DESIGN AS A STORY
WORDS David Bentley | PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Sugden
As the owner and publisher of Portland Interview Magazine, I’ve had the honor of getting to know some very talented people over the years. This month I had a chat with design and branding pro Mathieu Schmutzler of TBIB Creative. I decided to interview Mathieu at his home to really get a sense of his eclectic and chic point of view.
The first thing you notice when you walk into Mathieu’s home is the variety of art and artifacts collected from around the world. African masks and Bedouin jewelry blend tastefully with figurative and abstract paintings. Born in Madagascar, and having lived in the Middle East, the EU, the US and South America, his sense of design comes from an accumulation of global references and life experiences. His house is full of eye-catching objets d’art, but perhaps more importantly, they each come with a story. Much like his design work, those objects and the stories they tell are well-edited, and there’s definitely a tendency toward a ‘less-is- more’ aesthetic.
After completing his BA in Vancouver, BC, Mathieu realized he has always been drawn to the PNW. Four years ago he came to Portland and fell in love with the city he now calls home. When not working at his TBIB Creative offices, he continues to travel, create experiences, and challenge his own sense of design. In this interview, Mathieu discusses several aspects of branding, design, and the concept of home.
DB: How did you get into branding and marketing.
MS: I’ve always been a visual person attracted to architecture, art, and design, but my first degree and love was in mechanical engineering. From the get-go, I’ve always been a left-brain right-brain kind of person and there’s something about good branding that marries these two tangents, the analytical strategy part with the hyper creative. I worked in a few agencies in the States, but I really got to use those two sides of the brain as the Creative Director at Landor Paris. It’s easy to make something look pretty. It’s better when it has purpose and proof.
DB: As a Branding person, how does interior design fit into your home brand?
MS: Good question. I think that a home is in essence, an expression of your own personal brand. Just like a company, a personal brand is a mix of what you communicate and how you communicate it; like tone of voice, or personality. A lot of my home is a reflection of all the places I’ve lived. A home, like a client brand, needs editing to get to the nugget of what you are, who you are. It’s the memories of travel abroad, the discoveries you make, what you keep, what you let go.
DB: What kind of clients do you work with.
MS: Honesty, a broad range of companies. The common theme is that they know brand is important and want to maximize their investments, commit to quality work and timelines. I can’t stress how important this is. I’ve worked with local mom & pop shops to national non-profits. It’s not the client size or scale of project that matters, it’s the commitment to vision and the approach that’s important.
DB: What companies could benefit the most from a great brand.
MS: Well, I wouldn’t restrict it to just companies… people, products; they all have brands if they’re out there. However, I’d say that smaller, medium companies – those that are in highly competitive markets – they’d be the ones that need it the most. They don’t have the deep pockets of bigger companies, so they need to be very strategic in their branding to stand out effectively, to build their brands. As smaller entities, they can also be a little more personable yet professional. But they have to be consistent. And they’ll also see quicker returns.
DB: Does a brand have to cost an arm and a leg?
MS: Well, it depends on how you define a ‘brand.’ And what’s ‘a lot’ of money. Thing is, a brand is more than just a logo or business card or a site. Sure, to really define and deliver a brand, it’s not cheap but you can make a real difference for a client’s business with a concentrated effort. It’s all about being honest and upfront from the get-go on budgets, process, and expectations. We ask our clients to do the same and we can usually find a solution.
DB: How does a smaller medium company owner relate to brand jargon, values, etc, all that?
MS: Good question. The answer is simple. There are different levels of ‘knowledge’ of the field and we try to educate the client along the way. I’d say, whatever level you consider your knowledge of ‘branding’ is, we walk through meetings, processes, and tools to help you understand. But we’ve got to trust one another… we’re building something together. It’s a relationship.
DB: Lastly, what is the quickest way of hurting a brand?
MS: One thing keeps coming up: smaller to medium companies tend to jump before they look. It’s the old cart before the horse syndrome, and it can definitely hurt brands or waste a lot of money. Spend the time needed to get to the heart of the matter, look before you leap. I’ve had so many situations where a client says “we need this or that”, but when we look into what’s trying to be fixed, that ‘this’ isn’t what they need at all. Identify the real problem. Map the goals. Define the vision. Stick to it. And then execute it. Execute the crap out of it with a great strategy, great visuals, killer creative, thoughtful words and make any action count.