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Interview: Frank Hülsbömer on the new Leadchair Management campaign

During a two-day creative spree in April, inside the intimate studio of photographer Frank Hülsbömer in the heart of Berlin, the Walter Knoll marketing team together with the art director Tom Leifer shot advertising material featuring the Leadchair Management. A lot of free flowing ideas in the room but one common goal: capturing the essence of this range dedicated to work spaces and über contemporary offices. We sat down with Hülsbömer – father, artist and above all experimenter – and chatted about interiors, advertising and working within different industries.

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What are your thoughts on Walter Knoll and its products?

I have always appreciated the passion to create products that show ultimate quality in design and crafts. The search for perfection and the attention to details seems important to Walter Knoll as in the case of the Leadchair Management. Its surfaces are fun to touch and look at. Not too long ago I became a father of a wonderful kid; an object like this will last forever and it is something I could pass onto my daughter one day. This is the reason why it just became more attractive to me.

How challenging was to turn into reality the concept of the art director for this advertisement?

Tom Leifer did a lot of research to understand the needs and expectations of Walter Knoll, especially of the Leadchair. He has a super distinctive taste and knows when to push an idea or when an idea has gone too far. His briefings are very clear. Still he leaves a lot of space for creativity. We shot various tests, built small sets, kept communicating with the marketing department and finally found a way to highlight the product without using the usual architectural locations which you see in many furniture and design advertisements. The iconic backrest of the Leadchair got us hooked. We looked for backdrops that might be a reminder of the grid and that is when we came across Oberflex, a French producer of industrial surfaces. While looking at the profile of the backrest, we realized we needed a line to complement the elegance of those shapes, a line that swings in a simple and subtle way. The matt background surfaces enhance the polished metal and plush leather upholstery of the chair.

You work within different industries: fashion, publishing, art, design, how do you approach each project? And where does the inspiration come from?

The source of basic inspiration is hard to grasp in terms of where it exactly comes from. When an agency or client approaches me with a new project, I usually start with some research to get to the core of the object until I get to the point where the product tells me its story, quality and needs. Call it object psychoanalysis if you want; in this case, it was Tom who put me on the right track.

In addition, I always keep the heritage of the producer in mind. It’s a matter of respect, I guess, and definitely source of inspiration as well. The trick is to implement it into your idea in a new and elegant way. I feel insulted if I see dull images. Image-makers should not waste consumers’ time nor underestimate or bore them.

What is your intention to work in such diverse fields?

Let’s say that I was never afraid of it. I have always been taking on projects that interested me each time I felt confident to be able to manage them. Finding a solution is just a matter of logic, research, experimentation, then dealing with the right experts, craftsmen... and finally bringing it all together. Solutions that are aesthetically and technically beautiful make me happy, no matter what the field. During the wild 90s, there was a fantastic club in Berlin called “Kunst und Technik,” I always liked that name.

How different is to shoot a watch from a piece of furniture or a pair of sneakers?

The main difference is in the size of the sets: if you have to shoot tiny objects on small sets, it’s easy to spontaneously and quickly rearrange the spaces and props. The scale we worked with while shooting the Leadchair needed long-term preparation and set building. Changes take more time and effort: that was another reason why we shot several tests before hand, to be certain about the idea, shapes and colors. After that we just scaled it up to the size befitting the chair. Furthermore, the weight of a chair matters statically in order to avoid, on video, dynamic unbalances due to fast spins or rotations. The chair itself is in perfect balance. If its position on the turning platform isn’t, you are in serious trouble. Sounds banal but those details matter a lot, and actually, the magic started to happen when it was all perfectly lined up.