Marcel Thibert and Jordan VerBerg seamlessly integrate message, medium, and talent to grow
What Marcel Thibert and Jordan VerBerg have been doing is nothing short of a magic show, and that’s just what they want.
Their company, Vizidef Display Technology
, founded by Thibert before he brought VerBerg on as design researcher, was one of the first groups to bring integrative technology, combining static and digital displays, to the market. It’s a matter of creating an experience that begins before a user even notices. And it’s admittedly so cutting edge, Thibert said, “There really isn’t a word for what we do.”
And while some may know Vizidef’s work for dazzling visual displays and creative use of a huge, easily operated touch screen phone, Thibert and VerBerg are always pushing for the next level in interaction. Most recently, their labors in ambient interaction have been used at Mlive
, among other local facilities.
“As soon as you walk in, the space is interacting with you without having to do anything,” VerBerg said. “That’s a more powerful connection. People tend to remember something that almost seems like magic then having to go up to it to make it happen.”
Before Vizidef, TronixR.us was Thibert’s project in early 2009, handling digital displays. The interest in his work was growing even then.
“That was when I first got on stage to talk about being an international company. There was Carl Erickson
, Bing Goei
, and then me sitting in the corner,” Thibert said. “Everything kind of sprang forward from there. It doesn’t matter how big you are as long as you’re always moving to that next level.”
Vizidef was formed out of the shell of TronixR.us in November 2009. Relying mainly on projection-driven displays, the LED projectors they used were biodegradable and did not use mercury. Since then, the company has been shying away from projection projects and getting more into teaming with larger companies to augment their existing capabilities.
“We will customize products to a space, or someone will have an idea but can’t get it off the ground because there isn’t anyone else who works with these products,” Thibert said. “The last few years we’ve been going in that direction of solving those problems.”
Working together, smarter
VerBerg joined Vizidef in 2012 and took design courses at Kendall College of Art and Design
, helping round out the ability of this “tiny niche company,” according to Thibert. Now working with some of the largest companies in the region, and the country, including Mlive, Gordon Food Service
, Amway, Britten Banners
, and others, Vizidef is finding its wheelhouse.
“Britten Banners, the biggest banner company in the world, did the Olympics, and handles Under Armor
,” Thibert said. “They wanted to find the right company to help separate their brand from others and were looking to hire a new set of experiential designers. We met with them and their subsidiary company TentCraft, which is one of the largest tent making companies in the company. They wanted the same thing, to make interactive tents, which no one else has.”
After connecting the right skill sets to their knack for exploring the latest technologies, Thibert and VerBerg have seen no lack of demand for their talent.
“We’ve never made any sales calls or done any advertising,” Thibert said. “It’s all been word of mouth. People say, if you can’t solve it, these guys will help you.”
A collaborative company, Vizidef tries to partner with just about anyone to complete a project.
“Once a company figures out what we do and they realize we’re not a competitor, we will help them try to solve their problem,” Thibert said. “We get the business but we don’t necessarily have to sell it. It’s specifically for their client base. Our logos aren’t all over it. It’s not about branding us. It’s about helping separate them.”
For instance, Freshwater Digital Media Partners
is a digital signage creation company. Vizidef is an interactive display company. Some of Freshwater’s clients want an interactive display. Instead of hiring a person in-house there, they partner with Vizidef to handle that part of the project.
“It used to be about our brand and outselling everybody, but that’s really not that important to running a business, as long as you have the work to do,” Thibert said. “It’s kind of like being the guy behind the curtain. You get to do it all and see your work out there, but you don’t have to compete with everyone.”
Considering the age and relative size of the company, the big name clients Vizidef has been working with can be intimidating, VerBerg said, but it still comes down to a matter of finding what gaps to fill in a company’s knowledge base to create a seamless product.
“Working together helps build this specialized knowledge set so we can build something better for the client,” VerBerg said. “You could call us user experience designers to use an umbrella term.”
The medium and the message
At trade shows and now on Grand Valley State University
’s campus, Vizidef conveys its clients’ message with large touchscreen monitors, often encased like a phone.
“We found out that they’re more approachable to people that are young, old, or in between because it’s something they interact with every day,” VerBerg said.
It looks just like a large android smartphone, which millions of people use every day, and it works just like one, Thibert said.
“We’ve made a touchscreen for the masses,” he said. “By making an android based product that looks like a phone, the first thing people do when they walk up to it is touch it like a phone.”
At Amway, Vizidef helped create an entirely interactive display room operated on an android device no bigger than two square inches. The successful execution of the project demonstrated the capability of Vizidef with even the most lightweight hardware.
“It ran for three weeks without any downtime,” Thibert said. “A lot of our designs now run on these little machines rather than a giant Windows machine or a Mac Mini.
Vizidef’s work is already in place at GVSU, while at KCAD they’re working with 3D designs to show projects off to the general public.
“When you walk by the display on a panel of glass, you can see all the students’ work,” Thibert said.
All the hanging displays at Innovation Central
High School were also handled by Vizidef. And Forest Hills Eastern
is hiring a company to start integrating more educational displays, with Vizidef custom creating them in their common spaces so they’re more modern and more affordable.
“We’re trying to find the overlap of what technology they have, what technology they need to get, and how to integrate them together,” VerBerg said. “We’re also consulting with them to find out what each of their needs are in their individual classrooms. They’ll be able to offer an experience that’s very useful to both the teachers and the students.”
Changing the industry
Thibert and VerBerg are starting to notice that they’ve created their own market, to which they supply the talent.
“People are understanding now that it’s not just audio visual companies out there. They want design. They want custom solutions rather than cookie cutter solutions,” VerBerg said. “Now Custer
wants us to create custom solutions for their architectural installments and interior design. This is all because of the direction we’re going. In this industry we’re offering something that people didn’t know they really wanted.”
The ideas Thibert has logged since the creation of TronixR.us weren’t always feasible, but with VerBerg at the helm of research and the Vizidef name making waves across the globe, the company has reached a tipping point.
“We’ve always had ideas but we’ve never had the chance to be in front of the right person to make them come to life,” Thibert said. “You only get a couple seconds for people to look at these things, so to get them to stay is a challenge. Now we really have a chance to show what we can do in a space, and when people leave that space, they’re going to remember that.”
Matthew Russell is the Project Editor for UIX Grand Rapids. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.