Audrey Bénéteau and Nicolas Libeaut graduated from L’École de design Nantes Atlantique in 2008. After high school, Audrey started in Product Design at L’École de design, and finished up with a dual degree at the Institute of Economics and Business Administration of Nantes-IAE. Nicolas started out with an Associate’s degree in Interior Architecture followed by a five-year program at L’École in Product Design. Given their complementary backgrounds, they decided, Design degree in-hand, to launch their own design agency, FoxDesign, in Nantes. Below is an interview of these two entrepreneurs.
What factors triggered you to launch your own agency?
During our fifth year, we had already begun to work for someone, who was, in essence, our first client. We had accomplished part of the interior layout of his vacation home. Our second key client was an anesthesiologist by the name of Mr. Dumand, who invented (and launched a start-up accordingly) a wireless monitoring system called Kaptalia Monitoring. The innovation behind it served to rid operating rooms of excess wires using sensors positioned on the patient. We have been working in close-knit collaboration with him for the past four years. Product sales are scheduled for July.
We could have continued working in the companies where we did our fifth-year internships (Avant Première in Lyon for Audrey and Poralu Marine in Port for Nicolas), but it was not long before we decided to come back to Nantes to set up our own structure. The encounters with business owners during our studies pushed us in that direction, and armed with our convictions, FoxDesign saw the day in September 2009 as a small business. In late December 2010, we became a Limited entity, having earned our wings in the field, as well as the recognition of those companies that entrusted us with their projects.
We wanted a name with character. Very quickly, the idea of an animal emerged: The fox is synonymous with being “on the lookout”, and ours in particular, for bright ideas.
Could you go into a bit of detail on the types of projects your agency carries out, and what your everyday entails?
Of course, we also do a lot of work in product, interior and graphic design, and we’ve become quite knowledgeable in medical design as a result of our time with Kaptalia Monitoring. Another company has been quite pivotal for us by the name of Nitrocraft. For it, we developed a GN2 nitrogen generator, which received l’Observeur du design label in 2011. Following this project, our name and expertise took on new dimensions on the industrial product design front! We are currently working for HSP:HC [Shared Accommodation: Cognitive Living Spaces]. As such, we devise apartments for those with Alzheimer’s disease. The first apartment was rolled out in Angers. It makes life for the ones affected easier, but also for that of the home help. For us, the project has been quite a learning experience as we’ve had the chance to work alongside specialist teams from the CHU [Teaching Hospital] of Angers and an EHPAD [Etablissement d’Hébergement pour Personnes Agées Dépendantes (Nursing home)]-specialized architect.
Do you each have your own role, or does it depend on the projects undertaken?
Audrey works more on phases 1 and 2 of the project (research, strategy and creativity), and Nicolas on phases 3 and 4 (design, roll-out and manufacturing follow-up). As such, we are truly complementary, and offer a unique male/female perspective in Nantes!
Where do you see yourselves in 5-10 years?
The five-year target is to retain our very first clients who have enabled us to get FoxDesign up and running, and to continue to grow our client base. In the long-term, we are hoping to bring three people on board: an engineer, a developer and a designer.
What advice would you give students wishing to start up their own agency?
Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines! Assert yourself through your drawings. The drawing tool is your best weapon to set yourself apart from the rest and ensure that your clients understand the message intended. Draw, Draw… Find your own graphic style, your identity, your brand. Don’t neglect the potential of this fundamental tool. It is the universal language of designers.