For young designers, an award is an ideal way of putting their name on the map. Bureau BoschBerg was awarded the Henry van de Velde Young Talent Award last year and previously, Sang Vandenbosch and Laura Bergans were laureates of the Henry van de Velde Graphics Award. Not only did it provide them with a great deal of press attention, but it also attracted new customers.
Laura: I got to know Sang in 2008 at LUCA Ghent, where we both studied graphic design. We worked separately for the first few years of our career. Sang was employed as a graphic designer at Opera Ballet Vlaanderen and I worked as a freelance designer for among others Z33 and De Singel. At the time, we already gave feedback on each other’s work on a regular basis. But we didn’t really work together because we each had our own work, and also because many people advised us not to work together professionally as a couple.
Sang: Our collaboration started with the corporate identity assignment for Opera21, a music theatre festival by, among others, Opera Ballet Vlaanderen and De Singel. Both clients gave us that assignment together. By working together, we noticed that our work got even better. We decided to combine our work and work together under the name Bureau BoschBerg. What followed was a request for a new corporate identity for the STAM in Ghent, addressed to both of us. This was done through a tendering procedure, which meant we really had to formalise our cooperation. In 2018, we founded the company under the name Bureau BoschBerg. That was when we also started developing a new website. This professionalisation meant that potential clients perceived us differently. We were suddenly seen as an agency and no longer as a sole proprietorship, as just one person. This also set the ball rolling faster.
Laura: In the past, we were not really concerned with professionalisation; we thought that customers would find us anyway. We very much believe in the principle of ‘work creates work’, but we also realise that we are in a luxury situation and that, so far, we have not had to do any customer prospecting.
Sang: When STAM asked us to rethink the house style for the museum, they asked us in an exploratory meeting whether we could also work for a wider target group. That made us think. It was indeed true that we had a great many customers in the theatre world. We wanted to open that up more. We wanted to work for different sectors and not give the impression that we would not be able to work for all kinds of customers.
Sang: Despite the fact that the coronavirus measures and a fire in Bozar meant that no physical presentation or exhibition could take place, the Henry van de Velde Young Talent Award 21 has earned us plenty of press attention. For example, we were interviewed for De Standaard Magazine, Knack Weekend and Art & Design magazine (China’s largest design magazine). Such publications have a wide reach, so that Bureau BoschBerg was suddenly the centre of attention. It made people suddenly get to know the makers behind that poster in the streets, that we were googled and that our name stuck.
Laura: Thanks to the award and the resulting visibility, we have actually welcomed new clients. More and larger assignments followed. For example, since then we have also worked for Werchter Boutique, Hetpaleis, Bent Van Looy, the Province of Flemish Brabant and Museum Hof Van Busleyden.
Sang: As an entrepreneur, you carry your own successes, but also bear the associated risks. We also had a difficult period during the first lockdown, as a huge number of customers cancelled their orders. Fortunately, our customers came knocking on our door again after a few months. Partly because of what the award brought about, I took the step to work full-time for Bureau BoschBerg.
Laura: The award gave us confirmation and confidence in our approach and way of working. It is a great honour to be selected by an independent and professional jury and to be given a place alongside the other prize winners. We are still very proud of that! (Sang checks the trophy in their desk, ed.).
Sang: We have been following the Henry van de Velde Awards as designers for a long time, and I was pleasantly surprised when a Graphics category was created. I then submitted work for Opera Ballet Vlaanderen. I wanted to see how far I would get with it. It is encouraging that my work was awarded a quality label. It gives you the recognition that what you do is worthwhile, that it is good design, that there is an audience for it.
Laura: Yes, I miss that feeling sometimes. You know what clients think of it, but often you don’t know what others think. People don’t give a round of applause for a poster or a website. Performing artists, on the other hand, know that a standing ovation demonstrates resounding appreciation. Neither are there any reviews of graphic work. That is why the awards are all the more valuable.
Sang: For me, the Henry van de Velde Awards are the Champions League of design. I do want to belong to a certain level. That is why we also think it is important to promote this by making it visible on our website. It is a boost to your credibility. The awards have a great deal of allure, but they are also very accessible, because there is no cost associated with the registration.
Laura: What is also important to us is the network aspect that comes with the awards. It can be a way to establish contacts and start working together across borders and disciplines. For example, if you are a client looking for a designer or if you are a designer looking for someone to work with, you can certainly obtain inspiration from diving into the archives of the prize winners on the website, or by meeting other designers at the award ceremony.
In the archive you will find all the winners of the last 28 editions.
Laura: When a project is completed, I like to collect all the material and reflect, look at it from a distance and write out the corresponding vision. Read the criteria of each category carefully. These form the basis for being eligible for a prize. You check that against your design, so that you know what to focus on in the motivation in the file.
Sang: Make sure you have all your material on hand. The registration does take some time, so plan that too. It pays.
Laura: We are going to use the cash prize we received from the Young Talent Award to renovate our office, which we would like to furnish with a focus on Belgian design, as an ode to local designers. We are looking forward to that.
Sang: We had a good year last year. We worked on various projects: from the design of a travel guide and a house style for a festival to the graphic design in the scenography of an exhibition. We have not really made any plans for the next five years. We will see what happens. Maybe a third person will join us one of these days. We certainly want to continue to design based on our love for the profession.