Creating Distinction

An interview with Gunter Fleitz and Peter Ippolito of the Ippolito Fleitz Group, Stuttgart, about brand architecture, identity and merging lifeworlds

Mr Fleitz, Mr Ippolito, you designed Walter Knoll’s booth for both the imm cologne 2015 and the 2014 event. In general terms, what are the prime criteria when it comes to expressing a company’s brand philosophy in a trade fair stand?
Gunter Fleitz: There’s no universal recipe – we certainly don’t have one. Trade fairs are loud – not just acoustically but at visual level too: visitors are inundated by a flood of brand presentations. To start with, the main thing is to get noticed and make sure you stick in visitors’ minds afterwards. Brand messages are very complex. It’s a case of distilling this complexity and translating it into a memorable, perceptible picture. It helps if you can surprise visitors and give them an experience. That’s why we always try to look at the brand from a different angle so that we can come up with a fresh new way of presenting it. This “new way of seeing” doesn’t have to be permanent, but it should happen periodically.

Before the trade fair stands, you’d already created Walter Knoll’s new showroom in Herrenberg. For a manufacturer, to what extent are projects like this more than just a question of designing spaces and presenting products? How do you collaborate?
Peter Ippolito: When you’re asked to design spaces for such a renowned manufacturer who’s active in the interiors sector, it’s obviously a very intense process. There was a lot of communication and discussion between us – and it went on for quite a long time. The showroom in Herrenberg was the first output. You could say it was the blueprint for the new brand architecture, which defines how Walter Knoll will present itself at the POS in future. Obviously there are a lot of different factors that play a role: brand image, visions, sales policy, the brand’s history. In that respect, a change in the way a brand presents itself on the outside also means a far-reaching change on the inside.

In the bar and restaurant sector you work with chains like Waku Waku or holyfields – the kind of project where brand continuity plays an important role. In cases like that, or when you’re dealing with hotels and shops, how do you find the right balance between the identity of the individual location and that of the brand as a whole?
Peter Ippolito: The balance evolves from the concept. At the same time, what the brand needs and what’s appropriate to it are very important aspects as well. If the brand is geared towards recognisability like holyfields, the basic system is sharply defined and only adapted to changing floor plans. But then there are other concepts which permit and require a much higher degree of customisability. Take the Motel1 hotel chain, for instance: at their locations, they integrate regional themes and motifs into the design of the internal walls. Or think of Aesop; in their case, the common ground between the stores is that no two shops are alike. Ultimately, of course, it’s a question of the speed and size of the rollout as well. Right now, we’re designing a rollout for more than 100 stores for one of our projects in China; in a case like that, a lot of things obviously need to be standardised.

You’re also active in the field of private interiors. What role do identity and thinking in terms of overall spatial contexts play in a private setting?
Gunter Fleitz: We see the home as the most intimate aspect of identity architecture. Our clients want to feel at ease in their private spaces – but they also want them to embody a certain degree of prestige. At the same time, the different lifeworlds we live in are merging: working environments are acquiring a more home-like feel, and living space is being influenced by hotel and restaurant environments or retail scenographies. A lot of clients show us photos of places like that – either things they’ve seen in magazines or pictures they’ve taken themselves. Design is available virtually everywhere, we absorb it, it shapes our perception and our memories. It’s all about finding something that goes beyond these consumed images and creates something distinctive in the most private area of our lives. Our interdisciplinary approach is very helpful in that respect. We like to use graphics as space-structuring elements, for instance – graphics developed by our communications department.

Gunter Fleitz and Peter Ippolito have been running the Ippolito Fleitz Group in Stuttgart since 2002. As an internationally operating, multidisciplinary design studio, they see themselves as identity architects. The Ippolito Fleitz Group operates in and between the fields of architecture, interiors, landscapes, product design and communication. Its internationally publicised work has brought the studio around 200 awards to date.

Source: Koelnmesse, reprint free of charge.