Jochen Rädeker, Co-founder and Managing Partner of the design agency Strichpunkt, visited Lebanon for the first time in June and he was impressed – both by the people and the culture. His agency Strichpunkt, headquartered in Stuttgart, operates at the interface between design and technology, and has been ranked amongst the top 10 creative companies for years. It also served as a key player in the development of the new digital brand experience and the corporate design of Audi.
BDD’s team sat down with Rädeker to discuss the success of his creative agency, the role creativity plays in transforming business models, how brands can earn trust and how to stand out from the competition.
BDD: What was the key strength that made Strichpunkt, be awarded more than 100 Red Dots and Grands Prix in all relevant creative competitions?
JR: First of all, listening to customers. Secondly, not starting to make something prettier or nicer but making it more fitting to the customer’s needs. In other words, don’t start to paint pictures but firstly listen, then start to think strategically and then find a creative solution.
In finding this creative solution, be bold, be brave, be radical, be revolutionary.
BDD: What is the major aspect to earn brands trust?
JR: Authenticity. Living in an interactive world, if you do something which is not on brand, people will know and they will react. So, if you understand a brand, it should stand for certain values, and these values should be expressed through all the appearances of the brand, be it the people, the tools, the products, the stores, the POS systems… Almost all brands operate within a competitive sphere, so you have to find a niche, what makes you special and could differentiate you from others.
BDD: How is creativity changing and driving business models?
JR: I think the approach of design thinking on creativity has reached the C-Level. They are thinking differently now because so much of business today is linked to creativity and design, especially when it comes to digital solutions. Design has become more customer-centric and critical for the business.
The more the business is becoming digital, the more important creativity, design and differentiation are. Besides the product quality, I think it would be regarded from top managers as the most important part of business right now. Companies like Apple are a role model.
Creativity in former times has been something which advertising agencies or designers added to the business, to communicate it. Right now, it is the core of the business itself as most products have to interact with the customers in some respect. Therefore, the awareness of creativity has risen a lot throughout almost every company.
BDD: With a growing market and competition in creative design and branding, what differentiates you from other agencies?
JR: I think in the end, it is creativity, that we are able to think clearly, to have a bold strategy regarding possible solutions for customers, and being able to convince them to differentiate. We also convince them to focus more on the specific niche that customers would need, than on the overall business. And in the end, if you have more than 10 million registered brands worldwide, then there is a brand for everything. Therefore, you need to differentiate yourself completely and figure out what could be that niche. This translates into having good manufactural levels in terms of typography, in terms of visualization and in terms of digital production.
But first and foremost, it’s all about listening, finding a solution to a specific problem, and then working it out in a different niche than mainstream.
BDD: Being a leading creative agency, what words of wisdom can you offer to creative companies to navigate through the digital era?
JR: The main proposition of every business should be to ‘solve their customers’ problems’. With that being said, here are some key factors to remember:
- Connectivity is king: The interface of a brand should connect with the audience and communicate with them. A brand is not a logo. It is a form of communication and interaction with the customers.
- Freedom wins: Do not set regulations for yourself when working with any brand. It is about specifications, downloads and interactive tools that can put you on a different level.
- Flexibility is fancy: You have to relate your work to ideas and have them be simpler and more interactive. There’s no need to always add the logo as we did in the past. If you have the right typography and the right coloring, that should suffice.
- AI is your friend: AI usually substitutes people who do simple work with machines, yet it can also now design a tool that allows you to design what you want. AI can be used to create templates and you can try different options and samples and submit them to your clients. Designers will always be needed for their creative ideas and strategies. They will be the ones to create possible variances and modules for the design tool.
- Think responsibly: It is our responsibility to decide which functions should be part of the designers’ scope and which should be left for AI.
- Think creative: If there is any answer for the problems, it is creativity. Have the time to create ideas to change the world. As a designer who is not responsible anymore to do something that a machine could do for you, then you have more time to think what to do, and how you do it, and in the end good designers can change the world for the better or for the bad, it is your choice.
BDD: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs in Lebanon?
JR: This is my first visit in Lebanon, and therefore it is not very specific advice.
Look for what you are really special in, in your market and promote it. Don’t look at what is most important for your business, but what specializes and differentiates you in your business.
Look at the market, look where you are special, and be bold and brave in pursuing that.