I never thought I would become a designer. I was actually an Economics major at Panthéon-Assas University in Paris, then shifted my focus to communication and ended up at the Institute for Communications and Advertising (iSCOM) in Paris. This is how I got introduced to design. Looking back, I’m grateful for this background as it has really helped in the day to day operations of running a business.
“Interactive Communication” was one of the required electives I had to take. I found myself very engaged and intrigued with Adobe’s software and mostly interested in web and started designing websites in my free time.
I can’t say I honed my design skills through ACOM, but it definitely piqued my design curiosity, which led me to my first internship at Havas Group to explore Web Design. During that time I met two art directors, Jonathan and Jeremy, who after a couple of years working full-time at Havas, left to create their own agency. Since I connected with their work, I decided to accept their invitation in joining them.
At that time, this agency was the perfect environment for cultivating my design sense. I was fortunate to be fed many design opportunities and exposed to working with multiple luxury brands with heritage, specifically in the watch making industry. Equally important, I was nurtured with business experience, observing Jeffrey Blum’s approach to pitching clients and selling work. In that time, I also made a lot of connections with professionals in the U.S. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am today.
I don’t think there are boring subjects, only boring approaches. We’ve had clients whose projects didn’t sound sexy or appealing to other agencies — but resulted in something really beautiful and unique with Oui Will. Suche as www.clarity.io or www.kanarys.com. What makes you a better designer is challenging yourself to take on the projects no one really wants to work on. Everything can be turned into something appealing, it just depends on how you are going to tell the story.
The best part is being in a position to shape culture and connect people through design, and also to influence decision-making on a high level.
A recent example comes from our partnership with Rivian, makers of the first Electric Adventure Vehicle. We built a website to introduce the brand, debut its first product line and accept pre-orders for delivery in 2020. The ability to work with such an innovative company in building their digital brand and business tools gives us the privilege to have an impact on the wide breadth of audiences that our client is making efforts to reach. Following your partners in the news and observing their pivotal milestones (such as headlines a few weeks ago where they received $700 million in investment from Amazon) ends up being such a rewarding experience.
We create strong ROI for our clients, which is why they perceive working with us as an investment rather than an expense.
The worst part is having to say “no” to some leads. Essentially we have to be more strategic in choosing who we are working with because we are limited in the most precious resource — time. We stick with 6 to 8 partnerships per year maximum. We can’t take on every project that comes to us. At the end of the day, we are not here to grab quick cash — we are here to make an impact, to make a difference through our work. And in these circumstances, we have to be selective.
Many people are surprised to learn that Oui Will’s home base is San Diego. One of our follow up questions from clients is often, “We get Paris, but why San Diego?” The answer is partly, “why not?” In our industry, especially in our niche within our industry, there are no requirements around geographic location. We have clients all over the US and almost none in San Diego. We also hire from a global talent pool, so geographic location doesn’t matter as much as it does for other industries. When we were establishing the agency, we knew we wanted to have our second location in California, and we like San Diego because there is no traffic, there’s an international airport, it’s right on the water, the weather is perfect all year round, and there are fewer distractions. We have created our own little eco-system here.
The project that we are most excited about right now is Kanarys (www.kanarys.com), a revolutionary platform that is focused on reinforcing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. The founders are Harvard graduates, recently featured on Forbes, and their vision, leadership, and passion for the project is what makes it such a great collaboration and partnership.
We believe so much in the project that we are acting as an incubator. The Kanarys platform is going to create a lot of disruption in the way big companies currently approach all topics around DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) in the work-place. We think it’s going to be the next big professional network and big-data platform, that it will generate controversial discussions and major insights, which will lead to meaningful change.
It’s been proven that diversity positively impacts business performance across the board, which is why we’ve made it a priority to build a team from various backgrounds. I can proudly say that as a collective, our team speaks Spanish, English with an Irish accent, Thai, Russian and of course French. I genuinely value the presence of different perspectives on the same topics, and it allows us to have healthy conversations and deliver the best work for our clients. Why wouldn’t that be something to strive for?
When it comes to design and building products, I’m not sure I believe in pure, raw talent. I believe you need faith, courage, and a lot of hard work to manifest a dream.
If you’re not afraid of failing to meet the expectations of society and if you clearly define your dream and work hard to achieve it, you will succeed. Be true to yourself, be honest with yourself, and believe in your dreams.
As someone much wiser once said, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”