Why Design Bridge is battling the ordinary
“Whenever we talk to our clients, we talk to them about how we challenge mediocrity.” We’re in Design Bridge’s expansive Amsterdam city centre office as its Dutch MD Frank Nas explains the firm’s call to arms: a battle cry that’s target is aimed at ordinariness. “Essentially,” he continues, “we’re waging war on mediocrity.”
It’s a quiet Thursday afternoon in a different world - when the coronavirus and its impact on the world is something that’s still distant, intangible - and Nas is passionately describing how over the last three decades Design Bridge has grown to become one of the world’s most respected branding firms, an award-winning, multi-hyphenated company that has offices in London, New York, Singapore and Shanghai.
Frank Nas, Design Bridge's MD
“We’re focused on brands in any way shape or form,” Nas explains. “And we’re applying and helping them with creativity to become more successful.” Evidence of the firm’s excellence is hardly in short supply: in Design Bridge’s office everyday trophies paying tribute to its global impact line the walls and shelves – from jars of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Champion’s League footballs to bottles of Smirnoff that glint in the mid-afternoon sunshine.
Using branding to make the complex seem simple
They might do a lot of different things, but, Nas says, Design Bridge’s core ethos is all about being true brand creatives. “We are a team of passionate creative entrepreneurs that makes the complex simple. Defining a brand and creating an idea that fuels everything that a brand does: that’s something we’re good at. It’s always amazing to help visualise the ambition of major brands and help make them more successful. But most of all help to capture the stories that they want to tell.”
A brand might come to Design Bridge because it has lost sight of what it stands for or because it has become generic. It might be that the brand has merged with or being acquired by another company. “We’re here to tell the truth of a brand,” Nas explains. “We’re best placed to work for brands that have a story to tell and where we can tell that story in a visually compelling way. Design for design’s sake is not what we believe in.”
Design Bridge’s work doesn’t just include packaging for the world’s major brands. As design creatives, its team have worked on a huge range of eye-catching projects, including everything from creating a dynamic visual identity for a landmark development in Singapore to re-branding the world-leading fleet management and mobility company LeasePlan.
Design Bridge and Amsterdam: a successful 25-year partnership
2020 will mark Design Bridge’s 25th anniversary since setting up in Amsterdam. What’s been the reason for the partnership’s success? “We’re very international and have an international mindset, and Amsterdam is a multicultural melting pot – that’s why I think it is such a great place. We have close to 90 people here from more than 20 different nationalities, and everyone brings their own cultural differences, which is great. That diversity has its own beauty, and if you understand it you can use it to everyone’s benefit.”
Tiger Nuts packaging by Design Bridge
Nas also thinks Amsterdam has a special mindset which is perfectly suited to the creative sector. “Amsterdam combines the entrepreneurial Dutch spirit as a small country with a creative mindset,” he says. “The directness that we have in business helps us find opportunities and is honest, which people like as it helps create clarity. The Dutch are also good at adapting themselves to other markets and open to collaborating. There’s also a strong workforce of independent employees that you can easily tap into, as well as support from the Government and City of Amsterdam to stimulate business.”
How Design Bridge integrates in Amsterdam’s ecosystem
Design Bridge might be an international company, but its Dutch branch plays an active part in Amsterdam’s creative industry. As well as Nas being a chairman of the Association of Dutch Designers’ Nextpack initiative, the firm also launched a new brand to help to boost trade on the Overtoom, the street its office is on. “That’s nothing to do with commercial work,” Nas says. “but it’s that we feel it’s important to contribute to Amsterdam. That’s how to become truly integrated.”
Walking around Design Bridge’s office it’s easy to see signs of the team’s bond, especially as we pass in a meeting where contributions are celebrated with applause and cheers. “There’s a lot of team building that goes on here,” explains Nas, “and as a creative business that’s important. It creates inspiration and to relieve some stress. We’re also very relaxed about how people work here. We ask a lot from people as we’re so passionate about what we do, but we give a lot back, too.”
Design Bridge helps support initatives around Amsterdam
Developing a family tree of design and branding specialists
One example of Design Bridge’s commitment to its people is its ‘family tree’: a sprawling illustration that that shows everybody that has ever worked at Design Bridge, including “birds who have flown away and started new businesses, even some who are now our competitors," Nas explains. "At the end of the day I am most proud of the people that we have developed in our careers.”
As we end our time together it’s clear that this determination to help brands become better, and to tell their stories in the most honest way possible, is something that helps Design Bridge stand out from the pack. And, if that helps win the war on mediocrity, then all the better. As Nas puts it: “Brands have to step out of mediocrity and live up to their ambitions. That’s all we can ask.”