Big companies always try to reinvent themselves with different projects by going where nobody can – the future. In majority of cases, projects like these usually remain treated as concepts and don’t get to the point of realization or integration in the society, mainly because there is no broad interest or people find it way to eccentric to use them.

Heineken’s latest projects have been future-oriented (Limited Edition Design Challenge and The Club) and gained an amount of attention which proves that it is possible to create a futuristic project that can attract crowds and generate hype. To get a more deeper insight, we have asked Mark van Iterson, the Global Brand Design Manager at Heineken for his thoughts on these projects.

Branding Magazine: Mark, can you tell us more about your work prior to joining Heineken in 2005? Was it a lot different than the work you are currently doing?

Mark van Iterson: I worked 10 years in a design agency in the area of branding, packaging and corporate identity design, and 3 years in brand and innovation consultancy. Heineken happened to be always one of my clients. So you could say that it was not that different. But it actually is very different to be in the driver’s seat yourself, like I am currently. Determining what to do, why, how and with who adds an additional dimension to it. I loved my former jobs and I love this one. I guess this was the right order for me.

BM: As the Global Brand Design Manager at Heineken, you and your team are responsible for Heineken’s visual appearance ranging from logos to designing event venues. What’s it like working with top creative individuals at one of the largest beer companies in the world?

MI: Fantastic. Creativity is one of the most beautiful things you can imagine. It’s always challenging, fun, difficult, surprising, interesting and satisfying. Working with top creatives is all that, times 2. It’s extremely exciting to work with the world’s best talents; it raises the bar, also for yourself. At the same time you should stay critical, sharp and open since top creative can make mistakes and can make average stuff. Brilliant ideas and executions only come to life after lengthy discussions and intense collaboration. That our topic is beer, and not just any beer but Heineken, the world’s leading beer brand, makes it even better. Heineken is enjoyment, progressive, cool, open minded; everything that you aspire to be.

BM: Heineken Open Design Explorations Edition 1: The Club! has offered us a glimpse of how future nightclubs might look like. Seeing as how Heineken has a regular sponsorship for various events, do you consider that there is room to transpose this concept to a much bigger scale, like festivals and similar events?

MI: Possibly. We’re looking at using elements or direct spin offs of our Milan project for other events. But it could also be a possibility to use the crowd source / emerging design talent approach to design special music festival bars for example.

BM: When it comes to The Limited Edition Design Challenge do you think that participants and ultimately, the winners, have brought a fresh design perspective with their works to Heineken in general?

MI: Yes, there were some really fresh ideas and designs amongst the top 100. The winners have definitely created a new perspective on our star symbol that has been embraced amongst our colleagues worldwide.

BM: Could you perhaps tell us more about Heineken’s future plans? Specifically, what can we expect after The Limited Edition Design Challenge and The Club?

MI: Heineken in its DNA is always progressive and looking forward, focused on the future and exploring new concepts. Both the bottle and club initiative have been really successful, so we will continue in this direction. Design, innovation, digital platforms, these are all areas where Heineken is very active and where we’ll continuously explore and push the boundaries. For sure we will do a next Future Bottle design challenge and a next edition of Heineken Open Design Explorations. If this will be again a Club, or something else is still open…

BM: Heineken’s latest concepts show a change in the brand’s strategy towards more future-oriented ideas and products. Do you think that this future-oriented shift will serve as an inspiration for other companies and brands to do the same?

MI: Maybe. It all depends on the strategy and vision of a company and brand. Most beer brands are focused on heritage and roots. For those brands it would not be relevant nor credible to do future-oriented activities. But in many other industries it’s been a proven concept for many years. Think about concept-cars for example. It looks like we are the first in the beer world, maybe even in the food and beverage world that is explicitly showcasing future concepts and ideas. Let’s see who will follow.