December 7, 2016 Opinion
In our first years of Urgent, we have been busy working on a rich variety of interesting projects – but we have not talked much about what we do. So we have decided to interview each other about what Urgent means to us.
Mads: So… this is a bit funny, interviewing each other this way.Christian: True.... We could start with the fact that our relationship seems to be working! Why do you think that is?Mads: Well, no-one can say that we rushed into things. We have known each other ever since I convinced you that Queen was the best band in the world – in seventh grade, I believe.
Christian: Well, apart from our long cultural history, I think we share a deep interest in cultures in the widest sense of the word - how we as people act and interact with each other. An I’m fascinated with your talent for working with visuality and identity – of expressing culture, one could say – and I like to meddle with the world of design. I come from a world of humanities, research – and eventually got very involved in urban planning, spatial design and placemaking. And I think you like to meddle with that world a bit too…Mads: Something that really motivated me to begin a new chapter with you, was the constant realization that we – as a business – need to rethink the way we work. We all know the examples of disruptive services like Uber and AirBnB. But it also happens to embassies, for instance. To my mind, we tried to explore a relevant reaction to the disruption of diplomacy with our concept of the Open Embassy, which we created in collaboration with the Swiss Embassy. It’s about understanding and framing cultural exchange in a new, relevant format - that people relate to.
People seem to mainly focus on the technological roots of disruption, but I believe we need to focus more on the real issues – the cultural and practical reality that comes with it. Open Embassy by Urgent.Agency × Swiss Embassy in Copenhagen– Mads
Mads: People seem to mainly focus on the technological roots of disruption, but I believe we need to focus more on the real issues – the cultural and practical reality that comes with it. As in, how do people and cultures become empowered to adapt to these changes — and to develop smart and sustainable solutions? These urgent questions are decisive to address in urban planning, company strategy and the development of new business models.Christian: Basically, I think we both felt that the times requires a new type of agency. An agency that is able to address problems across traditional disciplines and sectors. It’s becoming more and more clear that one single person or mindset can’t solve complex challenges alone. You need a mix of bright minds, collaboration, empathy and skillsets in order to combine strategy with hands-on design.Mads: So, how do we do this? How would you say that we meet this challenge?
As you know, I like to call our work culture design, because we – more often than not – combine cultural analysis and design. We like to connect content and form. Understanding and execution.– Christian
Christian: As you know, I like to call our work culture design, because we – more often than not – combine cultural analysis and design. We like to connect content and form. Understanding and execution. I think the heart of Urgent.Agency is cross-disciplinarity! I keep being surprised at how our work is pushed forward by the sheer diversity of our team – different skills, outlooks and of course personalities. Having culture analysts and designers, tech-people and strategist side by side works!Mads: And that’s why we are called Urgent.Agency! I mean, the ability to meet with whatever requirements are needed in a particular project – to combine action with critical thinking. In my mind, the name Urgent suggests action but it also poses a constant question: What is urgent – right now? What matters?Christian: So, what IS urgent to you right now?Mads: I’m very inspired by the whole entrepreneurial trend. The global trend of start-up businesses, where all it really requires is a mobile phone and an idea. This is good news for newcomers the world over but also a bit of a conundrum for the existing business models. There are a lot of companies and institutions that struggle to find their way – and understand what really matters to people. We are here to help them! Wouldn’t you say?Christian: Yes! I’m obsessed with understanding people. Their motives, their habits… what makes people tick. And with the way spaces shape human behaviour. I think it’s urgent to make more kind spaces. There are so many incredibly inefficient and unkind offices out there. Making an effort to accommodate your staff really helps organizations become better at what they do – and makes for happier and more creative employees.
I’m obsessed with understanding people. Their motives, their habits… what makes people tick. And with the way spaces shape human behaviour. I think it’s urgent to make more kind spaces.
Mads: So how are things working out with that obsession of yours?Christian: As you know, I’ve been working with PostNord, ISS, DSB – and now Siemens Windpower on that specific challenge: how do we create a better working environment through cultural analysis and spatial design?
The thing is, that it matters where you meet up for coffee, for example – not just for each employee, but also for how the company shares knowledge and collaborates! It’s about the social infrastructure… And I sense that companies are starting to understand this.Mads: Speaking of sharing knowledge and drinking coffee… or something… I am, if not obsessed, then focused on Design Museum Denmark! We’re working on a new identity and addressing the issue: how to express the core identity of the flagship of Danish Design history! The museum is such a great institution and it is very successful – but it is also struggling to adapt to new types of visitors and the changing expectations for the whole visitor experience.
I am, if not obsessed, then focused on Design Museum Denmark! We’re working on a new identity and addressing the issue: how to express the core identity of the flagship of Danish Design history!— Mads
Christian: How to make design relevant for the wide public is exciting! I look forward to working with the actual spatial visitor experience… but you’ve been leading so many interesting projects this year. All the brand identity and strategy work you’ve been doing for clients such as Bikubenfonden, Dorte Mandrup and OneCollection (that produces the Finn Juhl furniture). Busy year indeed! How will you actually remember it, do you think?Mads: Hmm… so much has happened. Seeing our team of designers and culture people truly becoming a team meant a lot. Also, I’m proud of the process of developing a new brand identity, strategy and graphic design for Kunsten.
It’s been great to bring the new ambitions of activism and engagement to life in a new layer of communication in the beautiful old Alvar Aalto building. What about you? What will you remember the most?Christian: I also really liked our project with Kunsten. Let’s face it: we like art. But for me, I’ll certainly remember winning the Danish Design Awards visionary category for our city vision for Billund — a fruitful collaboration with BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group).
It’s this wildly ambitious strategy and urban plan to make the hometown of LEGO the capital of Children.Mads: So, looking ahead – what do you think is most important for Urgent?Christian: As you know, I plan to evolutionize the boring office spaces in 2017! And, I’m really keen on rethinking exhibition dogmas and spatial experiences in cultural institutions.
I plan to evolutionize the boring office spaces in 2017! And, I’m really keen on rethinking exhibition dogmas and spatial experiences in cultural institutions…– Christian
Mads: I think what’s really interesting is to learn from the world of entrepreneurship – not to stupidly turn cultural institutions into business – but to be inspired by new mindsets. And I simply look forward to creating more meaningful brand identities. That's my passion.Christian: Your passion - besides Queen?……It’s so funny. I literally copied your taste in music back then. I was really into Shu-bi-dua – but I somehow knew that I needed to update my personal brand.Mads: Shu-bi-dua and Queen... Should we end our interview with these musical recommendations?Christian: Let’s do it! And a Merry Christmas – to our imagined readers?!Mads: Merry Christmas!