Tanguy Prevot graduated from the Transportation programme in
2001 and is now working as Head of Industrial Design at Cocoon Group in Prague, Czech
What is your academic background?
I finished high school in Belgium, then went to ISD, The International School of Design, a product
design school in Valenciennes, north of France (not far from
Lille). Thanks to a design competition that I won, I got in
straight in the 2nd year. Two years later, I got a
scholarship that allowed me to enter the Espace
Sbarro in Grandson, Switzerland. It was a 1-year program, with
a strong focus on prototype manufacturing. After that I had an
internship at Peugeot-Citroën, and then got lucky to be
accepted at the MA programme in Transportation Design at Umeå
Institute of Design and I graduated in 2001.
Since you left Umeå, what have you been doing?
Right after getting my MA from Umeå, I got a job in Gothenburg,
in a company then called Pronima (later bought by Caran). I was
employed there four years, and of those I spent the last three
years at Volvo Cars, designing accessories and interiors. In 2005 I
joined Faurecia interior Systems as Design
account Manager, first in their French studio, then in Germany. In
2007 I founded my own company in Belgium, one of our activities
being product design. I got into collaboration with design agencies
Design and Flex/cocoon, which lead me to my current
position as Head of Industrial Design at Cocoon Group in Prague, Czech
What is your best memory from your time in Umeå?
... the whole thing! I have won wonders going to Umea. First of
all I met Dana with whom I am living and building a family. I have
also learnt lots about myself. The greatest thing the school did
for me was to cheerfully confront me with a vast amount of very
clever and talented people from all over the world. All the
differences made me realize what I was, where I was from. And the
school did this in such a positive context, such a trustful
atmosphere, I am definitely grateful for that!
Which aspects of your education at UID have been most useful
for what you are currently doing?
Trust and responsibility. The school put me in the hands of
incredible teachers, but I was also left alone in front of my
tasks. On one hand, there was enough hints and explanations to let
you try, there was the endless source of information from within
the diversity of students (we all challenged and inspired each
other, that is what teamwork is supposed to be), and on the other
hand there was the very high level of expectations: I felt guided
but not mentored, and I absolutely felt pushed to see what I could
achieve. Today, it means that I can rely on myself. Teamwork is
always best, of course, but it works even better when the team
members are responsible and self-managing professionals. I believe,
in some way, the school forced me to discover how reliable I had to
be, and also actually could be.
Do you have any good advice for new UID students?
Drop the shield. The cultural shock is inevitable, it&ll
shake hard, but it will enrich you more. Take the time to share all
you can while you&re there. You will not find many other places
with the UID magic.
Did you consider any other schools, or did you just apply for
Yes I did consider other schools, some in UK for instance, but
only applied to Umeå, because of two reasons: One, Sweden was then
offering education for free, and two because the facilities (and in
particular the IT equipment) where truly outstanding! In comparison
there were twice as many students per Alias license in Coventry
than in Umeå.
Is what you do now, what you dreamed of doing?
Not really. Perhaps my dreams weren&t too realistic after
I believe the biggest difference between my young illusions and the
reality of my career is that I don&t "save the world". In most
cases, being a designer is being part of a business-focused
organization, nothing less, and nothing more.
Are there any skills that you learned at UID, skills you would
be lost without?
Process. Design process, that is. Of all the colleagues I have
had, I feel like those who studied in Umeå are those with the most
solid and systematic approach. Considering the high tempo and the
large variety of projects I am dealing with, I am very happy to
have solid tools. It simply gives self-confidence to know what to
do next. Some other schools (in France or Belgium for instance)
prefer to focus on some kind of subjective talent, and that leaves
you helpless the day you do not feel inspired.
What is it like living in Umeå?
For me that is simply the good old days. Hard to describe, just
an incredible feeling of achieving something, and still having
loads of fun. For the first time in my life I have been challenged
by the environment (i.e. the weather), and it puts everything in a
different perspective, when nature reminds you every day that none
of it is for granted. It helped me to understand who I was.
My time in Umeå was a lot richer than a simple design education...
and I learned to ride a bike in 15cm of powder snow in minus
What was your favourite project while you studied at UID?
My degree project, a fuel cell powered distribution truck. The
brief came from Volvo Trucks to the school, and Tapio Alakörkkö,
UID Head of Department trusted me to take care of it. I am still
grateful for that. The challenge was to explore what opportunities
would arise from changing the power train. One of my tutors was
working as engineer at the chassis department of Volvo Trucks. The
support from Volvo Trucks and from the UID researchers was very
strong and valuable. I did research on the field, spending a day
with a delivery driver working for the Post office, etc. The
complete process by the book. And I am still proud of the result,
10 years later!
How did you do in trying to find work after UID? Was your MA
from UID an advantage?
I actually got lucky to get a job offer within 2 weeks after
graduation! One of the school&s professors, Hans Zachau, told
me about an agency in Gothenburg that was hiring, so I applied, and
got the job. That was a few months before 9/11, it got much more
complicated to find jobs in the following years.
Are your contacts from your time at UID important for your
Yes and no. For those who&d stay in Sweden, having a degree
from UID is absolutely a great asset!
But one of the greatest aspects of UID is that students come
from all over the world... and the flip side is that they also
spread all over the world afterwards. As far as I know, we are only
2 UID alumni working in the Czech Republic, and we live together
On the other hand, some guys are so inspiring that even if they are
on the other side of the planet, a quick look at their work is
Did UID prepare you for your professional life?
Absolutely. I wish I had known about UID sooner. I wish I had
found a BA program in French or English that would be like the one
of UID. Luckily the MA saved me.
What do you miss most at UID, and what do you recommend the
students really cherish and hold on to while they are here?
I remember I missed a bit more presence of professors and tutors
during my studies in Umea. But that was at the end of the last
century. I believe the school improved that point, it has grown in
size and good reputation, and it is probably easier now than ever
before to get professionals to come to Umea.
What to hold on to ? Open your eyes, ears, nostrils, hands and
minds! UID is a wonderful sharing machine. It may feel
uncomfortable at times to be sunk into such cultural and creative
diversity, but embrace it. You will learn about yourself, and about
How do you think the tuition fees for non-EU students will
I imagine it will slow down the arrival of students from other
continents, unfortunately. But let&s remember that the EU
counts 27 countries... that is more than the amount of students per
class! The EU counts at least 4 language groups, that is quite some
diversity, so the main advantage of the UID will remain, I
The important element is that all sorts of social classes meet
at UID; I have been in schools where only rich kids could make it,
and that is a great loss for the design community, when talented
people are left out for financial reasons. As long as UID will be
selecting its students based on their skills and potential, then it
will remain successful. So I am confident about that.
Prevot was interviewed in March