Spargle meets Mickel van Kouwen
When the sun is shining and the wind is strong, Mickel grabs his kitesurfing equipment to celebrate a perfect day. As a digital designer/director, he’s always absorbing what’s around him to create and pitch new beautiful things. In 2005 Mickel founded the interactive & creative company Born05. Nowadays he’s freelancing and moving mountains at Miele X.
Mickel never really had an inspirer or an idol. He also doesn’t have one favorite book or podcast. That is just not the way he rolls. Talent in all her different forms and beauty is what inspires him.
Can you give an example of something that brings you
joy and energy at work?
The new identity I created for Miele X. On a hot summer day when it was like 42 degrees I was like: alright, let’s do something. Miele X already made a start with the new identity, but I felt there was something missing. So, in my spare time I created product photography (CGI) of coffee makers and someone from Miele picked it up, presented it to the headquarters in Germany and they were crazy enthusiastic about my creation. After that, they asked me if I wanted to do the whole website. With the Miele job I surprised myself, and that’s what energizes me.
Mickel flying over the water
And do you often surprise yourself?
Being in the business for 25 years, creations and achievements quickly feel like normal and are less surprising. As a designer you see and expect things. You have a whole different view and feeling than most corporate people.
What advice would you give others
that have a different view and feeling?
I think it’s important to show what’s going on in your mind. You have to show why you think something is not good enough. If you are critical, you have to act on it. With the Miele job I worked in my own time to show them my thoughts on what I think is right.
“Always and everywhere I’m absorbing ideas like a sponge”
As a creative designer, you do a lot of pitches as well.
What’s your ingredient to success?
Look around you. Always and everywhere I’m absorbing ideas like a sponge. Whether I’m watching a movie, searching on a website or paying at Bol.com, if they do things in an innovative and interesting way I will keep it in mind. I’ve the advantage that I can easily come up with ideas, and if you want to develop this you have to pay attention. Just going outside and watching the birds fly do not give you ideas.
You are absorbing ideas like a sponge,
but what if your team does not?
It may seem obvious, but when you work in a team, you do it together. Even though everyone has their own function, you exchange ideas and help each other to achieve a good end result.
“You have to realize that your (new) employees don’t know everything like you do.”
What problems did you encounter as a director?
Finding employees with my former company, Born05 haha. No kidding, communicating something perfectly logical in your own head, but totally absent in someone else’s, is probably one of the hardest things that I’ve had to do. As a founder or creative director, you know everything there’s to know about the company, and you think of 1001 subjects all at once. From the ideas to the costs and back to the production. Your employee thinks primarily about his own task.
How did you solve this problem?
More employees would be an easy solution haha. As a founder/creative director, you have to realize that your (new) employees don’t know everything like you do and that not everybody is on the same level. It has nothing to do with skills, but with being at a company for a long period of time and knowing the company culture. After a while you are on the same level, but never expect that your employees know exactly what’s going on in your mind. This becomes extra challenging when you’re in a hurry and someone is not working as fast as you thought he or she would. The truth is that you advocate from a director’s perspective who knows the company true and true.
As a founder, you have to see yourself as an octopus. You’re the one who knows how to use your tentacles. After a while you have to give some control to another person because you can’t do it all by yourself. You are inclined to give them like five tentacles at once, but that’s not going to work. For that person it is too much at once and for you it’s not manageable.