ABN AMRO coacht: Driving Dutch Design 2018

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On Friday 26 January, the Driving Dutch Design 2018 edition (DDD18) kicked off for the fifth time since its founding. The programme helps young designers develop their entrepreneurial side. DDD18 is an initiative of the Association of Dutch Designers (BNO), the Dutch Design Foundation, and ABN AMRO.

Every year, approximately 20 talented designers get the chance to take their upcoming business to the next level. They participate in monthly masterclasses and ABN AMRO Foundation gives each of them a personal coach. Together, the budding talents develop their presentation and work toward pitching during the Dutch Design Week. After a year, the designers conclude the programme with a wealth of newly gained knowledge, a better network, and a coach who continues to be there for them even after DDD is over.

10 tips and established brands

Coaches and designers begin the programme in separate groups. Both groups get prepared for the new year, with coaches receiving coaching skills training. ABN AMRO Head of Performance and Portfolio Manager Paul van Sprundel reassures his colleagues: “This is the third year I'm participating. Each time it’s a privilege to see our designers' development. You get a glimpse into a whole new world bustling with creative energy, it's incredibly inspiring.” The other experienced coaches nod in agreement. Together with their new colleagues, they establish 10 tips they can fall back on during the upcoming year. Meanwhile, the designers are introduced to each other. Former participant Roland Smit gives a presentation, speaking highly of his DDD16 experiences. He describes how he pretty much owes his own brand Rosmit to the programme. “I learned to delegate tasks I'm not that good at, like wholesale. I wouldn't have come up with that solution on my own. Since I'm allocating most of my time and energy to design itself now, Rosmit has become an firmly established brand.”

Dating Dutch Design

Later in the day, the two groups are brought together. DDD18 project manager Marsha Simon sets up speed dates to let the designers and coaches get acquainted. The participants will be working together intensively over the course of ten months, so the speed dates' singular goal is to get to know one another as fast as possible. The roughly 40 participants make their way across the modestly sized room performing various tasks as they go, such as “When you meet a coach, tell them about your biggest fear” and “Tell the next designer you bump into about your coaching qualities.” Afterwards, coaches and designers individually compile a top 3 of the other group's members. Who would be their preferred counterpart for the next ten months? From there on, it's up to the organisation to make the best matches. Designer Titus Wybenga believes he can make the right call based on the short questions and answers. “While interacting with a coach you're paying attention to the small details, such as where he's from. But you also want to make sure there's a connection.” Paul van Sprundel adds that sometimes, eye contact says more than words. “If you hold a designer's gaze for a little while, you'll quickly figure out whether you’d be a good team. I've already picked two who will definitely be in my top 3.”

The quest for focus

After the kick-off, the participants gradually expand their orientation towards the future. Over drinks at the end of the day, they resume their speed date conversations from where they left off. Especially the designers are eager to get started. “After the academy there's loads of decisions to be made,” says Mies Loogman, who graduated from the Design Academy in 2017. “My goal for DDD18 is to distill my identity and style as a designer into two sentences.” Wybenga is looking for focus as well. “Together with two others I'm running a design agency called Staalslagerij. We've got lots of enjoyable commissions and plans, but this programme gives us a real incentive to actually push through with our plans.” The project provides coaches with ample learning opportunity, too. ABN AMRO scrum master Alphons Dashorst is participating for the first time. In order to improve in his job, he's been taking coach training for a while already. “At DDD I can apply my knowledge to a whole new target group. I look forward to helping the designers along in the discovery and development of their own talents. It's a valuable learning experience for everyone.”

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