Disruption unleahes creativity? “No,” believes Alexander Thusbass, “it’s the other way round:
„Creativity unleashes disruption and is hence at the root of everything.“
The product designer and bike specialist is Managing Partner of KISKA Munich GmbH: a go-getter who likes to take things into his own hands but also enjoys navigating digital worlds. “Disruption is the core. But in recent years, software development has proven that groundbreaking solutions are originating from fields that actually have next to zero concern for design.” Now what does that mean for his own work? Thusbass laughs: “The nutcase attitude designers used to be labeled with has now been elevated to the high art of business thanks to design thinking.” Sounds like reversed roles, but it shows where we are today: Creativity is not the prerogative of people who know how to handle a drawing pen: It’s a key prerequisite for modern businesses and future societies. This is exactly what the KISKA brand, which founder and CEO Gerald Kiska started in Salzburg in 1990, stands for. The international studio merges transportation and product design with strategic brand consulting and thus handles assignments that in the past only management consultancies would have been deemed qualified for. That too is a sign of change. From initial research to communication, from product to service to brand identity, everything springs from the same source – more precisely, from a large team of specialists who start by studying the market, trends and technologies before the first sketch is drawn up.
A company like KISKA knows no standstill. New assignments, new fields, new coworkers are constantly being added. “We have been a ‘living prototype’ for 30 years,” Thusbass says: “KISKA is constantly being remodeled: And it’s not because we have to. It’s because we want to.” In response to a questioning look, Thusbass explains that it’s the same with our brains: The mind loves routines. That’s how we “get our lives sorted out,” yet we become blind to change. KISKA, too, has certain comfort zones alongside “extreme curiosity,” he says. “That attracts people who are just that little bit more inquisitive.” The chase for the new manifests in the team’s T-profile: broad interest in a whole host of things with a very personal focus that digs deep: lots of nerds and geeks, specialists who allow themselves to be surprised because they know that the world is constantly changing. And they change along with it.
„Is it enough to replace a combustion engine with an electric motor?”
But what does that look like in concrete terms? For example, with regard to the transition from the automobile to the electromobil. This is where the passionate
e-biker gets quite emotional: “Is it enough to replace a combustion engine with an electric motor? Or shouldn’t we instead be questioning whether two tons of vehicle in the inner city – regardless of the type of motor under the hood - can actually be the right solution? This involves seeing the real problem behind the question. Not all clients might be thrilled with this approach. “True,” Thusbass admits, explaining that it certainly is an intense process, but it ultimately helps to see things a little more clearly. Yet for some, it’s a “brutal challenge”, he says.
Design is beautiful, but it can also be a lot of work – to paraphrase Karl Valentin. Because the spotlight is not only on a product, but simultaneously also on the whole: the market environment as well as the brand, the strategy as well as the user interface. “Holistic” is the term that used to describe it. “We engage in quite a number of discussions that are entirely unrelated to design, because these are actually strategic business discussions,” Thusbass says, smiling, “That’s what also makes KISKA a somewhat taxing partner: brand consulting plus strategic concept development.” Therefore, he adds, it is important to make sure the clients are on board with this rigorous process. And this is how over the past three decades, headphones, motorcycles, motor yachts, heating systems that “don’t belong in the basement” and luminaires came to life – not to forget Concept Cars in 36 weeks – , and most importantly: business models and brands that have endured on an international scale. KISKA thrives on restless minds like Alexander Thusbass, who completed an internship here, then became founders themselves, came back, walked out again, and are now using their creative energy to encourage disruption anew.
The interview with Alexander Thusbass first appeared in mcbw mag 2023.