Gregor Ade

Creativity is a craft that can be learned

Nicole Stöcker, March 10. 2013

Gregor Ade will appear as a speaker at the conference StoryDrive China in Beijing in May. He has been a managing partner of the Peter Schmidt Group since the beginning of 2011. Prior to that, from 2008 he was head of the Corporate Design Team in Frankfurt and Düsseldorf. After studying at the Offenbach University of Art and Design, he worked for two years with the branding agency MetaDesign and then, in 2000, co-founded the firm ade hauser lacour kommunikationsgestaltung in Frankfurt am Main. Today, Gregor Ade is a member of the board with the German Designer Club (DDC) and a member of the Art Directors Club (ADC). From 2006 to 2008 he taught typography at Mainz University of Applied Sciences.

FAQ: Mr Ade, why does creativity need management?

Gregor Ade: I don’t see any contradiction between creativity and strict management; that’s because creativity is largely a craft that can be learned, developed and promoted. That a team works well together, knows its market, has a good overview of the industry, and has an international and inter-disciplinary make up – these are the tools of the trade that any good agency has to manage. So, to create the space for innovative ideas, you first need to have the right technical know-how. Going beyond that, we attempt to maintain a conducive environment for creativity with appropriate freedoms, and we make sure the creative team is spared some of the work processes, such as conducting market analyses and assessing legal issues. We get that done by experts, who know their way around those complicated topics.

FAQ: How has digitisation changed the creative workflow?

Gregor Ade: Our designers and copywriters have to be familiar with both analogue and digital media. Having a separate digital unit, as was common a few years ago, is simply old fashioned now. Apart from that, the creative moment itself hasn’t changed with digitisation, because in the end it’s all about telling a story: a brand needs a back story, an idea. This has always been true, even if the word “storytelling”, which has become so popular recently, is touted as something new . Above all, it’s important to think in inter-disciplinary terms, and to put together teams that cover all kinds of brand experience, both online and offline. Any one project will therefore unite interactive designers, traditional corporate design creators, copywriters, and designers from the field of “brand spaces”, who then use the initial meetings to discuss and expand upon their first sketched ideas.

FAQ: How important is networking to get creative inputs?

Gregor Ade: Dialogue and cross-boundary thinking are our alpha and omega today. At the Peter Schmidt Group there’s a constant exchange, not only among the teams in each location, but between our different offices. Moreover, through our parent company, the BBDO Group, we’re also part of a network that includes all the relevant marketing disciplines, and for many of our clients we cooperate with another agency in this network. We can therefore offer the client a complete package, if they so wish; and we get a lot of support and inputs for ourselves from this network.

FAQ: What challenges and problems does it create, working across national and cultural boundaries?

Gregor Ade: You need a lot of sensitivity to find your way in each market situation. Ultimately it’s a question of understanding the respective situation and culture, and being able to deal with legal issues, such as international brand protection. And at the really practical level, to get the design and the concept right you have to get to grips with the language and symbols and the way colours are interpreted.

FAQ: Which assignments have you found particularly exciting?

Gregor Ade: At the moment we’re working in Moscow for a manufacturer of high-end kitchen appliances. We’ve quickly come to see that the idea of luxury there is undergoing a dramatic change at the moment – moving away from pure “bling” to a more international understanding of luxury. In this context the Russian consumers orientate themselves very much according to global codes, because they don’t (yet) have their own tradition of premium brands. Of course, we’ll take this into account with our own work. A lot of foreign clients – for instance the Kuwaiti airline Wataniya Airways – use us specifically because of our German way of understanding brands, and for the precision, the love of detail and the need for structure; and that all gets reflected in their corporate design.

In 2007, two years before any of its planes left the ground, Wataniya Airlines of Kuwait already began developing the profile of its brand. According to the implementing agency, the central elements are “innovation and tradition, national pride and the modern Arab world. The centrepiece of the brand is the dynamic logo, which one associates with ‘wings’, ‘birds’ and ‘sails’. The distinctive corporate colours have popular appeal, both in the West and in the Arab region. For the typography, traditional Arabic lettering is combined with a modern western typeface.”

FAQ: What are you hoping to achieve through your participation in StoryDrive China?

Gregor Ade: We’ve had a presence in Asia for many years, with our Tokyo office. But the thing I find exciting about the Chinese market is that it’s particularly fast-moving and agile at present. On the other hand, the hectic rush to make money in this market which we’ve seen in recent years has calmed down. That’s why now is the right moment to take a coolheaded look at the situation on the ground there. I’d just like to use StoryDrive as a way of presenting ourselves, to show what we’re capable of, and for making lots of new contacts.

Meet Gregor Ade, Managing Director Peter Schmidt Group

You can meet Gregor at the Frankfurt Book Fair (9 –13 October), or in Beijing, where he will be speaking at the Frankfurt Academy event StoryDrive China (28 May – 1 June, Beijing).
Or contact him by email: gregor.ade@peter-schmidt-group.de