Base Design On Taking Creative Risks

Everyone in our industry talks about taking risks - but what does that actually mean? To find out, we spoke to Thierry Brunfaut, Founding Partner and Creative Director of Base Design - an international network of studios based in Brussels, New York, Geneva and Melbourne. Thierry shares how he set up Base Design 30 years ago - as well as the risks he took, and everything he learnt along the way. 

FLA: Starting your own agency is never straightforward - how did you start Base Design and what was the journey like? 

TB: I started my company while I was at the design school here in Brussels. We just gathered with friends and one of them, Dimitri, who is still my partner today so it's been 30 years. We were still studying so we didn't know how to run a business, how to invoice and all that. None of us graduated - I don't have a diploma. We had no plan but when you’re young, you don't know anything, so you're not scared of anything and that’s the beauty of it.

FLA: Amazing - that’s brave and bold of you both to start a business whilst studying! From that point how did you start scaling Base internationally? 

TB: It happened really naturally - one of Dimitri’s friends in New York who works in Fashion called. He said he loved the work we were doing in Brussels and asked to go there do it, so we did. We started working in our friend’s bedroom with a Macintosh. Then another friend called from Spain, and suggested we go hang and work there too. It was around ‘96 where we named ourselves Base because it meant ‘baskets’ in Spanish, using the idea of having different baskets around the world. When I look back, it’s crazy to think how many risks we took. This spirit is still alive today - it’s very entrepreneurial. For example, we opened a new Base in Melbourne - completely on the other side of the world but still carries the same spirit we had 30 years ago.

FLA: What’s the best part of working in branding? 

TB: The best part is that there are no two clients that are the same. Each new project is like a swimming pool you can dive into. It could be corporate, developing a product or an opera - it’s always about developing a new relationship each time and I love that.

FLA: What book would you recommend for everyone to read right now? 

TB: Any design book written by Bob Gill.

FLA: For you, what are the three most important characteristics of a design leader? 

TB: Firstly, a leader who can really listen. Some leaders start a discussion immediately with a debate, when you should listen first. Second one, would be candor - someone who is open, naive almost like how kids are open but in the best possible way. Thirdly, playfulness - I love it when serious people start being playful and transform a job into something fun for everyone. That doesn’t mean the job isn’t serious, it is but in the same way a kid is very serious about playing.

If you want to hear more stories from Thierry, listen to the full interview on our Creative Capes Podcast: 


Apple Podcasts 


If you want to see Base Designs’ work and our faces, watch it below on our Youtube Channel @futurelondonacademy.

We’re also very pleased to have Thierry as one of our experts on our Running An Agency ✹ Live ✹ - Learn how to run and scale your design business 🔥


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