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"Follow your passion, trust your intuition and keep an open mind. Things are never just black and white". Stephie Sijssens

Have you ever wondered about what kind of jobs are out there for someone who appreciates the power of colour in design as much as you do?

This month we catch up with Stephie Sijssens who heads up the global colour design team at Akzonobel, the leading manufacturer of specialist coatings on the planet and asked her what she does and how she got the plum job.

How long have you held the role of Global Colour Design Manager? 12 years with the company and 3 years as Colour Design Manager

What kind of work does your role involve? My team is responsible for the yearly colour trend collection and customized design support for OEM (original equipment manufacturer) customers mainly in Automotive and Consumer Electronics Market. This means we research consumer trends, analyze colour and material trends and translate this information into a coating collection for our customers. And this collection is only the starting point. We help designers create the perfect colour for their product by translating their design briefs in new coating solutions, supporting workshops in the lab or develop additional colour tools to support the design process. Like our iColorDesign app that allows designers to create their perfect finish digitally before any lab work is required.

How did you qualify for the role (what did you study and work experience that led you to it)?

I studied in Antwerp, and have a Masters degree in Product Design. During my education, colour and materials where always part of the design process and although we learned about trend research, the final colour choices were often dictated by my student budget: Which markers do I have left, and how many new colours can I buy? After graduating I started working at AkzoNobel as special effect stylist and design support for key OEM’s. I learned everything about paint, about how the cmf (colour, material and finishing) teams of the big brands work and about the endless aesthetic possibilities of this thin layer of colour on a surface. This is where I got inspired by the effects and finishes and decided to learn more instead of pursuing a career in product design. Over the years I took the lead in the trend research and got more involved in the design strategy, which led me to my current role.

Tell us something you think the world doesn't know about colour?

I think in general people don’t always realize colour is involved with coatings. When I started working at AkzoNobel, it wasn’t easy to explain to people outside the business what I was doing exactly. They assume what you see is part of the material, while it’s often a coating that protects and enhances the material and defines the final finish.

And the nice part within Specialty Coatings is that it’s not only about colour. Coatings give you the possibility to add effect pigments, play with gloss levels, create a metallic look or add tactile effect like silky feel and ceramic depending on the requirements.

Why is colour important to you personally? Colour brings life to life, and makes things more interesting, whether it’s a fun bright accent or an elegant near black. I really like the beauty of unexpected combinations and try to look for it wherever I go. Can be on the street, in nature, an outfit, a design, photograph, food. And then I use that colour scheme in work or somewhere in my house.

What did you study at college/university? Master Product Design at Hogeschool Antwerp and later while I was already working at AkzoNobel, Interior Design and Colour Advisor at Syntra Mechelen.

Tell us about someone during your studies or early career who significantly helped encourage you towards your success in this creative field There are a couple of people who really encouraged and inspired me. Even more during my career as while I was studying. What I learned from them basically comes down to this: "Follow your passion, trust your intuition and keep an open mind. Things are never just black and white".

What is your favourite colour? My favorite color changes a lot, but it’s always connected to a material or finish. At the moment it’s a transparent orange-pink combined with a natural wood tone.

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