It’s green, but not as we know it

An aerial view of ReneDesign in Nuuk (the blue building in the middle)

Greenland is where this story begins and ReneDesign is the company in focus. Founded over 10 years ago by René Olsen primarily as a graphic design agency, the business now provides a good mix of signage, merchandise and teamwear to the local city and beyond. Minik Nielsen, who joined the company in 2012, gives P&P editor Melanie Attlesey an insight into life in the cold north.

Greenland may not be at the top of everyone’s list of places to visit in the world, but Minik says that no matter where in the country you go you will be guaranteed an amazing view.

ReneDesign is located in the capital Nuuk, which at a population of only 18,300 places it at approximately the same size as Bangor in Wales. “It’s a typical capital city, just on a much smaller scale,” says Minik. ReneDesign can be found between two car dealers and behind an IT company in an industrial part of the city. “The view is not particularly spectacular, but I do have a view of the sky from the window of my office, which is really nice when it’s snowing. But with that being said, the water is just down the road where you can enjoy the view and the calmness of the ocean,” he adds.

With a passion for graphic design, René started his own design agency in 2009. Within a few years he began to notice that local businesses were sourcing their uniforms and teamwear from outside of Greenland. Since he designed logos already, why not also offer clothing to his regular customers? Now ReneDesign offers the whole package with a team of graphic designers working behind the scenes to fulfil clients’ requirements to the full.

“We focus a lot on creativity, good mood and quality. We are really passionate about what we do, and I hope that our customers can feel that,” says Minik.

Day to day running

You might be wondering how a business like ReneDesign operates on a daily basis in a country that could be considered remoter than others. Where do they source their supplies from? What about technical support should a machine go down?

Well, you might be surprised to learn that ReneDesign primarily uses transfers from TheMagicTouch. Minik explains: “René is always looking for the next big thing or something different. Something that sets us apart from the crowd. He brainstormed ideas with our regular supplier in Denmark, and they recommended TheMagicTouch and all of the possibilities they offer including the material and machines needed. And even though René likes to find inspiration, he is also straight forward and seeks a direct contact with the supplier. If the product is not already in Greenland, why should we not become a TheMagicTouch dealer in Greenland? So he contacted TheMagicTough directly and made a dealership possible. We choose to have a direct connection with our suppliers such as TheMagicTouch, to make the product affordable for our customers, and what great guys they are.”

ReneDesign’s production room

TheMagicTouch’s varied printing options are used in conjunction with an Oki printer to give a more abstract and exclusive look, easily and quickly. Whereas Roland printers are used for posters, vinyls for clothing, stickers for businesses, car wraps, canvas pictures, window foils and much more besides. “The demand for production grew rapidly, and therefore we expanded our range of production machines over the years. The Roland machines are just such great products. And the production value they provide is just amazing,” says Minik.

Technical support more often than not comes in the form of a video call. Minik says that this is perhaps one of the biggest challenges that ReneDesign faces. He says: “When we invest in a machine, we also invest the time to learn how to handle situations where the machine requires a loving hand. Sometimes we need a web call for video guidance of how to fix some of the problems that can happen to the printers. Worse case scenario we need a technician, and the travel costs, plus the hotel bill can be a huge amount of money.”

Customer base

ReneDesign’s customers are typically based in Greenland, with local businesses, political parties and sports teams counted among them. Although enquires have been received from as far afield as Finland and Iceland in the past.

ReneDesign’s print room

“Most of the Greenlandic sports clubs purchase their teamwear through us. Here we use the brand Macron, which has really become a recognised brand in the sports industry. The majority of the sports clubs here in Greenland now have jerseys from Macron, including the Greenlandic national football team. I should mentioned that the sports industry is primarily indoor activities such as futsal, handball and racketball. But we do have the shortest season in outdoor football which is about three weeks.”

Most recently, ReneDesign produced 150 T shirts for a local marathon in July and in August produced T shirts and tote bags for Greenland’s Qooqqut Festival. Organised by Katuaq, the cultural house of Greenland, this festival brings music and culture to the Nuuk fjord complex, which Minik describes as an amazingly beautiful place.

Right now, Minik is working on designing a logo for a Canadian organisation, which in collaboration with Greenland is working to ensure that salmon do not become an endangered species, demonstrating just how varied the work is that ReneDesign carries out.

Impact to business

At this moment in time, it is difficult to speak to anyone, no matter where in the world, and not enquire if COVID-19 has an impact on business. Despite only having had 14 cases of coronavirus since March, this did not stop the city of Nuuk closing down with people choosing to work from home. Minik says this had an impact on orders, with events being cancelled and postponed, and businesses not wanting to provide new uniforms for homeworkers.

“And even though there are no longer cases of infection in Greenland at present, sports events are still being cancelled. For our case the amount of clothing production has dropped a lot this year, compared to how it tends to be,” says Minik.

The result of this is that ReneDesign, like many businesses worldwide, has had to evolve and adapt.

He adds: “We have made more outreach sales than we usually do and we have thought out of the box to seek for solutions to make it work. We contacted customers we don’t usually have a partnership with and got a few creative jobs that way. Oh, another fun fact in our COVID-19 situation: floor stickers. We’ve never sold so many floor stickers ever in such a short period of time. Almost any store wants a ’keep a distance’ sticker one way or another.”

Once business eventually returns to normal, Minik says that the plan for ReneDesign in the future is to become more automated. “We already have some amazing machines that can last for many more years to come, but we can always get better at the end product, and would therefore very much like to invest in a machine that can solve the cutting part of posters, stickers, signs and much more. We’re in the process of purchasing a Summa F1612 flatbed cutter, so we’ll see how that goes.”

On a more personal level, Minik says he would like to continue developing as a videographer, so that he can create video jobs and show the whole world how ReneDesign solves tasks in the cold north.

The ReneDesign team

And speaking of the cold north, Minik encourages anyone to pay the beautiful country of Greenland a visit. “Our population may not be that impressive, but we appreciate our fantastic nature – and we want you to experience it as well. If you choose to visit Nuuk, you are more than welcome to visit our company. I would be happy to give a demonstration of our production room, tell you all about the Greenlandic market and other exciting opportunities in Greenland.”

ReneDesign is a fine example of a business filling a vital gap in the market. When René founded the business back in 2009 it was clear that he had done his research. René and his team do not let themselves become satisfied with the status quo and are always looking for ways to advance development, whether that’s on a personal level or through the production equipment.

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