Have a vision,
Know your market,
Be creative, even when it comes to marketing your product.
And, stick to your vision.
MAD had a talk with Justin Lalieux, Industrial Designer and TRIAXES coach. He shares with us his views and experiences on the TRIAXES program, coaching entrepreneurs and his own ambitions.
Since when and how did you get involved in the TRIAXES program?
Since the beginning of the program, 2016, I think. But prior to 2016, I was already working on the TRIAXES model with a company called Productize. I was also familiar with the TRIAXES model thanks to Jean Paternotte, who implemented it as a university program, with ENSAV La Cambre & ULB.
What is your exact role and expertise within the program today?
As an Industrial Designer, I support entrepreneurs with their product development alongside other experts (in Business and Engineering).The first step is to understand the entrepreneur’s needs and to determine whether his/her idea responds to a market demand. If it doesn’t, it needs to be reconsidered. If it does, we eliminate anything that isn’t built correctly and continue with the essential elements that are already good. Usually, the entrepreneur knows his/her market quite well, they may just be going in the wrong direction. So, we focus on that part first.
Next, I develop concepts according to the market/business studies, using my knowledge and experience of what is feasible in terms of production. I always aim to develop something that is easy to produce, that respects the environment and if possible, that is produced locally. Moreover, we encourage the entrepreneur to maintain an ethical, circular and eco-friendly approach. We believe it should be the centre of their vision and therefore one of the prerequisites for TRIAXES’ support.
What, according to your experience, is the most important aspect of the program? Where do starting entrepreneurs benefit the most from?
The point when we look at the designer’s/entrepreneur’s vision and the steps he/she has already taken. We put everything that they have been working on, on the table, and try to question and challenge their idea(s). Also, the different iterations, concepts, and 3D renderings made by the designer (me as part of the TRIAXES accompaniment trio of experts) are a big part of the visible value, I have the "cool part", BUT without the research conducted previously by the team (other TRIAXES experts; business manager, engineer, etc.) I cannot produce a good concept offer. If I had to start a business as an entrepreneur, I would certainly use the TRIAXES method.
What do you do besides TRIAXES and how do your different professions enrich each other (or not)?
As a freelancer, I am active in a lot of creative fields. For example, I made a lot of mass production furniture for Ikea competitors all over Europe. This gave me a strong knowledge of how products are made and how a product chain works. I also visited a lot of factories around the world, to try to understand how the entire production chain works.
Furthermore, I taught industrial design at ENSAV La Cambre in Brussels for 6 years and I coach product designers. Thanks to my experience in the production field and the creation of designers’ visions, I can help them to achieve their goals. It is very enriching for me to work on furniture as well as interior projects, connected devices, and animations at the same time. I think that's a great luxury, but I feel it is also necessary if I want to have fresh ideas. I try to put my creativity on the table and I always try to be as open as possible.
A different, yet important practice for me is drawing. I am currently drawing a comic called “Je préfère les blattes” (“I prefer cockroaches”) which will be available in early 2021 at Edition Depuis. Very exciting!
How do you see the role and added value of (industrial) design in general within our society?
That's an important topic. In short, I'd put it this way: if every designer in the world decided to stop drawing products that aren't sustainable, that don't respect the environment, that have built in obsolescence or that aren't needed in the market, we could save the planet in a year.
It is also important to realise that designers are involved at an early stage of a product’s development, so every line they draw can have a potential impact on the item produced. At the start of my career, I too drew a lot of very bad products without realising. In addition, it is the designer’s responsibility today, to create a proposal with strong value, which isn't based on price alone, even when it's a mass production item. But, of course, that's a challenge.
More than ever, designers must realise that they are big game changers. For example, we can develop a plastic mask in a week, which uses a lot of plastics that are hard to recycle. Or we could work on it for a month and make a sustainable mask.
How do you usually start to work on a new project?
For the first 2 to 3 hours, I study the market, the field I'm going to work on. I look at the project’s strengths and weaknesses. This could take more or less time, depending on the difficulties posed by the specific field or the market for the product. Then, at the first meeting, I start by making some sketches. Usually these are not used at all, because the first ideas for a project are often bad. But we use these sketches to conduct an initial study, in order to understand the possible limitations of the product.On your website you collect inspiration in a tumblr moodboard including gifs, illustrations, cartoons, songs, etc. How do these relate to you and do they influence your practice as an industrial designer?
I'm very bad at maintaining my tumblr-moodboard. But it is indeed a good example of what I'm influenced by in my daily life. For me, being a designer isn't really a job, it's a passion. You can't do it well if you're not obsessed with it. In addition, it’s always a lot of work with too little time.
How important is the balance between functionality vs. aesthetics for you?
I love the aesthetics. But if I drew designs for myself they would be uncomfortable, basically white or in solid oak and with sharp angles. Thankfully, I don't draw for myself. Function takes priority, followed by form.
As an Industrial Designer, my job is to draw from the inside. And once all the restrictions are integrated, I give it a form. If you do it the other way around, you aren’t doing industrial design or product design, you're probably making art.
Which project of the ones you supported as a TRIAXES expert do you remember the most and why?
Many of the TRIAXES projects have been very interesting. But the first one I was involved with was really cool because I was able to discover the full potential of the TRIAXES method through incredible brainstorming sessions. The product is still in development, it's called PAKKA MIU and I’m still working on it outside of the program. It's a cat tree, developed in collaboration with a veterinarian. His expertise made it a very smart object that responds to the animal’s needs.
What 3 advices would you give to starting entrepreneurs?