Sascha Lobe, the founder of the German design studio L2M3, spoke to a room full of attendees at the Museum of Art and Design at the AIGA/NY Sascha Lobe, Translating Culture talk on Tuesday, June 4, 2013.
Lobe comfortably started with, “So, yes, tonight I am a guy.” He played a short video showing a group of ten construction men in bright yellow jackets hammering things under metal bars, drilling into walls, looking impatiently around. “I stumbled upon this scene in London,” he says, “and I thought, is this a performance? People are working so hard but nothing is happening. It’s just like my studio,” he explained.
First, he explains the title of his talk, “Translating Culture.” He believes that the main thing his design studio does is translate the culture of a company, a museum, or any brand into a graphic language. Translating is a culture within itself. The title is a play of words.
The first project he showed was an example that as designers, failing is okay and sometimes you cannot please all of your clients. H4A is an architectural firm that invited Lobe to create a new corporate design and logo. He started with a grid and then thought about how to use the grid in relation to the firm’s story. As they have several locations in Germany he thought about creating an open grid, which would allow different looking logos but always recognizable as H4A’s. He built a typeface and made refinements. The client’s reaction was an immediate no; “I think they thought this flimsy typeface looked like their building’s wouldn’t last long,” Lobe explains. He pitched a new idea, always returning to the grid. That was his only parameter. He did this again, and again. Each time the client rejected his ideas. Lobe said that sometimes you and your client don’t fit and you have to move on. He doesn’t know what H4A’s logo looks like now. Even though he failed he has a good story and an excellent starting point for a talk.
Next, he showed posters he designed for Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim. He kept the format of each poster relatively simple, type is flush left and an image is used as a background and the logo is always on the top right hand corner. However, sometimes breaking your own rule can create the best work. He showed a poster in which no image was used but he simply drew 101 rings over the typeface which worked hand in hand with the title of the exhibition displaying 101 rings.
He explained that having a concept is incredibly important to making good design. For instance, when designing signage for buildings he always thought long and hard about the building’s surfaces, its function, its structure and the area surrounding it before designing. The Rhur Museum was a factory before becoming a museum; it was not made for men, he says, “there weren’t even any bathrooms inside, it was a machine, a little like Manhattan.” As a result, he designed a typeface that worked symbiotically with the building; clean, geometric and needed lighting. It worked perfectly for the museum but couldn’t have been used in a white cube. He showed several projects in which the design suits the building and its function perfectly.
Although Lobe is a fan of functional design he still keeps things playful and says its okay to follow your gut. When asked how to chose the typeface, he rubs his stomach and says, “It all comes from here, and it’s good to have a big appetite!”
Lastly, Lobe spoke about client relations. He showed many examples of a continued relationship with the same client for years. However, he has also worked with a client for over ten years and on a sunny Sunday morning received an e-mail that they have chosen to switch over to a new design studio. Lobe rubs his hands together for a minute and explains, “basically when you rub your hands together for too long, it can get too hot and it’s better to change hands.” Lobe said that it is important to be flexible, functional and creative. He also loves circles,”circles are a designer’s best friend, they resolve many things,” he said.
AIGA/NY Sascha Lobe, Translating Culture