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Spotlight on Dix au carré: The Yin and Yang of Modern Design

Guest Blogger | June 5, 2015

There are plenty of factors that lead someone to become an entrepreneur. Some people dream of owning a business from a young age, some take over a family business, some don’t feel at home as an employee and some decide to take the plunge after a job loss. Some just suddenly have a great idea! For Félix Marzell and David Barabé, the defining moment that led to the creation of their business, Dix au carré, was a meeting.

Back in 2012, Félix was working on a freelance project to create giant marionettes for the Just for Laughs Festival in Montréal. He was specializing in technical design for entertainment performances at the time, and a former professor introduced him to David, an engineer, to help him bring the project to life. In just a few hours, the magic happened: “I believed that it would take four days to do and it took four hours! It was just amazing! After that first meeting, I said to David, ‘We should always work together, it’s magical what just happened!’” The next day, David suggested that we start a proper business and one week later, the two signed a five-year lease on a studio.

It was there that they created Dix au carré, a research and development laboratory specializing in creative design projects. In their 4,500 square foot Montreal studio, Félix, David and their three-person team work to develop unique projects that mix creative artistry and technical performance. Felix can’t hide his passion for the projects they create: “We created a guillotine for Ubisoft in Toronto, a piano that paints for an artist in Qatar. When we bring these little dreams to life for people we almost forget all the effort and the sacrificing it took to make them a reality.”

They speak about their projects with an enthusiasm equaled only by their passion for collaboration. “A fusion between two designers” is how Félix and David describe the creation of Dix au carré. The way their different skills perfectly complement one another is the secret to this chemistry. They share passion for performance art, but have quite different backgrounds. Félix’s background in design and user experience, coupled with David’s engineering and modeling expertise, come together to bring clients’ creative visions to life. The contrast between what each contributes is visible right away: “We each have 2,000 square feet. On David’s side are machines, dust, callipers, equipment everywhere, and when you go down there are coloured plexi panels,  I have a piano, a foosball table, sculptures… I have a Mac, David has a PC,” jokes Félix. The way in which the two entrepreneurs draw from their own expertise is the essence of Dix au carré, which is not surprising when you consider the name of their business: “D for Design, I for Ingénierie (engineering) and X for the meeting of two ways of thinking: art and science,” explain David and Félix.

Today, the goal for the two co-founders is finding good employees to support the growth of Dix au carré, while maintaining their unique connection, the “small miracle” as they call it, within their team. Recruiting new collaborators for the startup also brings new responsibilities and the loss of certain freedoms. Félix explains: “Being an entrepreneur in the startup phase has a stunning effect because your dream is too big for you to do it alone, so you need people, and then you have to keep things moving because it’s not only your advancement you have to think about. People wait for things from you and you wait for things from them.” Creating and running a business requires a lot of energy, but the result is worth it according to Félix: “Entrepreneurship is about guiding, but mostly it’s about investing huge efforts each day to get a bit closer to your dream. The real salary for an entrepreneur is the sense of accomplishment. When it’s done with passion, entrepreneurship is the best trade.”


Find more information on Dix au carré and its founders here. Read news on their website, their Facebook page and discover some examples of their projects on Vimeo.

Written by : Claire Gendron, Marketing Content Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada