precious design studio — strategic design & visual language across devices.
Wow, it’s been a month and no weeknote at all. So this is what happens if Johannes asks me to take over the duty. Well, as I don’t exactly remember what happened per week, i’ll try to give a rough résumé for the past four weeks, grouped by major events:
Workshop at Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd
Once again we traveled to Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd to give a 1,5 days workshop to master students. It’s around 7 hours on the train, but we always use the time to reflect on various topics and work on latest workshop preparations. This time, it felt like traveling into another country: the trees in Southern Germany were already green and it was a lot warmer. So we had dinner outside on both evenings in Schwäbisch Gmünd, a rather gemütlich smalltown.
Our workshop there is on multi
screen-device design (we moved away from “screen” and started talking about “device”). As we prefer to actually make stuff and take most of the time to sketch and discuss digital product ideas with our students, we decided to apply what we had just learned in our Design Studio training with Todd a week earlier. And although everybody was quite challenged by the workshop pace in the beginning, we felt that all participants really appreciated the approach: they threw out so many ideas and sketches, and patiently went through a dozen rounds of sketching, pitching and critique. For us it was really exciting to observe how their product ideas, but mainly the group dynamics became better and better with every iteration.
Fostering and growing
Spring is always a good time of the year to prepare your garden for summertime – and to discuss next steps for your company! Since we’re adding a few people to the team within the next few months, we actually need to define a certain framework. We have a pretty clear picture in mind and a shared understanding of what we want the precious design studio to be and to become (and what we don’t want!), but putting it into words and being able to convey this mindset to new people is something else. Our beloved friend and new studio manager Svenja is helping us laying out plans and tactics to foster and grow our vision of a fully transparent, non-hierarchical and highly participatory company culture. There won’t be a masterplan anytime soon, but there won’t be a better moment to try things out. As Johannes once wrote: developing the company is the toughest design project to work on – and we need to experiment and iterate on that as well.
Jan showed up the other day and had a magic piece of music hardware in his backpack: the OP-1 by Teenage Engineering. He gave a short demo and I was even more taken with it afterwards. These guys really have created something mind-blowingly unique and fun.
We have a lot of pretty thrilling project inquiries in the pipeline these days. That’s fantastic and we’re very thankful, but it also means we’ll have to reject a few of them. Same goes for some talk and workshop requests. Turning down promising opportunities is always a painful thing, so that’s one of the reasons why we’re adding a few people to the team.
This week we traveled to Berlin for two days of re:publica. We enjoyed the conference as guests this year – having worked on the design in 2011 and 2012. Entering the conference terrain was a goosebumps moment: it felt so good coming back to STATION Berin after a full year – we had such a good and intense time there back in May 2012. It was great seeing all the lovely people of the re:publica team again, talking to our dear raumlabor friends, hanging around for two days and being able to listen to a few talks. And the cappuccino was delicious again!
It was also very interesting and inspiring to see what this year’s designers 10hoch16 came up with. They’re great people and we chatted about a broad range of topics – working with re:publica, running a design studio, changing the world … I think we should work together on something, sometime.
A very eventful week it was.
Svenja started as our first ever studio manager and she got more stuff done in her first few days than we did in half a year. Unfortunately her stint will be just two months, because she has got another summer job. We already miss her.
On Tuesday we hosted our first public event at the studio. Todd Zaki Warfel talked about prototyping and ideation techniques. We had some concerns to open our precious space to 50 people, some of who we never seen before, but everything went just fine. We’ve had a great evening, I hope our guests felt the same.
The next day Todd trained our team and some friends in the Design Studio Methodology. We applied the process to generate and refine ideas for a fictitious product and learned how to moderate such sessions with clients.
These are just the facts. A lot more could be said, but not today.
I was in South Tyrol last week, but from what I’ve heard from the others, it seemed to be a quiet week. And a short one, since Christophe left early for the easter holidays on Thursday, David was ill and Michael didn’t want to sit alone in the office.
- Michael is building a tool that we’ll use for our Design Studio Methodology workshop next week. We also hope to make it public very soon.
- Christophe made drastic changes to the overall layout of Puichon. Together with Inken he moderated a workshop with the inhouse designers of Conuma at our studio.
- I made quite a few iterations for a ubiquitous platform feature of Puichon and took care of some admin stuff.
- David took the week off.
Yesterday we’ve had a conversation about the strategic alignment of the company. We talked about what kind of projects we want to do in the future and how to evaluate new inquiries from clients. That was the easy part.
Trying to unveil the DNA of precious was much harder. We all have an idea of what our design studio is and is not. But if you dig really deep and trying to break it down to just a few basic characteristics, it’s tough work. Formulating and communicating this is even harder. Definitely too much for the limited time we’ve set aside for our meeting, so we have to continue next week.
The carpenter has delivered new shelves this week. They divide the middle part of the studio into two sections, but they are mounted on casters, so we can easily move them around and keep the space flexible.
It’ll be interesting to see how that will influence the structure and atmosphere of the room. Because of the wood glue, the olfactory impression was as prominent as the visual. I’m not sure if the emissions made us high, dizzy or tired.
Either way I couldn’t detect a change – positive or negative – in our productivity. We’ve been busy as usual with Puichon and Conuma. For the latter Michael developed a nifty sketch of a tool that semi-automates the production of teasers (if you aren’t fluent in marketing-lingo: a combination of image and text that should animate the user to click). That lead to some thoughts and discussions about “rule-based art direction”, a really fascinating topic that seems to come back to us again and again.
Here’s a few more things I remember:
We had some talks about new project opportunities. Interesting.
We interviewed some applicants. Promising.
Michael made a chocolate-beetroot cake for my birthday. Mouth-watering.
Conuma was on hold this week and Issaquah is done for now, so Christophe (back from Mexico), David and I all worked a little bit more time on Puichon than what we usually set aside for this project. Still the progress seems to slow down. We’re at a stage where we have to consolidate about half a year of ever-changing drafts across multiple devices. Everything is connected to everything else – if we change a header here, it has implications there, if we alter the padding on screen A, we have to consider it on screen B, C, D…
We talked about how to manage such complex design projects, how to keep a living, evolving styleguide up-to-date without slowing down the whole process, without making to many mistakes, and ultimately without losing our sanity. We don’t have a solution yet, just some ideas how it would work in an ideal world. A world which is radically different, vaster and less confined than the little island called Creative Suite.
On Thursday we had our first “precious film club” night. We watched “The Ghost of Piramida”, a documentary by Andreas Koefoed. The film maker joined Danish band Efterklang to Spitsbergen, where they recorded sounds for their new record in an abandoned russian mining town. The second narrative of the film is about a former citizen of this town, Piramida, who recalls the short, but interesting history of this russian outpost. Koefoed managed to interweave these two very different plots into a beautiful collage which I hardly can put into words. Watch it, if what I described sparks a little bit of interest. You won’t regret it.