This conversation between founders John Maatman and Carlijn Kriekaard was recorded on October 14th, 2009 at a cafe in Amsterdam. By Alex Onderwater
[John] The whole concept of splitting up humanity in bears and bunnies was more of a sales strategy to propagate the leather bear and bunny products we designed.
[Carlijn] On the other hand, we do still drum up worlds. I mean, in essence that’s what we excel in: creating captivating atmospheres for others. We try to reveal the essence of a brand and translate its identity to this day and age.
[J] Being contemporary. ( . . . ) I think we are aware of what’s going on in the world. And somehow we manage to put our finger on exactly what’s of topical interest to the customer.
[C] Visualizing the character of an era, and of an identity in space.
. . .
[J] We are called upon to radically alter things. Bring about a change – in most cases, a sweeping one.
[C] John likes to put the cat among the pigeons. He easily, in our first meeting, comes up with a totally different appr oach, drawing seemingly far-fetched analogies and rummaging through the given contents of the client. In the end, he often skews their initial beliefs and assumptions.
[J] I am only doing so with one underlying motive: to make a company more successful.
[C] We’ve never been taken on board to literally increase retail sales.
[J] But so far, it has always turned out that way.
[C] It’s funny, because I think most clients we worked with were doing pretty well already. They approach us out of a passion for their brand.
[J] Having a passion overdrive is something we have been accused of ourselves as well.
[C] We spend most time in the pre-design phase, understanding the client’s story and needs. Everything is concocted on the drawing board.
[J] I just finished the sketches to go with the narrative.
[C] I translated the conversations we had with the brand owner in a visual booklet.
[J] We always work that way.
[C] Only when we have explored the identity of a new client completely, do we start designing.
. . .
[C] Regardless of the type of project, we always aim to bring about a unique experience.
[J] Brands should be more individualized. If I go to a certain shop, that is because it oozes personality.
[C] Our interiors are never perfect. No one is.
[J] I will change the menu if the food isn’t though. Our job exceeds the interior plan.
. . .
[C] It’s not like we stick our label on a client. What we do is try to uncover the identity of a brand. We seek to find the genetic make-up, the veins, the core of the brand or venue and underline what is already there.
[J] Storytelling is what our work comes down to.
[C] Through the heritage of a brand. Or we claim a certain school and develop that into
interiors that appeal to the target group.
[J] Remember the dance theme we applied for a fashion chain?
[C] We transformed the shop into a dance hall. I guess my previous retail experience has helped me to understand what retail needs.
[J] We are now not going to dwell much about ‘where we come from’ now, are we? I mean, doesn’t everyone like ‘butterflies and beautiful materials’?
. . .