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The newsletter of cooperative projects from imaginative minds.
Why it's worth leaving traditions behind and how physical retail can take place online
SideView to Andreas Mourouzidis, MDM Metall- & Designwerkstatt

Traditionally, the winter season in OUTLETCITY METZINGEN is celebrated every year with a festively designed winter village. In the Corona year 2020, however, Christmas market traditions were out of the question, and so we developed an alternative experience concept for Holy AG. It was essential to integrate the entire outdoor area of the outlet, to achieve a high long-distance effect and to guarantee a substantial recognition value.

We saw the biggest challenge in offering outlet visitors an atmospheric alternative to the so popular winter village. At the same time, it was necessary that visitors feel inspired on-site, yet not attract large crowds, so that spacing rules could be adhered to.

Our solution: we transformed OUTLETCITY METZINGEN into a winter wonderland. Forest islands, light shows, reflections and oversized forest animals made of steel turned the shopping area into a landscape of desire par excellence. The crystalline structures and partially mirrored surfaces of the bears, owls, foxes or deer caught the glittering hustle and bustle all around. They whisked people away into a fairytale forest full of illusions and winter magic as they passed by. Through the recurring elements, we ensured a uniform look across the entire outdoor area of OUTLETCITY.

"This work was very special to me. With each additional animal that was created here, my workshop became more and more alive," explains Andreas Mourouzidis from MDM Metal & Design Workshop.

The result was a complete success for OUTLETCITY and Designplus, which was also noticeable in the form of numerous visitor postings on social media. Across all channels, selfies of customers in the midst of the installations kept popping up. "All in all," says Khan Varlik, Event Manager at Holy AG, "with the Fairytale Forest we managed to make our customers' hearts beat faster despite the distance and the obligation to wear a mask. In addition, we have created several great photo points in the city with which our guests can be photographed and then upload these motifs to social media.

A Christmas world like this is an entirely new experience for OUTLETCITY. Even though a Christmas market is undoubtedly a unique affair, we were able to create an alternative world with the Winter Wonderland that can spread its special magic even beyond the festive season. A delightful Christmas village turned into a winter concept, which can be visited in Metzingen until March. Moreover, the animals can be used again and will be in subsequent years.

Our learning: Traditions are fine but breaking with them gives us the freedom and enthusiasm to create something new.

Our Winter Wonderland was also reported on SWR. From minute 15:15 and 49:52 it's about the installation in the OUTLETCITY METZINGEN: Link zum Video

From our digital space for the unconventional
SideView to Mirja Schwartz, Designplus

Ever since our offshoot UNIQUE ISLAND has existed within the Designplus sphere of influence, we have been asked time and again: “What exactly do you do there?” Explained in one sentence, one could probably say: if the projects of Designplus were our duty, then what is created on UNIQUE ISLAND would be our freestyle. Not because one is more important to us than the other, but because extraordinary ideas and thoughts keep coming to the surface from the bubbling fountain of ideas in our day-to-day business, for which we may have no use at first glance. Be it because there are no client projects for them or because the ideas are not always of an obvious commercial nature. Nevertheless, many of these ideas have enormous potential and need to be be nurtured and developed in a very special place.

That place is UNIQUE ISLAND. An experimental platform where ideas come together in new ways. A place where, above all, the future plays a major role. “At Unique Island, we always have our finger on the pulse,” explains Creative Director Mirja Schwartz. “This refers primarily to the digital theme worlds in retail such as pop culture, e-commerce or gamification. Are there other hypes besides Snapchat integration in pop-ups of luxury brands that are worth betting on? We examine such things very closely. Ideally, we track down trends before they emerge. Of course, that also makes us an important source of inspiration for Designplus.”

UNIQUE ISLAND is interested in cultural, social, political and economic issues. They are open to any input and cooperation. The aim is to create, try-out, learn and generate communication without a façade in a network of artists, thinkers and designers. Authentic and participatory. “Strictly speaking, we are all pioneers. New ways of communicating are emerging every day. The exchange is becoming faster and more direct. Meanwhile, brand experience often takes place 1:1 among users. Especially when it comes to topics that go beyond retail,” says Mirja Schwartz.

Meanwhile, customers of Generation Z and Millennials represent the most significant purchasing power in the fashion sector. As a brand, you only remain relevant for these communities if you actively involve them in the communication around the product and presentation. The most authentic content is then created by the community itself. Via selfies on Instagram or Tiktok. “It’s no longer just about looks, but about content,” says Mirja. “Retail has great potential to create and use such participatory spaces. The brand is then certainly not always perfectly staged, but it becomes a source of inspiration. Fast, flexible and 100% authentic.”

Another prominent theme for UNIQUE ISLAND is the unprecedented circumstances of the year 2020. “We are exploring the developments and needs that have emerged from the pandemic. How do we humans find ourselves more again? How can we re-regulate our consumption? What do we even feel is still relevant?” The project business is also strongly influenced by this reasoning. Projects only take off fully within a company if the communication of needs and insights between the marketing and retail departments is clear and unambiguous.

Many things on the virtual desks of UNIQUE ISLAND would not have the necessary space or urgency at Designplus. And yet the output of our unique island is also invaluable for Designplus clients. Because in times of fake news and general uncertainty, it is crucial to set the right signals, show solidarity and attitude in politics and society, and develop a new form of closeness both on- and offline.

From offline and online developments at Designplus
SideView to Fabian Schewe, Matter Of Visual Practices

Some of you may already have noticed our new website. Over the past year, we have been very involved with Designplus as a brand and have broken new ground in the process. At the same time, we wanted a digital brand presence that reflected our development. Now we are also showing online, what we have been doing offline for 27 years: We refrain from repeating what we have already seen, deliberately want to create something new and unusual, and are even more colourful, louder and more eager to experiment than before. The new online presence is not only intended to show that we can do retail - rather, we want to use the channel to convey what makes us tick.

For Carina Sindlinger, Corporate Communication Manager at Designplus, the new website appearance is a fitting expression of the changes in our agency. "In the last few months, we have focused strongly on conceptual innovation and placed our focus strongly on unconventional installations of the very highest quality. With our new visual identity, we are now carrying this change outwards."

We have already received support from the community for the relaunch: the graphics and look and feel were mastered by the graphics agency MatterOf. The design studio is part of our R39 community and collaborates with us in everyday life. They know us as people and already understand who Designplus is, what we do and what makes us tick. We really appreciate the unconventional and internationally sought-after work and the exchange with MatterOf. In the course of our #TheBeautyOfCommunity spirit, we asked them take over the creative lead. Why? The view from the outside is essential for every relationship and every development. This is how we see the partnership at Designplus.

"Inspiration can't be commissioned," explains Fabian Schewe, Creative Director of MatterOf, "so it's essential for us to also feel the brands and clients we design for."

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