Interview with THOMAS FEICHNTER.
With STUDIO, Thomas Feichtner has developed a modern, modular workplace system, designed to appeal particularly to people who live their individuality and creativity, even at work. We spoke to him about design in the workplace, creative currency and his childhood dream job.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE STUDIO?
Lots of my colleagues often put their own furniture together because they couldn’t find what they wanted on the conventional office furnishings market. That was my starting point. And then I just asked myself: “What furniture would I love to have in my own office?”
WHAT MARKS YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE, THE PEOPLE YOU DESIGNED STUDIO BY BENE FOR?
Creatives don’t see boundaries between work and private life, work and leisure. They’re not concerned with work-life-balance, just about “love your work”. And this group includes lots of design lovers who want to have beautiful things at home and in the office. So the dividing line between home and office is fluid. You want to feel at home.
The Austrian artist, BOICUT, lives and works in Vienna. His works are abstract, impulsive, colourful and quite brilliant. BOICUT has painted a special edition of PIXEL edition for Bene – with colours, shapes and lines that all somehow relate to ideas, office life and work.
How does anyone become an artist? Did you always want to paint, or was the path not quite so straightforward?
The path wasn’t quite that straight. There are some people who start drawing as kids and keep going. But it was a bit different for me; I drew a lot when I was young, but then other things got more important, like my first girlfriend and skateboarding. Then I studied in Vienna and worked in a call centre. It was only later that I studied graphic design. I wrote a dissertation about “The artist as a brand”, and that is also when I created BOICUT.
And where did it go from there?
At first I did small commissioned projects and worked at an agency. That often meant waking up at 5 in the morning, working on my own projects for a few hours and then heading into the agency. It was during this time that I had my first exhibition in London, then some work for Converse and, on my last day at the agency, I got a commission from Kaufhaus Steffl - the first big project under the name BOICUT.
When designing NOOXS, the London design firm PearsonLloyd was inspired by working methods that are common in architecture. We talked to Tom Lloyd and Luke Pearson about their inspiration, how to delegate work and their favourite song to brainstorm to.
Welcome Muuto! We are delighted to be able to welcome a new partner brand: chairs, sofas, luminaires and much more from Muuto will be available in selected Bene showrooms in the near future. We have used this fantastic new partnership as an opportunity to put three questions to Muuto's CEO Anders Cleeman.
The name Muuto says it all – "muutos" means “new perspectives” in Finnish. Muuto Design develops its Scandinavian heritage fully in line with this concept, based on plenty of passion and bold creative approaches. High standards in terms of aesthetics and functionality, as well as a love of craftsmanship form part of its philosophy, as does trying out new materials and techniques. This philosophy of new perspectives is brought to life in collaboration with unique and modern designers.
Martin Bergmann, Gernot Bohmann and Harald Gründl have been working together as a design collective since 1995. For Bene they answer questions about their FILO design and they explain how the art of archery has inspired innovative furniture design.
WHAT IS MOST SPECIAL ABOUT THE FILO TABLE?
The ‘antlers’ of die-cast aluminium whose branches extend into bars on the underside of the continuous tabletop; this allows for a minimalist supporting structure, very large spans, and maximum legroom.
AND ABOUT THE FILO CHAIR?
The armrest of the chair works like a drawn bow. It is elastic where it is the thinnest, and this opens the angle between seat and backrest. There is no mechanism to enable this movement, the armrest itself is the mechanism.
WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR FILO?
Mike Keilhauer talked about a chair for concentration and what that could mean. We then started looking around for concentration rituals and found them in archery. We invited a Japanese master bowman who demonstrated the art of Kyudo to us on the flat roof of our studio. The breathing, the concentration technique, and the unity of human and object really fascinated us. In the moment of the shot, the idea for this chair was clear to us.
Architecture office AllesWird- Gut (in English, all will be well) has been undertaking visionary and creative work since 1997, without losing sight of the necessary pragmatism. The projects developed for Vienna and Munich range from housing and office buildings to the magdas HOTEL, a Caritas social business project. We talked to Herwig Spiegl, who cofounded AllesWirdGut, about visions, work processes and redesigning the skies.
When does Alles Wird Gut (in English, all will be well) find a project to be visionary?
Herwig Spiegl: We find a project visionary when it is possible to stand one’s ground against the argument of “it has always been like that”.
Many of your buildings are built for companies. Does an innovative space promote success?
HS: An innovative space does encourage you to think about things in a different way. It stimulates the senses and the imagination, creating a good basis for success.
The Styrian chocolate producer is known for his ability to use unusual creations to stand out again and again. One important focus is on fair trade and organic production. Visitors to his chocolate theatre can follow the production of his chocolate from bean to bar, tasting the different stages along the way. Afterwards, they can go to the edible zoo and meet the food on their plate in person. This idea is not to shock but rather to make people understand. We spoke to the chocolate expert Josef Zotter about blood chocolate, the art of failure and why he sometimes wishes he was American.
How do you create space for innovation?
Well, I don’t sit myself down and plan new product ideas. The ideas come automatically while I’m working – my office is chaotic but here is a system to it – I often write notes on pieces of paper, which are then moved around according to current priorities. I work on paper. And sometimes I have the most unusual ideas in my edible zoo. The thing is to relax and let the ideas come.
Who comes up with new ideas at Zotter?
I do! If Zotter is on the packaging, Zotter has to be behind the product. I combine tastes in my head to create something entirely new. I know what something will taste like before it has been produced. Luckily, I have more ideas than we can produce in a season - the difficult thing is to decide what not to make. I even have to take bestselling chocolate out of the product range to make space for new ideas.
This German company is a global market leader in automation technology and industrial training. Festo AG & Co. KG in Ostfildern provides 300,000 customers from 35 different industries with pneumatic and electronic automation technology. We spoke to Christian Kubis, Director of Factory Maintenance Engineering at Festo Scharnhausen, about productivity, processes and basketball hoops.
In cooperation with Bene, you have installed four innovation rooms in your company. Why did you decide to do this?
We wanted rooms that specifically promoted innovation and creativity. We also wanted to create an environment that motivates employees to get involved and share their ideas with others.
How are these rooms received by the employees and in what way are they used?
Initially, our employees were quite sceptical. However, this changed after we had explained the rooms to them – they then understood how they could be used and how they work. Everyone who is familiar with the rooms and has already worked in them is enthusiastic.
What does innovation mean to Festo?
Innovation not only takes place in research but in all areas of the company. It does not have to be something completely new, it can also develop out of a combination of already existing ideas. The innovation process is influenced by many different aspects: employees and methods play a role, as does the organisation and the time invested. However, these are not the only factors to take into account – the ambiance and the room are also very important.
Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In discussions with contemporary figures we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work envi-ronments. On this occasion we chat with Burkhard Remmers, spokesman for the German furniture manufacturer Wilkhahn, about ergonomics, motion and office trends.
Wilkhahn specialises in the design of high-quality, ergonomically designed chairs and related furniture. What developments have you observed in the last few years? What have been the noticeable trends and most important innovations in the world of work, and how has Wilkhahn responded to these?
Working cultures change much more slowly than people generally think. A good example is the paperless office, which people have been predicting for over 20 years now. It is only now that the internet allows us to work practically from anywhere that the paperless concept has gained real practical relevance and led to a decrease in demand for storage furnishings. It is important to distinguish between narrowly focused, often marketing-driven fads targeted to a very small minority and actual long-term trends. Digitisation with smart technologies is one of these trends that has an impact on all of our lives. It is exciting to see smartphones, tablets and related technologies being brought out of the world of consumer electronics and into the office — even with the related security concerns and the headaches for staff in IT departments. A second trend is related to this first one: the boundary between a person’s private life and their job has grown murkier. This in turn leads to a demand for offices to be more in tune with the way people live, warmer and more liveable. Furthermore, these new technologies, and the changes they have brought in terms of how and where people work, have forced people to rethink the key strengths and competences when it comes to office buildings. These have increasingly become places for communication and cooperation, especially since focused individual work can theoretically be done anywhere you like now. And this means, too, that it is all the more important that people come together in one place for cooperative work.
It is unhealthy to spend too much time sitting down. In spite of this, we spend hours every day sitting in front of our computers. What should a good office chair provide to prevent the user from developing back pain?
We have spent the last five decades researching this very topic and transform what we have learnt into constantly updated product standards. Back in the 1970s, the first Wilkhahn study advocated a transition “from stationary sitting to mobile sitting”. Since then, it has broadly been recognised that a lack of active physical movement plays a role in almost all illnesses associated with the developed world. On the other hand, when it comes to micromotor work, sitting is an absolute necessity in ensuring the concentration and efficiency required. And finally, sitting, along with standing and lying down, is a basic natural position for our bodies to take. It is not the fact that we are sitting that is the real problem, it is how we are sitting.
Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In discussions with contemporary figures we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work environments. This time Désirée Schellerer und Angelika Molk asked Thomas Fundneider and Markus Peschl, the Knowledge and Innovation Architects, some questions. In this interview, they tell us about spaces which allow innovation and the fear of the new. Furthermore, they show us what makes an office into an oasis in the wilderness.
DI Thomas Fundneider, MBA
is Managing Director of theLivingCore and an expert for innovation and strategy. He uses his varied experience in setting up innovation culture within organisations to create sustainable impact for his clients. He also teaches at several European universities.
Univ. Prof. Dr. DI Markus F. Peschl
is Professor for the Philosophy of Science and Cognitive Science at the University of Vienna. His research focus is in the interdisciplinary area of creating knowledge in cognition, science and organisations, knowledge management, enabling spaces and (radical) innovation.
Our magazine deals this month with the topic of "New". On the one hand, "new" has a positive connotation and stands for progress, change and improvement. On the other hand, there is always also a bit of scepticism. How do you see it, specifically based on your research work?
Markus Peschl: It is a curious thing with the "new". It gives us awe and joy, yet at the same time it triggers a certain basic fear since we are suddenly confronted with something that does not fit into any of the categories known to us. You then often reach the point where you have to make a decision: Do I pursue this new thing or do I rather leave it alone. Innovators, entrepreneurs or more artistic people want to track and experience this new thing. The initial awe leads the way to more questions. This brings you closer to an understanding but also to the insight that certain things simply have to remain open, they cannot be explained. And this is exactly where the potential can be found for creatively handling these insights and making way for potential innovations.
Is there a difference between innovation and "new things"? And if so, how would you define it?
MP: Innovation is when something new is implemented into something that shows success and effect. New things that have success in their environment are innovations.