Duration: Three years.
Location: Stuttgart, Germany.
Key creatives: Steffen Knöll and Sven Tillack.
Career path: After completing a three-year apprenticeship at an ad agency, Tillack decided that there was still a lot he wanted to learn and applied to study communication design at Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart (ABK, or Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design.) Having always wanted to study architecture, Knöll—for reasons unknown even to him—applied for communication design as a backup plan in case the architecture program at ABK didn’t accept him. Despite the fact that an architecture career could have still been in the cards, he decided to stay in design, which he attributes to the high rents in Zurich, Switzerland. The pair worked separately as freelancers for around seven years before launching Studio Tillack Knöll. Now, they also hold teaching positions at ABK.
Artistic influences: We consider ourselves to be generalists, so our approach is fueled by a variety of factors: First, a curiosity for new things and a love for a perfected, sustainable craft. Second, the people we work with, like the artist Ann-Kathrin Müller with whom we’ve steadily collaborated over the past four years. Third, our students at ABK, who always remind us not to become too cynical. In the end, we draw inspiration from many different fields, such as architecture, science, economics, art, theater and social practices.
We’re inspired by our colleagues, such as A Practice for Everyday Life, Nam Huynh, Offshore Studio, Irene Stracuzzi, Studio Terhedebrügge, Think Work Observe and WeShouldDoItAll, among others. We also love seeing the ideas and visions of our clients, other creatives and noncreatives alike who offer new ways of seeing things and engaging with the society around us.
Favorite projects: NASA Apollo 11: Man on the Moon: The Visual Archive and Exploriso: Low-tech Fine Art. Spector Books, a renowned German art and design book publisher, decided to add these books to its catalog, and that was a huge deal for us. As generalists, we love to be involved in every task surrounding our projects. We were not only involved with the design but in the production supervision and content creation as well. Editing and publishing a book is the perfect example for our craft: design from start to finish.
Work environment: Sharing a studio with our friend and design colleague Nam Huynh, we work in an extraordinary area of Stuttgart called Wagenhallen, which hosts a collective of artists in a warehouse previously used for train maintenance. There, we are among a variety of like-minded individuals: musicians, architects, designers, actors, directors, curators, researchers, farmers and scientists—in short, it’s a cultural production hub with low rent and a network of talented people.
Aspirations: We’d like to further expand into new fields and territories, such as curating and designing scientific exhibitions. We hope that when the time comes to expand our business, we can continue to maintain a diverse work environment where our employees enjoy coming into work with fair wages and paid internships. And, we also hope that our teaching positions at ABK will have turned into professorships by then.
Philosophy: From the bottom of our heart, we believe that collaboration and maintaining close relationships with clients, colleagues, our community and the city we live in are extremely important for both a functioning design studio and society. Our projects must not flourish within a closed bubble; it has to be ready to engage with the world around us, to go out into the open and, most importantly, to communicate. Design for design’s sake is something we never want to participate in.
Anything else? The pandemic has shown all of us that the creative industry has been hit hard. This is why we have to keep our collaborative mentality to survive professionally. Talking to friends and partners and sharing our concerns and fears have helped us realize that we are all in this together. Apart from focusing on work, let’s form solidarity as creatives and look out for each other.