This past July I was given the opportunity to travel to Berlin and Copenhagen to find new inspiration for New Balance. It was my first time to Europe and was an eye opening experience. The next two weeks I will break down what I took away from each place. First up: Berlin! Continue reading Design Insight With Brett Golliff: Inspiration Trip To Europe!
We flew from Boston to Frankfurt and then to Berlin. When we landed in Frankfurt I was rolling on zero hours of sleep and as I walked through the airport I couldn’t stop thinking that I was in a huge Ikea. Once we boarded our flight to Berlin it was about eight in the morning in Germany, which is 2AM in the states; needless to say I was a little out of sorts. We arrived in Berlin about 10AM and went right to our hotel; we elected not to go to sleep and try to stay awake to get our selves “accustomed” to their time. This was a mistake.
We stayed at the Hotel Zoo. It was cool but way different from what I was use to experiencing here in the states. The rooms were mad small and featured no air conditioning. What I liked about the room is that it was literally a bed, bathroom and desk, no TV. The room is set up simply as a place to rest and not lounge. It is located on a main strip of the city that featured tons of stores and restaurants. It was a superb location.
PATTERN & TEXTURE
As we walked around the city I was taking tons of photos, I took close to 3,000 photos on the trip trying to document everything I saw; thank you iPhone! I had a few topics of things I wanted to document; one of those was Texture and Pattern. Texture and pattern within a structure has always been an inspiration for me because it describes what the form is doing which in return makes me think differently on how to design supportive structures in a shoe or how to accent elements in my designs.
As I took in all of the patterns and textures I tried analyzing them and figuring out why they were shaped the way they were and how they were functioning. A few things that I took away from it were that a lot of their elements are grid-based designs. Which leads to a very geometric and straightforward aesthetic. You could tell that the German culture was very literal. While their structures are aesthetically pleasing they were very blunt in the way they were created; which to me was very appealing. I love highlighting function in my designs; I don’t like to hide things. It was awesome to be around a culture that really celebrates the functionality of their engineering.
One element that really stood out to me was color. What made it stand it out is how it was used. In my opinion there was not a lot of color through Germany. A lot of grays, blacks and whites could be seen. When you saw color it was used as a function or as a bold way to make a statement. For instance in a pair of shoes you would see color in the technology area of the shoe and nowhere else. It was used to solely highlight the function of the shoe, not for matching with an outfit. I felt like the way their culture dressed was far more iconic. You saw visually clean outfits and not something that is trending. Their fashion looked like it would last more then just a season and color played a huge part of this. Their everyday clothes, like a suit would be in grays and blacks (colors that withstand trend) but they would accent their suit with a bright colored tie or pocket square. Because of this you saw far more expensive clothes being worn. When talking with a retailer; he informed me that most Germans will buy four to five outfits a year that are tailored to them and are of a higher quality but they last them two to three years. So the public doesn’t have a problem spending a premium on something that will last.
Another element of color I took notice of was their cars. I would see silver and white occasionally but by far the most popular color was black. I am a car fan so I was really paying attention to their car culture. Being that I live in Boston you see some decent automobiles but there was an over abundance of wealth in Berlin like I had not seen. I expected to see a lot of city cars there but almost saw the opposite. Of course you saw BMW and Mercedes like it was nothing; along with Porsche but what caught me off guard was how Bentleys, Ferraris and Maserati’s were of the common. One color element that was interesting was that I must have saw close to 20 cars that were solid matte black. In particular I saw a Porsche 911 and Bentley Continental GT that were completely blacked out. What was interesting is that in the states I normally saw this paint job at car shows but it was being used in the every day life for the Germans.
BREAD & BUTTER
We attended the Bread & Butter event in the old Berlin airport. This event is something that I had always followed online but to take part in it was something else. Maybe I was naïve but I didn’t realize it wasn’t a “show,” it is set up for brands to sell their product in at European stores. While they are showing their new products, it is strictly for business purposes. So basically they don’t really appreciate you walking around and just looking at their product, you are kind of wasting their time if you are not buying in their product to a store. I also did not realize how large the show is. The place is huge. They converted Berlin’s old airport into a blank canvas for brands to imagine how to display their product. The booths were the most inspiring part of the show. Brands like G-Star Raw, Diesel, Nike and so on would literally make a building within the building; it was unbelievable. I also could not believe how many brands were there. There had to be close to 3,000 brands.
The biggest concept I took from the event is that trend does not really exist. All of the brands there know exactly who their consumer is, they are not trying to sell their product to everyone. It was very inspiring to be around brands that were confident with whom their consumer is and know their consumers as well as they know their selves. When you have that type of knowledge about your consumer you won’t be creating a product that is only here for six months you will be creating a product that withstands the ages.
We did a lot of shopping while in Berlin. My favorite store was the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), which stands for “Department Store of the West.” This place was eight floors of pure quality. Featuring every item you could think of from clothes to amazing cookware to a meat market of the highest quality. Imagine being in a Wal-Mart that sells Gucci. Every item they sold there was well crafted. And not everything is expensive or exclusive but it was a quality product.
Other then KaDeWe there was no retail shop that I visited in Berlin where I was like “I can only get this here.” We were in Berlin for three days so I will admit I did not get a chance to experience everything but what I did experience felt kind of American. Berlin is over 700 years old but during WWII over 70% of it was destroyed so a lot of the city is new. And because of that you get a lot of retailers that are available here in America. It was kind of sad to me especially because I expected those stores to have Europe only models but they didn’t. They had the bulk of the product we have here but they would give them exclusive color stories.
I knew going to Europe that soccer was huge but being there during the World Cup was unbelievable. Every store had something special to signify Germany in the WC. I was able to watch Spain beat Germany at a local bar, it was amazing to feel the energy that the fans have for their teams. I have never been around a sport where it is not just male dominated. Every German person; man, woman and child was there cheering on their team and there crying when their team lost. I had never seen that. It was amazing. Retailers did everything they could to captivate those emotions in their stores as well. It was very impressive.
Brett Golliff is a Designer 1 at New Balance
Check out previous “Design Insight With Brett Golliff” posts:
- Allow Me To Introduce Myself…
- Design Insight: Inspected (Inspired) by #23
- Design Insight: Art or Theft?
- Design Insight: Examining The Forces…
- Design Insight: The Sketchbook
- Design Insight: Forever Young
- Design Insight: Here Goes My List…
- Design Insight: mod·u·lar
- Design Insight: Why?
- Design Insight: The Second Season
- Design Insight: The Sketchbook (Inspiration)
- Design Insight: Creating Emotion With Motion
- Design Insight: Sketchbook Revisited
- Design Insight: Process
- Design Insight: Design School Confidential
- Design Insight: Step By Step
- Design Insight: Render
- Design Insight: The Warm Up
- Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 1 With Jason Mayden
- Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 2 With JF Fullum
- Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 3 With Kyle Strek
- Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 4 With Dallas Stokes
- Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 5 With Tony Hardman
- Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 6 With Kevin Fallon
- Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 7 With Jason Petrie
- Design Insight: Sessions Vol. 8 With D’Wayne Edwards