then seeing a product on the road and out in the world — seeing a product become a success — that’s just great. It doesn’t get better than that.