OFF — Interview
Interview with Munich based design studio OFF.
LIGATURE: Hello Johannes von Gross and Markus Lingemann, how are you?
OFF: We’re fine, thanks! A bit exhausted though. Currently we’re giving a total makeover to our studio – walls, floor, furniture, lights etc. – so there is a lot to do besides taking care of our ongoing projects.
L: Can you introduce yourselves?
OFF: We are Johannes and Markus and we run our design studio OFF here in Munich since 2015. Together with our team we do art direction and design communication and we are lucky to work a lot in fields that we have a personal interest in, such as art, fashion, architecture etc. Before setting up our own studio both of us worked as art directors at Bureau Borsche here in Munich, that’s how we met.
L: How did you come to start up the studio?
OFF: After years in an established studio we both wanted to try something new. But there was no such plan as setting up our own studio in the first place. Both of us worked separately, but quickly the projects grew bigger and so we helped each other out more and more often. At some point we realized that we spent almost 70% of our time on Skype working on mutual projects, so together with our former partner Malin we decided to finally rent a place and put a name on it.
L: Where does your interest in design come from?
OFF: As children of the 90s hip-hop culture and graffiti opened our eyes for visual language and we grew up under the influence of music videos and the iconic brands and advertisements of that time.
Today we’re still fascinated by the ability of creating different feelings by designing the shape of things. It is the same thing that fascinates us in art, literature or architecture.
Finding a visual language for a message or a product that makes people feel something, surprise or provoke them when they look at it, means to us giving relevance to design.
L: Would you like to talk about one of the recent project you designed?
OFF: Sure, right now we’re finishing the design for an exhibition at Kunstverein Gera in Eastern Germany on the story of Mozambican contract workers that came to the German Democratic Republic in the 80s. Historically it is a quite complex topic yet very personal and emotional at the same time.
When we were looking for a simple but strong solution, we realized that the flag of Mozambique contains all the colors of the German flag, plus a beautiful green.
We simply added this green to the German flag and that was it.
This altered version arouses positive or negative feelings connoted with the German flag while irritating at the same time. This works for both, Mozambicans and Germans.
L: How do you feel about the current design scene in Munich?
OFF: There are many good designers, artists and photographers and the scene – if you can call it that – is quite small and family. But there is not much space for experiments or failure. The general lack of space and very high rents make it difficult to try out new concepts of encounter and exchange.
Despite these circumstances a lot of people in Munich put all their energy into turning ideas into reality. For example this summer the “container collective” set up a small village of shipping containers that then were used as a Bar, Club, design studio, skate shop, radio station and whatever. It’s a temporary and refreshing atmosphere over there.
Earlier this year – together with curator Yves Michele Saß – we initiated “Interesting Content” a series of keynotes on non-design topics at our studio – open for everybody. It was great to have familiar faces and total strangers sitting in a packed design studio, listening to and discussing non-design topics like “Deep esoteric knowledge illustrated by world of war craft”.
When the studio is ready, there will be a new season of it soon.