Christoph Rohrer from Blackspace gave the second lecture series in the Design department during the 2015/16 winter semester. At this Munich-based agency, he develops and designs brand experiences and their touch points, and focuses specifically on bringing brands to life in the disciplines of spatial communication, motion design and customer experience design. The result: award-winning brand experience worlds, trade show installations and events, shops and showrooms, company buildings, exhibitions, museums and cross-over activities for companies and organizations of all kinds.
Blackspace is known for its brand experience worlds, trade show exhibitions, shops and showrooms. Spatial communication has a huge range of possibilities in these areas. How do you start new projects? What inspires you to develop such innovative solutions?
The visual arts are a source of inspiration and motivation for me personally. Artwork sets itself apart through its unique approach and high intensity. I’m inspired by installations that depart from their context, get to the heart of the matter, or convey a strong artistic expression. This level of quality and intensity is the goal of our work at Blackspace. Rather than just meeting our goal of creating communication, we challenge ourselves to think further and discover the inherent power in our projects. We are convinced that people need to have amazing experiences in order to design them. This is why we have “BLACK MONEY”, for example. Once a year, each employee is given a fixed amount of money to take part in an inspiring event, and then share his/her experiences. In this way, Blackspace has been at the most incredible events and venues.
Spatial communication, motion design and customer experience design are important areas in your work. How are these related to each other? Where do they overlap?
There is no strict separation between these disciplines at Blackspace. Rather, these are the formats we use for our events, or aspects of our work. Of course, our teams end up developing areas of specialization organically over time, but it is very important to all of us that we always have a truly holistic, comprehensive approach to every issue. Solutions that encompass only a single perspective at the end of the process don’t lead to conclusive results. This is why we support our employees in fine-tuning and developing their special abilities further. At the same time, we actively encourage them to keep an eye on the big picture and the overarching themes and ideas involved. Every Thursday morning, our shared employee breakfast is followed by a forum in which one of the teams presents a project or BLACK MONEY experience. As such, all of our areas of specialization, departments and teams are constantly sharing their ideas.
You create brand worlds for the automobile industry, among others. What is especially important for this sector?
The automobile industry is its own little world. The entire sector is built on the legend of the automobile and people’s endless fascination with it. A car is totally different from other commodities, like a pen or a toothbrush. The aspects of image, emotion, technology, safety and connectivity all manifest themselves in the car as a product. “The Car is the Star” – everything concentrates on and revolves around the vehicle, and it still represents the brand. At the same time, the focus has been shifting towards intelligent mobility solutions, along with a very different set of issues and questions that will pose major challenges for the automobile brands in the next several years. The car alone is no longer the answer. Instead, many people are turning to system responses, like car sharing. Just ask how many of the students in this hall own their own cars, or are even interested in doing so.
How important is the interaction between people and brands?
Interaction is everything. It’s what branding is all about! The era of sender brands and unidirectional statements is over. It might sound trite, but many brands have finally recognized that they need to engage in a real dialogue with their customers. They often lack meaningful occasions, interesting formats and authentic venues, however. It’s really fun to work together at Blackspace to develop these platforms for personal dialogue.
What is your vision for the future of your work and projects?
We look forward to redefining the complex tension between reality and the digital world at Blackspace. Much work that was once done in the real world is moving to the digital space. At the same time, people still need “real”, tangible results. We try to achieve the right balance between these two opposites in our brand experiences – developing effective, real experiences using digital possibilities.
FH Aachen – University of Applied Sciences
Link to original interview