28 March 2014

Three questions for
Michael Volkmer, See-Camp


12 April 2014




The successful (and much appreciated by us) See-Conference will not be taking place this year. But it is not all bad news. The reasons for this decision and the role that Wiesbaden mains water and cycling will be playing are clarified in a chat with Michael Volkmer, the initiator of the former and new platform.


A few days ago, we announced the Designtage Wiesbaden and the See-Camp which is taking place as part of this event, organised by the Scholz & Volkmer advertising agency. After eight years, Michael Volkmer and his team are presenting a concept for a new format which is expected to support the implementation of new, ecological projects. For a whole day (12 April) students and experts in sustainability will be exchanging ideas in the areas of mobility, resources and energy in lectures, podium discussions and workshops. We put three questions to the initiator of this experimental platform.



What do design and sustainability mean to you?


Designers are part of an industry that in addition to achieving some wonderful things has also caused many problems affecting humanity today. Designers also have the skills to solve them. Depending on the discipline, there are various aspects: careful use of resources, energy balance in production, cradle-to-cradle, etc. With “shared value” we are taking things a step further. Here there are concepts and business models that provide value for all three areas: the idea should benefit humans, produce revenue for companies and overcome social challenges. We believe that initiatives in the area of sustainability are effective in the long term only when they pay for themselves financially. Sustainability does not run counter to corporate goals, it is the basis of innovation.



The See-Conference was launched about eight years ago. How did it happen? What kind of concept is at the heart of this year’s See-Camp? Do the projects have anything in common? How do they differ?


I have always been interested in visualising information and data. We carried out several projects in this area at Scholz & Volkmer. However, there was hardly anyone in Germany involved in this kind of work. And because we were hungry and wanted to develop, we took it upon ourselves to invite the world’s best designers in this area to visit us in Wiesbaden. We did not initially plan for a series of conferences to develop from it.


The procedure is in two parts this year. In the morning, there is a total of four speakers, including Marco Maas from OpenDatacity, and a podium discussion. It is important that we are inspired and have our awareness raised: that is, we realise the importance of the topics. This will then form the briefing for the afternoon. For this part of the programme, we have invited people from various sectors who really want to “move”: designers, entrepreneurs, academics, representatives of cities and institutions, and others. Work will be done on three different but very specific topics in small groups. The results will be presented in the evening and everyone who wishes to can grab a project. We mean sharing economy to be taken literally in this case. The only condition is that it must serve a higher purpose, that is, focus on a social problem.


Essentially it is not a lean back event but a lean forward event. ‘Be inspired’ is great – ‘get started’ is better. This means that we want to really achieve things. And so from ‘see’ becomes ‘do’. By the time the evening comes, the aim is to have real projects ready to start that will have a chance of being implemented. A start-up camp, if you like. Which is why we have dreamt up the title of See Camp.



Where did  the impulse and inspiration for the themes of mobility/cycling, resources/water and energy/electricity come from? And what exactly does the bike app have that was specially developed for a bicycle parade as part of the Designtage (9 March)?


Mobility, resources and energy - these are topics that we are involved with anyway and which we consider to be socially relevant. Two years ago, for example, in the agency we gave up buying bottled water and asked the staff to drink good old Wiesbaden mains water instead.  The key to this is long transport routes that have a correspondingly bad CO2 balance. But recognising people’s resistance, we had to understand that it is not simply enough to put drinking glasses next to the tap. That was the starting point of an unintentionally comprehensive project. We had to learn that changing people’s behaviour is incredibly difficult. A year later, we had produced our own water bottles - one for each member of staff. We are currently constructing a water source in the foyer with two types of water - “natural” and “fizzy”. And now we want to share these experiences with other people.


Scholz & Volkmer has two sites. In Berlin approximately 80 per cent come to the agency by bike or by public transport. Of approximately 120 members of staff in Wiesbaden, the number of those that come to work by bike is fewer than 10. So we began a project to promote cycling in general. After several attempts, we produced the Radwende app that displays how many kilometres have been cycled and transfers to a general heat map. This is now used by the city of Wiesbaden as a basis for planning transport, but it could also serve as a kind of petition tool.



Form will attend the See-Camp and report on both the event itself and the projects emerging from it. The complete programme and further information about how to register are available here.



Nº 282

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