Tanguy Prevot

Tanguy Prevot graduated from the Transportation programme in 2001 and is now working as Head of Industrial Design at Cocoon Group in Prague, Czech Republic.

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 like Naos Design and Flex/cocoon, which lead me to my current position as Head of Industrial Design at Cocoon Group in Prague, Czech Republic.

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 Umeå?

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 all...
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 25C!

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 professional life?

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 always rewarding.

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 the world.

How do you think the tuition fees for non-EU students will affect UID?

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 suppose.

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 2011