Eline Ermens was born and raised in Alphen, the Netherlands. She entered the fashion industry in her late teens and by 20 was managing Diesel stores around Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Antwerp and Brussels. Eline has since worked in a variety of fields, including art, advertising, branding and consumer research, holding positions at the global consumer insights agency This Memento and the Swedish design agency Essen International. Previous clients and partnerships range from Nike and Starbucks to Converse and Asics – just to name a few.
A happy and self-proclaimed lover of nature and road biking, Eline also has a deep and nerdy (according to her) interest in marine biology. “I know all there is to know about squids and other cephalopods,” she laughs as we sit down for our interview at Veryday HQ to find out more about what makes her tick.
Tell us about how and why you chose to become a design strategist and researcher.
During my time as a store manager, I was selected to work closely with the global brand director and five other store and operations managers around the world. We set out to listen to customers, observe their behavior and act as a “bridge” between the customer and the brand. We reported key findings and provided retail trainings. Since then, I’ve held random and exciting positions – but always stayed in touch with the end consumer. That’s been the red thread running through my career.
Would you describe your previous work at This Memento and Essen International?
I joined forces with the wonderfully talented Jason Fulton, founder of This Memento, to set up the agency. Specializing in qualitative research, we led many studies and projects through ethnographies, facilitating co-creation and innovation workshops and directing films. We worked with A-list brands and engaged in a wide range of global projects. After working with consumer insights as a core capability, I wanted to work more directly with “makers” who are driven by creating something valuable for people. So when I moved to Stockholm, I joined Essen International and worked alongside creatives to drive a people-centric process from strategy to design.
What do your bring to your new chapter at Veryday? What are your skills and expertise?
Veryday and I hit it off from the start. Having people at the core of design, that’s our mutual coordinate. I’ve been leading projects and people since 2004. I’m not coming from a design background like most design strategists. I come with a deep understanding of brands and consumer behavioral research, with particular expertise in Generation Y and Z, lifestyle and service. And I speak like a Dutchie; we’re known for our directness in communicating.
What drives you, and what would you say is your passion?
I thrive when the unknown surrounds me, discovering new places and new people. I think that’s why I find (sub)cultural documentaries so intriguing. I’m always exploring how to translate the reality of people’s lives into something immersive for others to experience, so they can use this to give back to the world we live in. Currently I’m diving into how virtual reality (VR) can be used in ethnographic research. As fellow explorers (e.g., filmmakers and researchers) know, the feeling of being in the middle of a person’s setting or situation can be striking and transformative. I believe that VR and AR (augmented reality) could change the way organizations experience and act on people’s needs in the future.
Mention one situation at Veryday that really made you laugh, or something you’ll remember for a long time…
One of the first things I got to do at Veryday was a guided tour of the office. It’s an amazing house, I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was totally blown away by the workshops. In one of the workshop rooms there are dozens of hyper-realistic baby dummies (for prototyping purposes). One was lying face down on the table, lifeless, while others lay piled up in a corner. Of course, I didn’t get a warning about this when entering the room so naturally it felt a little morbid and scary. My intuition kicked in and I fled faster than my tour guide could say “workshop!”
Finally, how would you summarize Veryday in three words?
There’s a diversity of people and a wide span of offerings here. I like that there’s a balance between the rich heritage and long history of Veryday, a thirst for the future through innovation, and an awareness of the now.
The expectation/anticipation that everything will change, but also the great variety of projects, teams and the different roles people take on during projects. It’s a flexible environment.
There’s a strong sense of nurture and care for the people who work at Veryday. But more importantly, for our clients and their work, and ultimately for the people we’re creating for.