The pitch-black airlock swallows any sound. The walls are covered with sound absorbers like in a recording studio. It is a gateway to something new. Next, visitors stand in front of the large reception desk. Glass walls on both sides convey a sense of openness. To the right is the conference room. To the left, an open-plan office unfolds that accomodates more than 90 creatives from the fields of strategy, design, brand experience and brand management, from interns and senior designers to founders. Amidst them all, Managing Partner Patrick Märki and Head of Design Robert Meinolf Börsting. There are hardly any dividing lines, only few hierarchies. They are all in the same boat.
"KMS Team’s core is passion for the cause."
KMS TEAM was founded in 1984, before smartphones, before social media and even before the Internet really took off. A company that does not change, or even transform, over the course of four decades usually disappears from the market. KMS TEAM is successful for its ability to bind people with their missions and to keep reinventing themselves without ever relinquishing their core. That core is their passion for what they do: creating, strengthening and transforming brands. “Knut Maierhofer initially founded KMS purely as a design firm,” says Patrick Märki. “And that design DNA has never been lost, nor should it be.” But design has changed. It has become more complex, more holistic. The focus is now on strategy, says Märki. “We intersect with business consultancies because we don’t just design good visualization, we also create values and strategies and dig deep into the companies to do so. We are in charge of a company’s complete brand experience, sometimes also the product segmentation.” KMS covers a broad spectrum, both internally and with regard to future clients. The portfolio includes automotive groups, banks, cultural institutions and technology firms, all with equal priority. Progress occurs when knowledge transfers from one project to the next, but without ever simply copying ideas. That would just be too easy. “We use synergies,” says Patrick Märki, adding that the automotive industry has certainly benefited from that as well, given that they had previously been in charge of projects such as the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.
But what exactly that mean? Dialogue, an honest exchange of opinions and criticism, is a must. This is what Börsting and Märki call stance. “Reviewing orders with a critical eye” also means asking which parameters are actually set to ensure messages remain reasonable, consumable and participatory, says Head of Design Börsting. “We are good at what we do,” adds Märki. “And our ambition is to keep getting better. That’s precisely what drives us.
“We play in the Champions League, up there with the best.”
That means embracing the new and thinking outside the box, he explains. That´s also how the team concept has emerged: different talents with different backgrounds and ages, diverse perspectives and sometimes crazy ideas. “The friction that arises from this moves us forward. We have 90 + people on staff, but the exact size isn’t all that important as long as everyone here burns for the cause.” After all, in a world that is constantly reinventing itself, inspiration can come from anywhere. “What matters is that we create the idea from within ourselves and then we make it available,” Börsting says. For KMS TEAM, designing means gaining relevance, which means co-creating the world. Naturally, this can be achieved by taking great leaps. But also by working persistently, making small improvements and taking steps in the right direction. “We are convinced that we are also changing things content-wise, that we are enabling and harnessing disruption,” says Märki.
This transformation is in full swing. Right now, the very foundation of the profession is being rattled. Artificial intelligence writes texts and creates images following simple instructions. What is KMS TEAM’s take on AI? “It’s a riveting topic,” replies Märki. “We are strongly convinced that in the future we will determine the parameters for how AI works. At that point, design will be about creating parameters.” The digital world carries disruptions that are no longer about visualization alone. Instead, they are about haptics, about olfaction, about movement or time. The big questions for KMS TEAM: “Are we the ones giving or receiving stimulus? Are we the ones adding something to social media or just taking something away?” The answer: “We want to co-create the development!”
The interview with Robert Meinolf Börsting und Patrick Märki first appeared in mcbw mag 2023.