Studio Dott. All-round creative design agency, to settle and stay in Antwerp

At the beginning of March, Studio Dott invited its business partners to its new offices in Berchem. The housewarming confirmed the design agency’s establishment in Antwerp. An opening party is an excellent way to finalise the completion of the move, but at the same time Studio Dott is making the statement that it wants to function as an Antwerp hub, says CEO Pieter Lesage, partner at Studio Dott. And the word can be spread.

Choosing Antwerp as a strategic location

Pieter Lesage: “Strategically, Antwerp is the perfect location from which to serve the whole of Flanders. Berchem also has the practical advantage that we do not need to traverse the city. I studied in Antwerp myself, set up the agency in the penultimate year of my studies, and have remained here ever since. Furthermore, Antwerp provides an abundance of creative training opportunities. This makes it easier to recruit good staff. We are close to the station, which facilitates the commute to our location. Studio Dott has deliberately opted for a no car policy. We think that a subscription with Cambio is a better means of physically remaining in contact with our customers.

As a design office, we need more space than you would find in a typical office building, which has meant that we were unable to find anything suitable for our budget on the commercial market. By building ourselves, we also had the opportunity to build ecologically. Now we have office space and a workshop where we can build prototypes. The ecological aspects and the office building did bring additional challenges when it came to obtaining permits. If we had been able to sit down from the start together with all the services involved, with better regulations for office construction, things would have gone more smoothly. Instead it has cost us a great deal of time. We can all learn from that experience.”

What is Studio Dott?

Pieter: “Studio Dott is an all-round creative design and consulting firm. We help companies to conceive, create and market new products and services. We have deliberately given ourselves a broad profile because most projects today involve a multitude of disciplines. In-house, we have expertise in product development, service design, branding, interiors, and strategy and change management. Everything is interrelated and because it’s all under one roof, the coordination is easier. But please note: we make nothing ourselves. We design products or services or digital interfaces and guide implementers in their realisation.”

 “We are concerned with the human interaction, whatever product or service we are developing. That is the common thread through our agency.”

Awards demonstrate the agency’s expertise

Pieter: “Our trophy cabinet is far from empty. As a starting agency, Awards are important because they offer tangible proof of your ability. Studio Dott has now demonstrated that. We have a second office in Hong Kong and in that part of the world Awards are even more important and can even be convincing in the sales pitch. Last but not least, winning prizes helps with recruiting. We continue to attract good designers, partly through the profiling and the publications around these Awards.”

What products and services does Studio Dott develop?

Pieter: “We won a Henry Van de Velde Award with the virtual museum of Flanders. Since a physical museum was not possible, the Flemish Government asked us to come up with an alternative. Studio Dott got to work both conceptually and strategically. The result is a vision for a digital application that the user can use to quickly get acquainted with the cultural heritage of Flanders.

This type of request fits perfectly with our multidisciplinary expertise. The city also asked us to develop a strategy and vision for the havenbelevingscentrum (port experience centre). Furthermore, we also developed the wayfinding (translation of experience in visitor flows, building functionality and human interaction) for the Antwerp museums.

Studio Dott searches for the key factor of the product or service. Let me give you an example. A company makes speakers for public spaces. The company thought that the audio quality was the most important aspect, but in the end it turned out that the customer wanted ease of installation of the product. Knowing that is essential because it means that you will then take a different approach to the design of the speaker.

“You know what you are selling, but do you always know what is being bought from you? That is the key factor that we are looking for.”

Aloxy, a spin-off of the University of Antwerp, developed a sensor that collects useful information in a petrochemical environment. This was a technical challenge because this sensor has to pass many tests and guarantee that it is explosion-free. Studio Dott was involved in the application of the technology and design. Aloxy’s corporate identity was also refreshed. Product and branding now form a beautiful whole.

 This year, we also won a Henry Van de Velde Award with Stroom, a cable duct that, exceptionally, we designed ourselves. It is an aesthetic product for cables combined with lighting for buildings, like ours, where you need cable ducts because there is no false ceiling.

Bao Living is an Antwerp start-up in ecological construction. These young entrepreneurs developed SAM, a circular furniture system that encompasses the kitchen, bathroom, heating, ventilation and electricity. Their objective is efficient construction with less material loss and easy disassembly. Better for the environment and for the occupant. The collaboration began as the mentorship of a student project. We created the design and the prototype, helped search for technical partners and converted the model into an easy-to-use configurator. Finally, we also designed the branding for Bao Living.

Studio Dott wants to contribute to cross-pollination in Antwerp

Pieter: “We rent out part of our buildings and offer co-working space. We do this very selectively; there must be a substantive link between the tenants so that exciting collaborations can come about. For example, we now have Netwerk Ondernemen under our roof. Studio Dott is a large agency - more than 30 employees - and we believe that it is our responsibility to be a hub where cross-pollination is encouraged. Our communal cafeteria lends itself to lectures for up to 80 participants. We use this location intensively ourselves, as do external parties. 

Cross-pollination is important and the city can also play a role in that. Studies by McKinsey show that companies that implement strategic design are up to 20% more profitable than those that do not. 

Deploying creative agencies, such as ours, helps to ensure innovation and profitability. The power lies in the interaction. Outsourcing is now too often seen as an extra. But it is precisely this external partner, looking at matters from a different viewpoint, who helps to bring about a continual surfacing of  potential innovation. If companies in Antwerp were to make greater use of external creative companies then that should have a much greater economic impact.”

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