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Telling Stories Through Design | An Interview with Andrea Franke

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During the Milan Design Week, MiND had a thrilling conversation with Andrea Franke, a German architect and designer who revealed to us the importance of harnessing emotion in her field. With a strong passion for details, storytelling, and creating comfortable spaces to make her clients happy, Andrea is now jumping into her own company with encouraging advice: “Be courageous, jump and go for it! If you put in the right energy, all the effort will come back to you”. 

“It’s not about feeling secure all the time. It is just so much fun. I felt like opening a door, and there were people saying Welcome.”

This is how Andrea felt when, in November 2016, she decided to open her own company: Innenarchitektur Federleicht starting to live her passion: now her job is no more separate from her free time and she couldn’t be more proud about that.

In fact, asking her if there was something she would do differently in her career, we learned that if you like who you are now, everything that lead you to be that is worth it.

“I am not happy about everything, but I would always choose the same things I chose. You can always learn from all your mistakes and make them life experiences. If you have your own company, it’s obviously not always going to work out perfectly, but that means that you just have to look for other ways, approaches, and solutions to make the best of the situations.”

Talking about her projects, she seems really involved, especially when we asked her about the ones she is most proud of.

In particular, she highlighted that design is a way of storytelling. “If you tell a story through a store, the best case is that everybody will see it and notice it somehow. In this way, if my clients think that that’s a nice store and they can get a sense of the atmosphere, they will feel comfortable. If this happens, it means they want to stay there, maybe get a drink or a coffee looking at products and there you go, they feel more inspired to buy and I think – well, I did a good job!”

For example, one of her best projects was also the most challenging: “Last year, I had to work on a project for one of my biggest clients, a German Football Club – FC Augsburg, in Bavaria.

They are pretty famous in Munich, and they play with important teams. I was working with the retail company that was building the furniture, and they asked me to design their shop. It was a 600sq m store, and they never had a concept before. They wanted to push their merchandising products, but they had no clue of how to do that. That was so much fun because I’m not really into football, so it was also quite challenging. I didn’t have much time and I didn’t know what to do. But at that time, the city, Augsburg, had a very nice children’s play in the theater, the ones with puppets: Puppentheatermuseum. That play has been a tradition since I was a child. So I took that story and I adapted it to the store. The idea was to put the puppet’s box in the store, also because they have merchandising for kids. So we were thinking to put some puppets with the face of the famous football players, all the colors, and all the wood – that was the main idea. It was really sweet and they just loved it. They also played even more around that idea.”

Inspiration plays an important role in Andrea’s life, considering that her goal is to create and offer a space in which people can feel emotionally involved and liked to.

“Traveling, experiencing different cultures, talking to people, having a close relationship with my clients and Scandinavian Design are the things that I look for in order to get inspiration.”

And as she did in Bavaria for the football merchandising store, she also created a cool and engaging concept for a healthcare company, taking inspiration chasing a sunset on her way back from the airport.

“I was really lucky to work for a big health care company, even if the first thing I thought was that it’s not really the most exciting thing to do for a designer, but I like challenging myself and jumping into hard situations. The project was interesting. I wanted to combine the spaces: the offices, the waiting room, the doctor’s office and the place to sell the products, creating a good design. It was tough to find a good story but, finally, one day, I was coming back to Munich from the airport. I was sitting on the bus and the sky was pink and really colourful. I saw the sun going down – it was amazing and I felt overwhelmed. So I got the idea. It is all about sleep, feeling good and waking up fresh in the morning. The focus was sunrise and sunset.

When patients got in they went to the counter and that was sunrise: very fresh, with vivid colors, lots of lights. The goal was to make them feel awakened, happy, and most of all, to remove the medical aspect. I put really nice colors. Then, the second part of the concept was the sunset room: where they had to put on a mask to test it, they had to lie down for about 20 minutes and in there I put the night colors: grey and blue. It was more like a hotel room, in which the doctor can regulate the light, and there is an actual bed. For the entire concept, I created the same wall paper, in both rooms but with different shades of color. For me, it was very stimulating, I wanted to make it comfortable and not too medical. In the end, we were all pretty satisfied.”

From there our conversation went deeper into the relationship between online retail vs the offline one.

“Now that we are working from the phone and we are available all the time, we just want to go to the shop to be able to forget about everything else. We are looking for some real physical experience. The idea of creating shops that are just digital in my opinion don’t work. You go there and order you clothes, but in the moment you get home and you have nothing in your hands, it’s not the same feeling. It’s not as satisfying to me as holding your clothes. There should be a combination of both the online and offline experience. Everybody needs the online shop, it’s handy and quick, when you are in a rush or you don’t know where to go to get that thing you need.

But the store has to be an experience, it has to catch you somehow and there has to be something different, a story and relaxed feeling. There should be personal aspects like bars or cafes. Make it a place you can stay and hang out in, looking at the clothes, trying them on and chatting. In that way, you want to try to keep the customer close to you and you give them some kind of face-to-face adventure. If you are just sitting at home on your own, looking at stuff on the internet, it’s boring.”

Andrea looks and thrives on human relationships inside and outside her job, and especially her love for converting people’s emotion into the space they are living in.

“In the end, my philosophy is about not taking design too seriously – if people are happy in the space I created – then I did my job and I am happy to be able to live according to it.”

With a big smile and passion Andrea goes back to Munich, and we wish her good luck in her new company!

By: Martina Ronchetti