Johannes Milla: The capital for communication and spatial multimedia design

German cities merrily compete for rank­­­ings. The Ger­­­­man advertising met­­ropolis is Ham­burg, although this may pain the people in Düssel­dorf. The capital of Ger­man cinema films is Munich. Front-runner in private TV pro­­duction is Cologne. But one thing is clear: Stuttgart is the German capital of spatial communication. The fact that the people of Stuttgart themselves just talk about it in puritan modesty can hard­­ly hide the con­­centrated competence.
Peo­­ple in no other place work as much on the design of science centres, museums, worlds of brand-experience, tempora­ry and perma­nent ex­­­­hibitions as they do here.


Productive alliances
What is the reason for this? That is very simple: Stuttgart is not the hot spot of one single discipline. There is rather a vivid network of creators from the most different fields of spe­­cia­li­zation. There are numerous con­­nec­tions from brand communication to its creative neighbouring disciplines, especially to architecture as well as to design and digital technology. Stutt­­­­gart is the home of advertisers, archi­­tects, communications designers, mul­­­­timedia and film art­ists, who do not only know their trade but who are al­­so willing to share their abilities and know­­ledge with others to make a change. Not to forget the stage designers, whose ex­­cellent work contributes to the fact that the opera and theatre has been among the three lead­ing venues of its kind for 30 years. In Stuttgart people combine spatial concepts and sceno­g­­raphy with design and multimedia installations as in no other town in Ger­many.


Architects who break limits
The cooperation between designers of brand communication and architecture is especially productive. That is no won­der, as Stuttgart has a lot to be proud of in terms of architecture.
The south-western metropolitan area is one of the best places for training build­­ers. Günter Behnisch not only went down in German architectural history with his buildings, like his drafts for the Olympic buildings in Munich (1972). The 86-year-old has also always considered architecture as a task of communication. He has left a deep imprint on the architects’ and com­munication scene. Frei Otto, Jörg Schlaich and Werner Sobek teach or taught at the “Institut für leich­te Flä­chen­trag­wer­ke” (institute for light­­weight surface struc­tures) of the university of Stuttgart. Only their airy, spectacular con­­structions of steel cables and glass made it possible to create uncountable prestigious and communicating build­ings like the tent-like roof of the Olympic stadium in Mu­­nich or the station Lehr­ter Bahnhof in Ber­lin.
The border between architecture and spa­­tial communication design is ex­­treme­­ly permeable in Stuttgart. In search of new fields of work beyond groups of re­­s­idential and office buildings, many an architectural office ventures to step into a world of brands or onto the stage of fair communication. The industry-form­­ing works of Kauffmann Theilig & Partner (Mercedes-Benz) or Wulf & Partner (adidas Factory Outlet in Her­­­zogenaurach) are especially successful examples. The engineers Jan Knippers and Thorsten Helbig, who both come from Stuttgart, too, were also involved in creating the roof over the entrance to the Expo of Shanghai, which measures almost one kilometre and spans the principal axis with elegantly suspended membranes and constructions of glass.


Communication experts and designers who think in three dimensions
The landscape of communication ex­­perts and designers who develop innovative brand and experimental environ­ments in Stuttgart is second to none, both in terms of quantity and in terms of quality. On the one hand, there are a lot of nationally active showroom desig­ners. Among them are Hans-Günter Merz and his office, who developed the showroom of the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stutt­gart (opened in 2006) and the Porsche museum in Zuffenhausen (opened in late 2008), the Atelier Brück­ner, which re-designed the BMW museum in Munich, and us, the scenographers at Milla & Partner, who are responsible for the interiors of the Ger­man Expo pavilions in Shanghai 2010, Hanover 2000 and Lis­bon 1998, as well as for designing the exhibition of the World of Steiff, the Siemens museum in Munich and in 2008, ThyssenKrupp’s IdeenPark, which is the world’s biggest temporary science cen­tre with 40,000 square metres of exhibi­­tion space. Our colleagues at Totems (Ger­man pavilion in Zaragoza 2008) and the very three-dimensionally thinking de­­signers of jangled nerves and design hoch drei also staked their claims on the Neckar. Young offices like space4 and LigaNova complement the scene. Ap­­prox­imately 50 per cent of the Ger­man productivity for spatial communication are probably in Stutt­­gart.


Opportunities for co-operation that take you further
Agencies based in this area can not on­­­ly take advantage of the concentrated know-­how in spatial communication but also of a fine and detailed structure con­­­­sisting of all kinds of different creative serv­­ices. Advertisers, communication ex­­­­perts, spatial or multimedia de­­signers – whoever is carrying out a pro­­ject can easily find a suitable partner in Stutt­gart for realizing his project: from sce­­no­­gra­phers and designers to graphic art­­ists, multimedia specialists and tech­­ni­cians, all on an international level.

Stuttgart is the home of real luminaries in the field of communications de­­sign. One example is the delightful, 85-year-young “giant in typography”, Kurt Wei­de­mann, who penned the Mercedes-Benz logotype and the DB logo. The se­­c­ond generation of his students is active and well-known all over Germany: Büro Uebe­­le and Strichpunkt Design. Strich­punkt has continuously been among the top ten of European design offices and is one of the creative agencies with the most awards in the world.



Inspiring multimedia know-how
Communications agencies in Stuttgart can draw on plentiful resources when it comes to putting their visions into prac­tice. In this region there are more ex­perts for digital communication and media de­­sign than anywhere else. This is not on­ly due to the high concentration of financially strong clients. Re­­nowned talent fac­tories provide a high level, for example the Media University and the Merz-Akademie in Stuttgart, the Film­aka­de­mie in Ludwigsburg and the Hochschule für Gestaltung (Uni­ver­­sity of Design) in Karlsruhe. An animated film scene has sprung out of the Kunst­­akademie (Aca­de­mie of Applied Arts). In this scene, nu­­merous companies have formed. The in­­ter­national Festival of Animated Film, the second biggest animated film festival in the world, featuring about 500 excellent films in the competition, is a highlight for inspiration and a reason for international ex­­change.

The permeability of disciplinary limits is decisive for the success of people like us who design meeting spaces. There is no other field of communication that has as many exciting overlapping contents with other specialist areas. Thanks to the high concentration of creative forc­es, we do not only find the suitable part­ner for every type of work in Stutt­­gart. In Stuttgart this permeability of disciplinary limits is as much part of the city’s culture as the multidimensio­nal­ity in the minds. Perhaps the topography, which is unique in Germany, is instrumental in developing the spatial way of thinking from childhood: Some­one who lives on, next to or at the bottom of one of the seven hills of Stuttgart, lives “spatial communication”.


Johannes-MillaThe author, born in 1961, studied drama, psycholinguistics and turkology in Mu­­nich. After some freelance jobs for the­­­atres, fashion shows and product shows, Johannes Milla joined the practical side of design: He has been the manager and co-owner of Milla & Partner since 1989. In 2002 he worked as a visiting professor for scenography at the Hoch­schule für Gestaltung (University of Applied Arts).