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Dutch Design Series: VBAT

by Jessica Deseo on 11/17/2016 | 4 Minute Read

Agency: VBAT
Brand: Heineken

About VBAT
We are an award-winning branding and design agency with offices in Amsterdam, Shanghai and Mexico City. With more than 30 years in the game, we're experts at creating brand identities, packaging and retail formulas, but we like to think clients hire us because we’re Refreshing. We are a team of around 85 creative experts and are part of the WPP global network.

Tell us something about the genesis of your company, what goals did you have / had the founders envisioned for example, or what major challenges came along? 

VBAT was set up 32 years ago in Amsterdam, with chairman Eugene Bay as one of its founding members. Thanks to successful partnerships with global brands such as Heineken, ING bank and FrieslandCampina, entering the international market became the logical next step. Branching into Central America, VBAT was the team behind the new look of Mexican beer brand Sol.

"Nine years ago Heineken asked us to go to Mexico with them for a new venture. Then three years ago we set up an office in Mexico because local demand was too high to do this solely from our Dutch office,” Bay says. 

Earlier this year, VBAT merged with dBOD (formerly du Bois Ording Design), which was established in 1980 as a full-service packaging design agency. Both VBAT and dBOD have been actively working internationally for more than 15 years. An ever increasing need and desire to grow and diversify their client base, across a wider geographic area, has led to this merger. Now with offices in Shanghai, to develop opportunities in China, and in Mexico City, as a hub for the LATAM region; VBAT provides a singular international offering. Remco van der Sluis took the role of CEO of VBAT Group, Eugene Bay maintains his role as Chairman of the Group and as a Brand Director for clients, focusing on the expansion of business, at home and abroad.
The new combination offers a stronger range of branding and design skills with a broader geographic coverage.

Tell us something about the showcase. What is it? What can we see? When has it been made, and for whom? 

The Heineken STR Bottle is an aluminum limited edition series, available only in select cities around the world. The STR Bottle was designed in 2011 as a collaboration between agencies, Iris Worldwide and VBAT (dBOD Heritage). Client: Heineken International.

Briefing and Rationale /Solution
The challenge was to work with various techniques to create a WOW-Factor and a surprise in the packaging. The bottle was inspired by dark nightclubs that use UV black light to light up the dance floor. Under UV black light the new Heineken bottle suddenly illuminates revealing hidden stars and other decorative elements. Drinking a Heineken never looked so cool!

Why is this piece of work so special? Why does it represent the agency so well? 
Through the use of groundbreaking UV ink technology, the STR bottle brings a new level of excitement to the world’s most premium nightlife venues. When exposed to UV black light, hidden ink suddenly flares up on the bottle surface and reveals a bright-glowing design: an enticing experience for an exclusive audience. The design shows an intricate pattern of stars and trails, visible around the bottle base and in the large centre star. This work represents the agency well as we like to push boundaries and challenge conventions.
Does this design have a Dutch signature?  
You could say the Heineken STR bottle in a way reflects Dutch design through its bold use of innovation. Experimentation with new techniques to find fresh expressions are certainly within the Dutch DNA of designers. The UV black light ink also reflects the outgoing (clubbing) mentality of Dutch dance culture. On the other hand though the STR bottle was designed to appeal to a global audience so it’s signature is intentionally international in it’s approach. So, designed in the Netherlands by an international team for a global audience. 
Do you think that Dutch Packaging Design has one common denominator? 
One common denominator in Dutch Design: Open mindedness.
Dutch designers are generally open minded, brave, bold and certainly always looking beyond their own borders.

As a relatively small country it’s always been important for the Dutch to travel, explore and be entrepreneurial to seek out what they need to succeed. This mentality and drive enables the Dutch to freely explore more creatively and be less inhibited by cultural convention.

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