“Evolution is in Heineken’s DNA”: Heineken's global head of design Mark van Iterson
Mark van Iterson, Heineken’s global head of design, chats to The Drum about brand evolution and the Remix our Future challenge.Heineken is known for its green background and red star design, as well as having a partnership with James Bond. Celebrating 140 years in 2013, The Drum caught up with Heineken’s global head of design Mark van Iterson, to discuss plans for the future, where the brand has come from and how it is celebrating its birthday.How has the design of the brand evolved over the past 140 years?Our design change has been a bit of a paradox. It has been a constant evolution, it’s in the DNA of the Heineken brand. It’s very progressive: I think you could say design wise we’re very ahead of the game. We’re a bit more modern and contemporary than the competition, but on the other hand it has always been a very subtle evolutionary style.How would you like to see the brand evolve in the future from its current design?I think that beer in general is still a traditional consumption category, there is one brand that is looking forward and not back – and that is Heineken – but I think there is still so much more opportunity to become more evocative and more design driven. My dream is in five years’ time if you ask people to name their top five design driven brands that Heineken would be in their top five.Do you think the Heineken star has become synonymous with the brand?Not synonymous, but it is becoming so, for a part. But, yes, I think it is not just the star itself, because the star in itself is a very generic symbol and also the shape of our star – there’s nothing special about it. The type of star has been used millions of times, but its specific use: the red star with the green background, and maybe just a hint of our typical Heineken roadmark. The star is our central symbol, and the colour green. Those are our two key elements, and they are becoming synonymous [with the brand].Heineken is to take part in Milan Design Week. Do you think it is important to show your commitment in this way by attending things like these?Yes, absolutely. It is just the starting point for us, for two years ago we have just started being present there so at first it was quite an experience like, ‘ok, what are we doing to do there’. There is a lot of traditional design brands who are putting some beautiful designs on display there so it took us a bit of time to shape our idea of what we should present there. It’s the biggest most interactive design week in the world.In terms of the creative showcase that we are delivering, more and more is worldwide: that is why today for example I’m in Russia, tomorrow I’m going to Paris. It allows us to connect to the local design community.As part of the 140 birthday celebration, Heineken unveiled the ‘Remix our Future’ competition: how is this going?The Remix our Future challenge is really open to everybody, we literally had thousands of entrants. People who have spent probably a couple of hours thinking up a future Heineken bottle.Of course there will be only one, but we will showcase the top 30 in Milan, which is pretty cool if you’ve developed something and see it up during Milan Design Week. It shows that people really love to endorse, and buy into a brand and really think about it. It burrows into the history and the roots of the brand, and it has created an evolution: literally, people remix what we have done in the past, which I think in general is what good brand design is about. It is not just something that comes out of nowhere, but is the foundation of the personality – which may be true, by the way, for good design in general.The competition finalists will be revealed in late March.