From intern to co-owner of CREON: one could say that John Driessen is a real “rock in the field. But even after 25 years, product designer John can still be surprised when he visits exceptional and special places for CREON.
CREON as a training company
As an Industrial Design student, John joined Prodesign during his third-year internship in 1996. “Prodesign appealed to me, and vice versa just the same,” John recalls. Co-owner Pieter Louwers became his internship supervisor at the industrial design firm. Here John learned how to practically apply the field of design. He worked out (parts of) furniture and helped build the furniture on site. The practical internship lasted about six months. After that, John had to go back to school.
Thanks to the good interaction with the owners of Prodesign, John was allowed to do small projects after his internship. regular small projects commissioned by the design company. After graduating, John was offered a job at the industrial design studio in the role of industrial designer.
Back during John’s internship, Pieter started his own company, CREON. Pieter and John kept in touch. Both were based in Tilburg and they regularly worked together creatively. “Occasionally I would lend Pieter a hand with a project, not much later I was regularly hired by CREON as a freelancer.” Over the years the cooperation intensified, John got more and more input and thought along with projects. Eventually, John decided to commit to CREON. “In 2015, I decided to work fully for CREON. Here I could use my knowledge and strengths to the fullest, which is something I still derive a lot of pleasure from today.”
Through the mud
John remembers one of his first projects at CREON: “That was for the marechaussée. The project was still under construction. It was in the fall and the building did not yet have heating and electricity. At all costs, our products had to be installed.” The men had to go through mud to get to the building. Only the control room was ready and it had to be set up. “Then you have a very nice finished product that has been given a lot of attention, which has to be placed in a structural building. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t have waited a few more weeks or months for this…”
A flourishing business
When John became more intensely involved with CREON, they moved from the office building in downtown Tilburg to the Jan Frederik Vlekkeweg in business park Het Laar. “It was nothing more than a large garage box where we assembled and mounted, with a showroom above.” Soon the neighboring building was included. An office space was set up with several workstations, and there was more room for assembly and storage. “But the building was still small.”
Increasingly larger projects came along, such as the procurement contract for the Department of Public Works. CREON’s team at the time consisted of five people. “We were a professional team, so the client didn’t notice any of that. CREON continued to grow steadily. In 2016, we won the contract for the National Control Room Collaboration (LMS). The team had now expanded to include a work planner, mechanics and Ralf Bogaerts as manager operations.”
When a spacious property became available on the same street, a few hundred meters up the road, John and Pieter went to take a look. “I remember we were impressed by the size of the property. We could do with that for at least at least a decade. But less than a year after the move, there was already a plan to expand the new building at the back!”
“I once told myself that if I reluctantly get in the car in the morning, I’ll turn right around and go home. I have been in this business for 25 years now, but we still visit places that are so amazing and special. Also, I am super proud of the team. Having those ingredients – fun team, special market, work that ties in with my studies and interests – makes why I love my job so much.”
According to John, CREON’s strength also comes together in these three ingredients. “I have few references, but the way of working at CREON, in comparison to the few companies for which I have done projects before, is distinctive and unique. CREON is in control: we help each other and there is room for everyone’s’ ideas. There is a balance between people, work, fun and challenge.”
As a product designer, John wants to keep abreast of innovations in materials, technology and design. He finds the Internet a helpful medium to learn about design, sustainability and new bits of technology. “I look at the strangest things around me, such as the automotive industry, but I also draw inspiration from nature. Of course we also look at the competition, but we do want to be and remain unique.”
To arrive at the best solutions for control rooms and dispatch rooms, the necessary information is gathered prior to an assignment. “Often a control room is the heart or business card of an organization. Its working environments must last at least 10 to 15 years. The space must look modern and timeless at the same time. We look for the balance between a state-of-the-art workplace and an almost “boring” environment that is not distracting. Between what everyone likes, being distinctive and a workplace where everyone feels comfortable.”
In 2016, a new, progressive workplace was introduced: the TITAN desk. John describes this special project: “We went in completely blank with the design. We looked at emerging techniques, such as the one-pixel space solution.” This new technology established a distinctive product in the market in terms of design, design and functionality in combination with large monitors. The TITAN desk was not only an oddity in CREON’s product range, but also in the entire market. It took some time for partners and customers to appreciate the TITAN. “It confirmed that the market is always looking at new technology, but they also expect proven technology. The market was not ready for the TITAN a few years ago; it was more of a concept study. Meanwhile, we do a lot of projects with this workstation. We see more and more people working with large monitors; this is now becoming the standard. The distinct design combined with the compact, ergonomic design and high-end AV technology is now being embraced by the market.”
A glimpse into the future
How does John see CREON’s future? “We want to be the architect and specialist in control room solutions. We focus not only on the workplace, but on the total picture: from head to tail. We take on a consultant role in terms of ergonomics, lighting, acoustics, etc. The goal is to create the ultimate work environment for the end user. This involves the total experience.
As for John, CREON is taking even more steps in the field of internationalization and entering new industries. In this regard, the team will also have to grow a bit: “The more people, the more diverse. But we would like to maintain the culture within the company.”