Despite all the talk about diversity, there aren't a whole lot of female-led studios in the creative industry today. But here's one shining exception to that rule.
B.O.B is an independent design, branding and packaging studio with offices in Düsseldorf and Berlin. It was founded as a design collective by Alessia Sistori and Lilly Friedeberg in 2018 after both working for more than six years as senior designers and freelancers.
The pair first met in Berlin during university and then split paths to gain work experience in different international design agencies in Düsseldorf and Mexico City. They then met again some years later, after a series of events led them to begin their freelance careers in Düsseldorf.
After several collaborations on different projects, they decided to start their own agency together. "We professionally complemented each other and also became good friends," they explain. "After countless collaborations and a growing client base, founding a studio together was the next logical step for us."
Today, the studio offers services around visual identity, illustration, packaging, and brand promotion. This year's projects include illustration and content creation for fintech company Klarna; art direction and branding for food supplements brand Memore; branding and packaging work for sustainable health/beauty brand Wild Olive Lab; and logo and branding for Related by Objects, five women who handcraft fair and sustainably produced jewellery.
Alessia and Lilly believe it's important that each product, packaging or brand is characterised by a unique appearance, by a design made with love in every detail. Their goal is to create a unique and personal design style for each client they work with. It's also very important to them to be responsible with people and nature, experimenting with different materials and techniques to find the right solution for each project.
These days, an agency's website is its shop window on the world, so it's great to see that B.O.B has recently put time and effort into giving its own platform with a fresh and upbeat redesign. To celebrate the launch of the new site, we chat to Alessia and Lilly about growing a creative business, the importance of good presentation, and putting smiles on people's faces.
Congrats on the new website. What were the thoughts behind it?
A major goal for us during the design process of our new website was to communicate the changes our studio had gone through in the past two years. Not only did our expertise grow, but our team and network got bigger, which we are really proud of. Our team has now been joined by a project manager, Vera, our web designer Elisabeth, and illustrator Maria. Our network of regular freelancers has also become wider and stronger.
We view ourselves as a network agency and see huge potential in collaborating with other creatives in order to put together the perfect team for every project. It is why our new website puts a bigger focus on the 'Team' section.
The range of services we offer has also recently grown. We love to execute the graphic design and to accompany a client right from the start of the process by supporting them with creative and art direction and even consulting them in their visual strategy. It's why we decided to switch from a more simple portfolio website towards the aesthetics of an agency with a more complex field of expertise.
It's a fun website. This is reflective in your practice, isn't it?
That's right. We have a lot of fun with what we do and put a lot of love into every project. We want to create 'happy' designs that people enjoy. It doesn't mean that every project has to include bold colours and illustrations, but we care about giving a personal and characteristic twist to designs. Even rather minimalist designs can put a smile on people's faces!
What does B.O.B stand for?
It stands for Berlin Ober-Bilk. When we first started to work as a collective, we rented a small, self-renovated studio in the Ober-Bilk district of Düsseldorf. Both places are very important to the history of B.O.B since we met in Berlin and just opened a second headquarters there. Although our Düsseldorf headquarters has now moved to a nicer office in the Flingern district, we love that our name pays homage to that time.
You launched in 2018. What have you learned about yourselves since then?
We learned how important it is for us to be in line with the ethos and values of our client to be passionate about a project. For example, we love to work for brands that have a sustainable approach and high social values.
We believe that the design of a product plays a huge role in its performance on the market, so we want to support businesses who are forward-thinking in these areas.
As for our design approach, our highest goal is always to create long-lasting and sustainable identities that show the brand's personality and shine a light on what makes the specific product unique. Because of this, we work very closely with our clients to find the best and most personal solution for them.
We have put a lot of effort into communicating our interest in working with sustainable brands throughout the years.
What have been the toughest obstacles to overcome?
The founding of our studio was a very natural process. Starting as two freelancers, we began to work as a collective before founding the studio. We didn't force anything but took each bigger step when we felt it was the right time to do so.
In this sense, we don't feel that we took big risks but grew organically according to the demands of our market. Still, there are challenges that we think every freelancer or business founder faces, especially tasks that were not directly linked to design.
Things like taxes and legal stuff were challenging for us at the beginning. We'd love to have learned more about these topics at university to be better prepared for founding a business. For us, it was a learning process, and luckily, in the beginning, other designer friends could help us out with tips once in a while. We're very happy to have such a great network of designers around us and hope to make this grow even more in the future.
Is there a particular project you're most proud of?
Oh, there are so many projects we love! One of the most important clients in our company's history is Orange Coffee in Düsseldorf since it was one of the first bigger projects we took on. For this, we had to combine different design disciplines and collaborate with other talented creatives, this being one of our first projects at this level of complexity.
We came up with the branding for the coffee shop, which included not only 2D media but also 3D objects like packaging, store sign, posters, ceramics and even interior design. For the interior design, we collaborated with Bianca Timmermann from Düsseldorf and enjoyed exchanging ideas with her.
Going into a space that we designed and enjoying this 360° branding in the city where we founded our studio was a very rewarding moment for us.
We love your work for the Swedish fintech company Klarna. What can you tell us about that?
The work we did for Klarna was super fun. We loved the briefing they gave us. For their campaign, they asked us to visualise the feeling of 'smoooth'. For us, it's the combination of unequal pairs. The combination of reality and fantasy, something unexpected. It was really fun to work with the client because they gave us 100 per cent creative freedom.
Do you have any wisdom you can share with others who are thinking of launching a studio?
In our experience, a successful online portfolio (website + social media like Behance and Instagram) is key to the success of a freelance designer or design studio. It's not necessarily about showcasing the most complex or recent projects you've worked on, but the kind of projects you'd like to work for in the future. In the beginning, this also means combining client projects with passion or non-profit projects that target the exact client you want to appeal to.
In doing so, it's crucial to put a lot of effort into presenting the design work, such as taking good photos of the final design. The extra work you put into good documentation will always pay off in the future. Always remember that a bad design that is well documented will always attract more attention than a good design that is poorly presented.