Weeknote 441

May 5th to 9th

I came back to the studio sometime last Wednesday. It felt like a long time, since I had spent the week before at the Baltic Sea with my family. Therefore, I’ve not been involved with studio activities in the last few days. But I was really happy we did a short all-hands meeting on Thursday.

The last few months have been pretty exhausting – and a lot of fun! Almost a year ago, our neighbors NEXT Conference asked us to work with them on their 2014 edition. As we did this type of work already two times before with another conference, we knew how much fun it could be. And also how much hard work and stepping outside our comfort zone it would mean.

Of course every conference is different, but they have one very essential thing in common: they happen at a certain point in time. There's this day where hundreds or thousands of people are flooding the venue in the morning expecting everything to be in place so they can enjoy their time.

Such a hard deadline can create a lot of pressure and stress, but it also leverages a great amount of energy and concentration. It’s basically down to one thing: working with the right people. If this condition is true, everybody’s ready to have a good time and create wonderful results.

We kicked off the project with a workshop to gather insight – getting to know the people involved, understand their perspectives and experience. After breaking down the conference journey into its basic phases (before, during, after), creating personas and discussing touch points, we started with refining the visual identity of the NEXT brand (we might write another more detailed post on that topic). We started with the definition of a basic brand DNA and some design principles to base all forthcoming work on. We established a design system as a foundation so everything that would follow, done by all kinds of different people in the team, would speak the same language without formulating too strict rules and style guides that would just limit fellow designers. We wanted to create a DNA that offers a coherent identity, but allows the brand to evolve over time and also be adequate for all kinds of different contexts: a website, digital communication, social media appearances, a smartphone app, print advertisement, printed matters at the conference, the stage design, location branding, a way finding system, screen-, motion- and sound design for stage projections and post-conference video material.

This sounds like a lot of stuff, and it is. Orchestrating across teams and media is a tough job, but it's worth it. We love when places or events feel like they've been carefully thought through. That’s our goal when thinking about these things. Like a director planning and executing a play. The result for sure wasn't perfect, but I think it came together pretty well.

When we agreed working with NEXT, we were also very much looking forward to another collaboration with raumlaborberlin. They're a studio for architecture and urban interventions and we had worked together for re:publica 2012. Back then we figured we can work together very well, and this proved to be true once again. We somehow have a similar taste and attitude, and we share the ambition to create something meaningful. Our sense of humor being quite compatible helps for sure … let's do more shit together!

I’m sitting in a train to Berlin, typing on my iPhone (eat this, Johannes!). I could use my Laptop but I hate the feeling people could follow my writing. The writing process is such an intimate thing; being observed would be like somebody reading your mind! But my point is: this is getting quite lengthy, so I'll try to find an end here …

But not before shouting out a very warm thank you to everybody involved in the project. A full list of everybody we’ve been in touch with would be way to long (Martin Recke wrote something like this on the NEXT blog), so I'll stick to the people directly involved with precious design studio:

Sthuthi Rhamesh helped us in the exploration and refinement of the NEXT brand (also, Johannes was involved in this early phase). Henryk Wollik, part of the project since the first minute, was involved with conceiving the visual language and mainly worked on the motion design and our stage projection system. Christopher Jung, our favorite graphic designer in Berlin, helped us with all the print work. Constantin Meinke, a design student we fortunately met during a teaching assignment was a helping hand regarding all things digital communication. David Gwiasda worked on the responsive website and the screen design for the main stage projection and also helped during the first steps of our NEXT NOW app. Heiko Behrens did an incredibly great job developing before mentioned app for iOS and Android (with some support from Michael). Philipp Granzin once again proved his irresistible motion and sound design talent and helped with the video ident that was shown as an intro on the main stage and is now part of every video recording of the conference. And last not least, Florie Salnot developed some basic user research material.

It was a great pleasure working with you guys and I’m looking forward to our next chance to collaborate!

Here are some pictures.

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