Coast Agency

We recently caught up with Frédéric Vanhorenbeke, Partner & Creative Director at Coast Agency, and hear about his time at Ecole de Recherche Graphique doing all kinds of things⁠—from designing a typeface with brushes to creating a musical instrument; he tells us about his move from Belgium to London for his first internship and full-time job, and we get an insight into the four skills & qualities that they look for in graduates.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I studied at the Ecole de Recherche Graphique (ERG), you can translate this as The Graphic Research School. Basically, we did all kinds of things: from designing a typeface with brushes to creating a musical instrument. It was a very open and multidisciplinary school, something I still keep doing today. I already started freelancing while at school, one of my first assignments was to design a brochure for a cultural festival.

Did you have a plan for graduation and what actually happened?

I had the plan to leave Belgium to work in London. I was already attracted by the way design was done there: smart/creative/communicative. I applied for an internship in a selection of design studio I admired the work: Stylorouge, Cartlidge Levene, Why Not Associates, Neville Brody, Peter Saville. It's Stylorouge that accepted me, and the internship turned into a full-time job.

Design work by Coast Agency The Design Kids interviews Coast Agency work-2

Talk us through a typical working day include for you right now.

Starts at 8.30. Coffee. Discussion with the team. The morning is more of a thinking/writing/developing design & communication strategies. Right now I am finalising a preliminary strategic framework for a fashion brand we have to rebrand. It's very diverse: from brand perception to customer relationship, it's about understanding how the world works and what is important for each case. At Coast, the design is a result of our theoretical & conceptual work on brand behavior which includes social facts, financial facts & reality facts. I jump quite frequently from one project to another, I can have up to 5 different branding projects open at the same time: it keeps me fresh and my brain works better when it's over-activated. I try to push meetings by the end of the morning so I can keep concentrate on the tasks I have to do.

By 12.30 / 13.00 lunch break in the studio most of the time. When we do all have the time we eat together or prepare a communal feast, which is not regular. The afternoon is more of a meeting/do time. I prefer afternoon meetings as I am a bit more relaxed. Today I am meeting a new client to present our creative roadmap, and I am also finalising a presentation for a public talk I am going to do next week on our rebranding work for Kanal Centre - Pompidou. 18.00 is usually the time I leave for home. Between 21.00 and midnight (depending on what I do that night - it can be playing football, going out, exhibit), I usually find the time for moodboard research, analysis and information on the multiple projects I work on. Being at home gives me the tranquility to think deeper and prepare the next day.

What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate?

First, they have to show a modern/contemporary portfolio that we feel can be a plus in our team. I trust people and also have no ambition to be a teacher or mentor. People at Coast have the full potential to create a great portfolio and this is why we must feel inspired by each of the team members. It sounds complex but graduates also have the ability to impress us by their creative quality, the way they create new forms and the way design is their tool of visual expression.

Second, they have to be a communicator. The studio is a social space and we look for people that have the will to share. This is also important for the business side of our practice. Each team member must be ready to talk during meetings, presentations, and workshops.

Third, they have to work fast & good. Today timing is an issue. Most of our clients have a very tight schedule and we have to deliver full programs in weeks, not months. So being creatively efficient is today a challenge for us all.

Fourth, they must be versatile & understand others.

Design work by Coast Agency The Design Kids interviews Coast Agency work-4
Design work by Coast Agency The Design Kids interviews Coast Agency work-4

Be very open to the world, try to understand it, collaborate and listen.

What's the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Be yourself & know yourself.

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

Be very open to the world, try to understand it, collaborate and listen. In the technical part : be versatile and use motion & digital to express yourself.

Design work by Coast Agency The Design Kids interviews Coast Agency work-6
Design work by Coast Agency The Design Kids interviews Coast Agency work-6

Where to find Coast Agency online.

Website: coast-agency.com

Instagram: @coastagency

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