• Weeknote 455

    August 11th to 17th

    This week the studio was populated by lots of people: clients sketching hundreds of ideas, electricians climbing in dizzy heights, babies crawling on the floor and strangers sitting on benches listening to other strangers.

    We conducted two workshops with clients – one was for a start-up, generating ideas to improve the product, the other one was about a new digital product for a magazine brand. The energy in both workshops was high, and thus the results good/interesting/revealing.

    On Thursday, we stopped working earlier than usual, because our partners and kids came to the studio for a little get-together. You don’t need a reason to enjoy time with your families and colleagues, but we had one: it was the last day that we all were together for quite a long time. Svenja will soon start her maternity leave and I… well, I’m writing these lines about 8000 kilometers away from Hamburg and for the next three months I won’t come any closer.

    Because I had to pack for our trip, I missed the UX camp on Saturday, for which we hosted some of the talks in our studio.

    Christophe will take over the weeknotes. I’m sure he has some interesting things to tell next week, as he is visiting a conference called The Conference in Malmö. Although I might be still involved in or at least informed about a few issues, it guess it’ll be strange to learn about some activities in the studio through our website.

    In the meantime I might write some travel notes, or at least update my rusty instagram account.

    Have a great summer/fall.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 454

    August 4th to 10th

    Not much has changed in our studio space since we moved here almost two years ago. We added some desks, a large table, lamps and movable shelves. But the basic layout of the room always stayed the same.

    Before we moved, we put some thoughts into creating a floor plan. We divided the space into basic areas: meet, work, relax, eat/socialize. It all made sense on paper (or in 3d) and it felt alright in reality.

    But in the last months, we realized that our current solution wasn’t ideal. We started with 4-5 people when we moved here. Now all 8 work stations are constantly occupied and soon we won’t have enough desks to accommodate everybody. With that many people working in the open plan studio, some of us wish for a refuge, a place devoid of distractions, a little corner to focus.

    None of us had a good idea how to tackle these challenges. We were stuck.

    Enter raumlabor. We asked our favourite architects for help and we were excited, that Andrea and Christof, who we knew from joint projects for re:publica and NEXT Berlin conference, agreed to join us for a workshop.

    So on Friday we’ve blocked the whole day to improve the studio. Our guest from Berlin listened to our experiences we’ve made with the space in the last two years and what everybody on the team liked or disliked. After having a closer look at our space, “reading the room”, they had and idea how to change the basic layout. And so we did: furniture was moved, lamps were adjusted, shelves dissembled and reassembled. At the end of the day we had a new studio. And although a bit messy and improvised, it immediately felt better. We now have more space for additional work stations, a quiet corner with two desks and a new coffee lounge.

    Listening to how Andrea and Christof talked about the room, about how people move because of the layout and which activities are enabled or discouraged by it, made me realize how limited my abilities are to conceive a layout beyond a screen or a DIN A0 sheet. Our old arrangement reflected that. I don’t think we’ve done a terrible job at it. We followed some basic rules that led to an OK solution. It’s like designing a poster using a standard grid and Helvetica. It’ll look decent, probably better than most of the posters done by other non-graphic designers. But it takes more to do something great. True masters not just know the rules, they know how to break them. Like good jazz musicians, who can improvise effortlessly.

    It was great watching raumlabor playing a little jazz in our studio. Thanks!

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 453

    July 28th to August 3rd

    Nothing too special happened last week, so I intended to write about something which has been causing lots of electro-chemical reactions in my brain. Let me start by saying this: I failed. I wrote several drafts, edited them… and hit the delete button.

    About 1,5 years I started to meditate. At least once a day I try to sit down for 20 minutes and practice "present-moment awareness”.

    When I’m into something, I try to get my hands on as many books as possible, so I read a bunch about mindfulness, psychology and eastern philosophies in the last months.

    When reading such texts (any non-fiction texts for that matter), my mind always tries to make connections. What are the underlying principles? How can this be applied to that? If this works for A, could it work for B and C as well?

    I often thought about how these ideas – and even more important: experiences* – transfers to a specific field like design. What can we learn from the principle of Pratītyasamutpāda for our creative processes? What has to do with creating layouts?

    Well, believe me, I had some pretty cool chain of thoughts. Or so I believed. Because once I tried to put them into words, I struggled. So now I’m sitting here, dying to tell you about what’s going on in my head – and I can’t. Maybe it’ll need some more time to be so clear about it that I can translate it into words.

    And so ends this weeknote, in where I write about something I couldn’t write about.


    *) While many try to gain “enlightenment” (whatever that is) through zazen (sitting meditation), some even say that the practice itself is enlightenment. Anyway, it’s something you have to experience and can not learn intellectually.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 452

    July 21st to 27th

    With the World Cup, ongoing project work and recovery from sleep deprivation induced indisposition all fighting for the top of the priority list, unfortunately the weeknotes didn’t have the ghost of a chance in the past weeks.

    Finally, I carved out some time to drop a few lines. It’s past seven, everybody already left the building. It’s quiet, except for the fan whose humming and buzzing has been the studio soundtrack for the recent days.

    Best thing this week: Michael has returned from his parental leave. I can imagine that coming back after spending two months with your baby and girlfriend is quite a change, but after a few days of acclimatisation, Michael attends the projects that have been waiting for him with a lot of verve.

    Also best thing this week: Aisha signed the contract. She’ll fill in for Svenja as the studio manager. It’s such a relieve to have found someone in time who has not just the necessary skills, but is also a cultural fit.

    Pretty good as well: lots of new project inquiries. But not just the quantity increased. Most of them have the potential to be projects where we can influence or even define the fundamental process very much (if that sounds trivial, it’s not).

    Also causing excitement: framer.js in combination with Sketch.

    More awesomeness: the diverse output produced by the team. Everybody is doing really great and interesting stuff – and learning a ton while doing it.

    A good week.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 447

    June 16th to 22nd

    Just in time for the World Cup, we increased our international diversity. Our small team currently consists of four nationalities since Chiara started her internship this week.

    We now have Sean cheering for the US boys, Chiara keeping her fingers crossed for the Squadra Azzurra, Florie hoping that Les Bleus “don’t behave like idiots again” and the rest of us rooting for the German Mannschaft.

    Since watching the matches takes up a lot of time and energy, we invited Luise, a vegan cook, to prepare a lunch for us on Thursday. Actually, we’ve been tinkering with the idea to have a regular team lunch for quite a while – not just in the strenuous times during the World Cup. There’s one drawback though: the smell that evaporates from the kitchen an hour before lunch time. Concentration loses big time against anticipation, like Portugal against Germany.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 446

    June 9th to 15th

    Once again, we opened our studio for a small public event. Organized by Florie and her colleagues, we served “Service Design Drinks” to about 30 people who had enough stamina to join us for an evening of lively discussion after a hot and humid day. Christophe talked about “Designing for the conference experience”, sharing our design approach for re:publica and NEXT Berlin and the surprising insights we gained along the way. It was a sweaty, but pleasant evening with old friends and new acquaintances. We should do that again some time.

    On Friday we had a short but fun internal workshop, introducing the Design Studio Methodology to everybody who wasn’t yet familiar with it.

    Projects: see last week.

    Posted by Johannes.