Photos by Demodern
May 14, 2018
Demodern has been coming up a lot lately. Although they’ve been around for ten years, it seems now more than ever; their agency has become the zeitgeist — not as to what digital communication is, but what it should be. With stylish offices in Cologne, Hamburg, and a brand new spot in Frankfurt/Germany, their high-quality approach to a stale and stodgy form has won them critical acclaim and healthy growth.
We talked to Experience Designer Lisa Marleen Mantel and UX Designer Gion Tummers about the latest projects they've been working on and how to become part of this top-notch crew.
Lisa Marleen MantelExperience Designer
Gion TummersUX Designer
Who are you? What is your job at Demodern?
LM: Lisa Marleen, Experience Designer. Together with my team I work mostly on interactive installations for exhibitions or trade shows. This involves anything from UI design to 3D modeling or motion design and sometimes even grabbing the camera or drone to shoot and cut case studies.
GT: I’m Gion – User Experience Designer at Demodern’s Hamburg office. My role is to shape experience concepts that create the most significant impact for our clients and their customers: Products and services that “push things forward” as we like to say.
What inspired you to join Demodern?
LM: After finishing my studies in media design I was looking for a job in which I have the opportunity to shape my skills in a broad field of design disciplines. Demodern was a match because we develop the most of our projects from scratch in an interdisciplinary team. In this way, everyone can be part of the full lifecycle of a project. Also, the Team is very international. We have colleagues from the Netherlands, Italy, and Slovakia but also from overseas like Mexico, Brasil, New Zealand, and the US. That brings not only a great diversity into our projects but also into everyday office life.
GT: What attracted me to Demodern was their passion for creating solutions that give actual meaning to new technologies. What sold me were the people and their spirit.
What do you tell your family and friends about Demodern and what you do?
LM: For sure it depends who I’m talking to.
My Grandma: I work on creative projects. Yes, I was always good at drawing…
My Parents: I work in a digital agency. Yes, some websites… kind of…
My Friends: I am a designer. Yes, also something with media… No, not advertising.
But in general, I would say we are digital inventors. We aim to create digitally driven experiences which tell a story and evoke emotions for multiple senses.
GT: When it comes to my work, I often have to resort to something along the lines of us making websites, mobile apps and “stuff for those bulky goggles.” However, if I get the chance, I say as little as possible and let them experience something for themselves: Pulling out my phone and configuring a smart in high-end and real-time 3D hits home quite well for example.
Could you tell me about an outstanding project you worked on in the past few months?
LM: We created a virtual reality experience for a client who produces life-saving equipment such as gas masks and gas detectors. The challenge was to expose the user to a true-to-life situation in which they have to use the products in a helpful way. Our solution was to immerse them in a story with a hazardous condition. He was able to get to know his tools in a gamified way to use them when it matters most. For us, it was the first VR experience with such a broad narrative approach, almost like a short VR game. It meant a lot of learning by doing for us, which was challenging but also great fun.
GT: We recently launched Immerse — our new virtual showroom for IKEA. It lets people confidently experience, personalize and shop new solutions for their life at home. The app doesn’t just open up a very intimate channel for IKEA to showcase its latest products; it establishes VR as a platform that is relevant for consumers and business alike — exactly what the platform needs right now. It’s already in select IKEA stores and should be up for download and use at home right about when this interview hits the web
How and when does the day in the office start? And when and how does it end?
LM: Since I am not exactly an early bird I always start around about 10 am, which is fine because all of us can manage their working time by themselves. Everyone at the agency is taking care of reasonable working hours, so the office is getting quiet after 6 pm.
GT: As Lisa said, times are somewhat flexible. Space is as well — some people prefer home office for specific tasks, and that’s very much supported. For those that are in the office, the day starts with quick team and project stand-ups to align on issues and share how we’re feeling. Those at home usually chip in via Slack. It all usually ends at reasonable times. If not, it’s more likely due to drinks than deadlines.
How is the company culture here different than at other agencies?
LM: I haven’t experienced that many different agency cultures yet. The few I have had experience with, their creative process in a project always belonged to a few people in a strict hierarchical structure.
So for me, the most significant difference was that at Demodern every employee opinion is taken seriously. That means it doesn’t matter if you are an intern or creative director: if you have a good idea or you’d like to try out something new you are encouraged to do it.
GT: I’m not just surrounded by amazing people — I’m surrounded by an endless stream of inspiration. We all know that we’ll never be done learning and that spirit is something highly contagious that I haven’t seen to this extent at any other agency so far.
What opportunities are there for employees to learn new things?
LM: We have a lot of people with different skills in all kinds of areas. When you are interested in improving your skills, they are happy to share their knowledge. Just ask, there might even be more people interested, and it makes sense to schedule a workshop. Other than that, all of us are free to attend a variety of international conferences every year in which you can get yourself inspired.
GT: As I said before, learning is seen as part of our job and culture. After all, we wouldn’t be able to push things for our clients forward without allowing ourselves the same benefit. Often, a team gets a project mainly because it hasn’t done something like it before. Coached by those that already have the skills, we make sure that each team and individual’s skill set keeps expanding.
How does the recruitment process at Demodern look like?
LM: Send your application, get invited for a chat or, if you need to travel far, have an interview on Skype.
GT: I think Lisa covered the first step. So, here’s the second: When you do have an interview with one of us make sure you don’t just bring your portfolio. Also, bring your ideas and your passions — we would like to get to know you just as much as your work.
What are the biggest mistakes you see people make when applying for a job at Demodern?
LM: Thinking they have to be perfect in everything already. Learning process and ongoing development is part of the job. So no worries; bring curiosity and the will in trying out new things.
GT: Lisa is entirely correct. To elaborate on that, I’d say that reflecting on projects that didn’t go as planned is one of the most insightful things you can do and it shows a lot of character. After all, each of us fails from time to time, and that’s how we learn...
What personal characteristics do you look for in an exceptional candidate?
LM: Essential for us is that someone fits the team. So it is easy, you just have to not be an asshole, douchebag or racist...😉
GT: Fit is most important. When your interview is already taking three coffees and two hours without you having even opened up your portfolio, you’re in a good spot.
What are the good/bad things to live and work in Cologne/Hamburg?
LM: Since I worked in both offices I can even compare both cities. Compared to Hamburg, Cologne is for me like Berlin Neukölln to Prenzlauer Berg. Hamburg is great in summer with its harbor, lakes, and canals in and around the city. You can find a posh restaurant at the Alster as easy as having a chilled out beer on the street at Schanze, where the Demodern office is located. It is the second largest city in Germany after Berlin, which makes it interesting for tourists from all over the world. Those sightseers are obviously missing in Cologne. Nevertheless, the city has its charm. It is with no doubt rougher in its appearance, but you feel welcome no matter where you’re from. Fun fact: the pub density in Cologne is the second highest in Germany. After Bochum, but no Demodern Office there.
GT: One of the things I like about Hamburg is how it feels so homey despite being Germany’s second-largest city. Its districts are all directly connected but still allow one to go “somewhere else” with each one being its own little world with different things to do. Even after five years, I still find hidden gems here and there that make me love it a little more. What’s bad? Well, let’s talk about the weather then...
Why are you better at your job then your competitors?
LM: We don’t just wait for clients to come to us. When we are interested in a company and their spirit, we develop proactive solutions and then approach them ourselves. That’s how a lot of our collaboration begins.
GT: We don’t do projects to win awards. We build products and services that matter and let them do the talking (and the pitching). That way we find not just employees that believe what we believe — we also attract like-minded new clients. When people come together around a shared vision, great things are bound to happen naturally.
What would you like to tell us about Demodern that is not written down in your job descriptions?
LM: You have to be highly tolerant towards your colleague's music taste. Everyone has access to the office Sonos, which can result in some ear-bleeding battles going on from time to time.
GT: Despite those playlist disputes, we are all quite fond of each other. A big happy family whose freaky-geeky culture spreads across three offices. Also, hoverboard skills are a plus.
Lisa Marleen and Gion! Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us.
For those interested in getting a job at Demodern, here are their top five jobs:
→ Technical Director
→ Creative Director Art
→ New Business Manager
→ Experience Director
→ Senior Art Director Digital