Brining back real digital
An interview by Dutch Digital Design with Timo Wilbrink
Each month we introduce you to one of our partner agencies in Partner in the Spotlight. Giving you a look behind the scenes. Sharing some Dutch digital design insights. Or telling you about something that they believe the world needs to know. This month we talk with Dutch digital branding agency Born05. With their creative director Timo Wilbrink. About the much needed return of real, ground-breaking digital work. What they mean by that. What they are wishing for. And what they believe the current state of digital design is.
Introducing Timo Wilbrink and Born05
Born05 - the name says it all - was founded in 2005 by three guys - Rogier IJzermans, Mickel van Kouwen and Sjors van Hoof - who were studying at the HKU University of the Arts in Utrecht. Making it one of the longest standing digital agencies in the Netherlands. A digital-first branding agency - creating worthwhile brand experiences that make genuine impact.
They were passionate about and ready to create and share new and ground-breaking ideas with the world: a digital magazine was born. Their work - a combination of great design, digital technology and music - was noticed. And soon big names like Wegener Publishers, KLM and bol.com knocked on their door asking them to create cool and innovative digital experiences for them too.
Now in 2023 Born05 are still going strong, and part of ACE. A creative network of 12 specialist agencies who help businesses staying ahead of the game.
Timo joined Born05 in 2007 as an interaction designer (UX designer). Almost straight after college and a year working as a chef in the hospitality industry. He studied Media Technology at the HU, University of Applies Sciences Utrecht. Bursting with ideas. Keen to explore all that was possible with digital technologies. Especially as digital had not yet claimed its own territory. However, brands started to take their online presence more serious. Digital design was growing up, and projects became more complex.
Moving forward 15 years: what has happened to the digital design industry?
Digital was hot
Timo shares: ‘So, from 2005 digital was hot, and the sky was the limit. Clients were open-minded and willing to let us create digital experiences that would make a difference. That were innovative and out there. The work was super cool. The industry was growing up.
Our clients loved the fact that the results of these digital experiences were measurable and quantifiable. You could measure the interaction between your digital product and your audience. It was easy to see whether something was working or not. If it wasn’t working as expected, it could be changed. This was, of course, much harder in the offline world.
However, this was also the start of the downfall of cutting edge digital experiences. You could create the most beautiful and impactful digital platforms, but this was no longer the main objective for a client: they were keen to see what the results were. That became leading.
Also, there was the rise of social media. Initially a very positive development. A brand could totally own this channel by creating a brand experience where people could interact with the brand. But, through complex algorithms and data tracking, this media channel also matured, and became much more of a science rather than an innovative digital creative channel. Content is now made based on what works for the algorithm and the social media owner, not necessarily the brand. Also, brands starting to realise that users of social channels aren’t their users, but users of Instagram, Facebook or TikTok. The social channels own the data, not the brands.
Then uniformity started to creep in. In the early days brands needed digital agencies to create websites for them. They did not yet have the knowledge and technology in-house. However, as digital technologies evolved and became part of everyday life, brands and companies also started to have their own in-house digital resources. Resulting in corporate, uniform websites, protocols and rules. Creativity was no longer the main objective, efficiency was.’
Time to (re-)start a digital design revolution
With social channels and uniformity taking over, how are we still able to make a digital difference to our users? How do we create stand-out?
Timo: ‘It is essential that we build genuine relationships with our users. That we create worthwhile brand experiences that make a real impact. Brands need to make their brand experience more personal again. They need to really speak to their audience. Inspire them. Connect with them. We, makers, can help do this by creating beautiful, impactful brand stories.
We need to fight against the throwaway culture, also on a digital level. Get people to spend more time with brands again. We can only achieve this by spending genuine attention and time when creating such an experience. Not by following protocols, adhering to compliance and getting quick results. We need to convince brands. By getting their and their audience’s attention back to where it belongs.
We, at Born05, have started our own digital fashion brand Reveals. To inspire and lead by example. Adding digital personalisation to clothing. Every piece is unique and reveals personal information about its owner.
We believe that you always need to keep telling your story, personally and passionately. In order to be authentic in your own special way. Digital technology can help you with this, in so many meaningful, creative and innovative ways.