Giving insight into design practice: KD—Lounge

Existing since 2007, the KD—Lounge has remained the same in its form ever since: the student initiated series of lectures at University of Applied Science Constance offers a platform for design and associated disciplines. By inviting talented designers, studios or photographers like Christoph Miller from Offshore, Colin Doerffler or studio unfun, the event gives students the opportunity to get an insight into the practice. The lectures encourage exchange and create opportunities to get to know the people behind the studios and their mindset. “What has changed, however, is the amount of work involved in organization, the standing of the speakers and the scope of the Lounge”, Nadine Wetzel, one of the team members of summer 2019, tells us, “Frederik Sutter and Basti Schmitt had started to install a more comprehensive design in 2015 and to invite internationally known speakers. In the following semesters, the Lounge developed into an internationally renowned lecture series. Today, with the KD—Lounge, we have an institution that also imparts knowledge to students outside the lectures.” In summer 2019 “after one or two Swabian Tequilas” Nadine teamed up with Janis Macke-Schnurr, Julia Schmitt and Pia Schmutz to take over the KD—Lounge for the semester. This winter 2019, Mario Naegele and Christian Horrer continue their work.

In the last couple of months, the KD—Lounge has changed his visuality a few times. For the winter semester 2018, the team of Hans Findling, Christian Hohloch and Mario Naegele created a special  animated visual for each guest, for example a printer for Studio Bureau or a chocolate box for Balmer Hählen. Besides being completely individual, the different objects were all connected through their color scheme: a neutral, almost clinical white. “As in some previous semesters, the concept was basically to draw reference to the work of the respective speakers through the poster. So we made some kind of reference to the respective studio with the objects. In the case of Randy Tischler, for example, we used a cocktail shaker, as he calls the navigation on his website Cocktail. It also suited his character and his work”, Mario explains, “With the color scheme, we simply wanted to place a contrast to previous semesters and also to the general mood in public graphic design. The idea was to put on something decelerated. The wow-effect should only appear with the animation. This could be viewed in AR on a smartphone. So we had a second layer in a double sense.”

For the summer semester 2019, Nadine, Janis, Julia and Pia decided to present each artist in form of an animated CD-cover. As music is always an important part of the KD—Lounge, the concept is based on the functionality of a mixtape. “When we met first, two CDs were lying around by chance. As we thought about what the KD—Lounge was going to be this semester, Janis and Nadine were playing around with the CDs during the conversation. We realized that this time it had to be a mixtape”, they tell us, “In a mixtape different styles come together and music is something that tells stories and connects us, just like visual language does. That’s why we sent our guests a blank CD and asked them which song best describes them and their way of working. We chose our artwork according to the songs the people sent us.” In order to find a common identity and still emphasize the individuality of each guest, they decided to introduce slightly desaturated colors this time, instead of the neutral white. As the designs should be responsive to the music, they worked with animated visuals. “It also gives us another layer to communicate information. In general, it is practically a condition of the Lounge design to include an animated component. Be it an animated poster or the animated intros to introduce the speaker right before the lectures.”

Besides the animations, another consisting part of the visuality are the three icons, which have been around since the KD—Lounge was founded and are part of each and every visual. “The icons describe the basic values of the event: the glass for conviviality, the eye for new perspectives and the CD for music and the common conclusion of the evening”, the team explains, “These icons describe the attitude of the lecture series. However, they do not play a role in the current semester.”

Often consisting of more than two or three team members, sharing a similar understanding of aesthetics is really important to them in order to make decisions. “Staying open to new ideas and not restricting each other is very important. Communication is essential! Our biggest problems were time management, making compromises and the organizational details”, they tell us, looking back on their collaboration process, “We all have the same basic understanding of design and similar interests, so the distribution of tasks has varied. In addition, it varies from lecture to lecture how much time can be spent on the project. In principle, however, all team members are equally involved in the decision-making process.” After a first meeting to collect ideas and form the concept, they normally split up and start working by themselves – often putting a lot of effort into their research. “In this semester, for example, Chris and Mario went to the Sitterwerk in St.Gallen in order to be able to conduct a broad material research there. This was the basis for the design in the current semester. But even such procedures change every semester. That is what makes the whole thing so exciting.”

To them, collaboration is primarily about integrating different strengths into a project under a common goal, claim or idea. “The greatest chance of a collaboration is to achieve a result that can only be achieved in this way. If the constellation is changed only minimally, the result will also change. Therein lies the power of collaboration. A maximum of individuality is created, without the need that each person in the team lives out his or her complete individuality”, they explain, “This also applies to the work around the KD—Lounge. In addition, we are more able to perceive and represent the interests of the students. This would not be the case if only one person was working on the project.”

In general, the concept of the KD—Lounge is always open for any kind of collaborations, be it with other lecture series, workshops or other institutions in the field of culture and design. At the moment, they are discussing a cooperation with Philipp Bulk and Leonhard Laupichler from Typescarf. “We are very interested in practices that are not directly related to graphic design. So we regularly design our own clothes. Furthermore we think the work of the NoFoundry in Karlsruhe is great. Especially their event “SaturdayTypeFever” is terrific”, they tell us.

Having shared so many highlights of the lectures, the team also recollects the little accidents that happened during the past events with humor. “Well, actually, something went wrong with every lecture. But the highlight of the last semester was when neither the sound in the hall nor the connection cable to the laptop worked. So the 10GB presentation had to be dragged onto the Mac, but couldn’t be opened because it was created with PowerPoint. Then the beamer colored all the red tones green and the normal Mic had to be held to the Mac-Speaker. Fortunately, the guests had a lot of humor”, they remember.

Because of the lectures being organized independently of the university in Constance, it offers the students a highly appreciated possibility to get access to knowledge outside of the school and its courses. After the lectures, they also have the chance to get in contact with the guests and start conversations. “It is always an opportunity to get to know people and have a drink with them afterwards. Before the lecture we go out for dinner to get to know them better. For us it is very nice to have this kind of exchange with the people and perhaps to stay in touch in the future. Often friendships also develop from this. The best feeling after every Lounge is when the students chat with the guest or discuss with each other after the lecture”, they tell us. “The best moment of the KD—LOUNGE that comes to our mind, is the time, when we had barbecue and drank in front of the college at 37 degrees. Everyone from the building came together to the lake and went swimming. But after just over four successful years, there is not that one moment that stands out. Every listener and every team has its own unique moments that will be remembered. And that’s how it should be.”


Interview with Janis Macke-Schnurr, Mario Naegele, Julia Schmitt, Pia Schmutz and Nadine Wetzel

Collaborations to look at: 

The double album “Endless” and “Blonde” by Frank Ocean in collaboration with Brian Eno

Samuel Bänziger, Rosario Florio, Olivier Hug, and Larissa Kasper from PIN-Systems and their publishing house Junglebooks 

NEWROPE, organized by ETH Zurich

The Wiener Werkstätten

The Eames with architect Alejandro Aravena

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