From the neon streetscapes of Tokyo, all the way down to the vibrant city of Hiroshima (with stops along the way at beautiful Kyoto and Nara), the Native Union team has done the hard work for you!
interview with Ali Ganjavian
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by Antonia Peulevé
in collaboration with Geneva Vanderzeil
by Arthur Maitre
by Fabien Nauroy
We always look forward to Ali Ganjavian from Studio Banana popping by our NATIVE UNION office. His unique approach to design never fails to leave us feeling inspired. He sat down with our co-founder Igor Duc to talk about his latest project The BATBAND, and to give us some insights into Studio Banana's radical and refreshing imagination studio.
Left: Igor Duc, Co-founder of NATIVE UNION Right: Ali Ganjavian from Studio Banana
How would you describe Studio Banana's creative approach?
Our creative approach is to explore the unimaginable and that’s what makes us quite special. We really look for spaces inbetween things, rather than the thing itself. That’s where we normally discover things that have not been talked about and exposed before.
What product are you most proud of?
I don’t think I’m proud of any product, or any output. We’re proud of the experiences we’ve created for our users and clients, because for us that’s the real meaning.
If I had to speak about one product specifically - I think the Batband is one. It’s an experience that we’re really excited about. It adds a whole new dimension to the acoustic world and not one we’re currently exposed to. It’s like tasting something you’ve never tasted before. It’s really “wow.” It’s changemaking. It’s disruptive to the point that someone will say “hmmm how did that happen?” We're proud when we create these meaningful but disruptive experiences that change the way people think or experience things.
Your work with Telefonica was very conceptual. How did you come up with this idea and why is it a powerful way of communicating the brand as opposed to a more traditional approach?
When you really start exploring ideas with your client, you start to come up with thought provoking and meaningful solutions. What you achieve is not necessarily something that Telefonica talks about in a corporate way, but it’s just as important.
We found a simple solution to quite a complex thing. Visually, the campaign video looks hyper complex, but by the way it’s executed most people don’t realise the whole thing was filmed within 25 seconds. It’s a clever way to look at it.
The concept is – how do you create something incredibly powerful through really simple means? How do you reflect those brands values through gestures? It’s incredibly meaningful not just for the customers but also for the client. The viewer can identify with that abstractness more than say “20% off your next telephone” discount.
It’s more about the experience they feel and the thought it evokes – “how did they make this?” There’s almost the same amount of visits on the ‘making of’ video as there is on the final piece. That’s quite telling. People are curious about how this happened, which sometimes has more magic than the final result.
The Ostrich Pillow was a huge viral success. Did you expect that reaction? Why do you think it resonated with people so much?
No, we weren’t expecting that reaction. Generally we have low expectations – it gives us freedom to fail. We fail really well. It sounds odd, but we’re really good at making mistakes…fast.
We had no idea people would get so excited about it. I think the reason was that anyone can relate to the action of sleep. Everyone sleeps, everyone would like to sleep more and everyone enjoys a bit of humour which the ostrich pillow evokes. The ostrich pillow puts a smile on your face and doesn’t leave you indifferent. It's something extremely unexpected.
Native Union team trying out the Ostrich Pillow Light
If you’re at the airport and walking from one terminal to another and you see someone wearing that, it makes you turn. It’s very memorable and I think that has a real value. We’re really excited about how we can relate to gestural communication. We’ve all put hands together and leaned our head on them. You’ve just never done it in an envelope position like with the ostrich pillow. You can relate to the gesture, you can relate to the action, you can relate to the need and it makes you smile.
We shouldn’t underestimate the value of humour in design. Who doesn’t like to smile? Who doesn’t like to laugh? I think the ostrich pillow really helped people do that.
How is the Batband revolutionising the headphone market?
All products by Studio Banana Things are crowdfunded. Not only as a thermometer of the need but also to raise additional funds to make an idea like that happen.
Why did we create the Batband? To create a multi-dimensional space. We're not planning to revolutionise the market. But what we do believe is that we’re exposed to so much information in the visual sense, and we undervalue what we could be exposed to in the acoustic sense. And we’ve become sophisticated enough to be able to recognise 2 layers of information acoustically – but if I lock myself down with a pair of headphones I’m gone. Great for concentration, but incredibly poor for communication. So we wanted to create a slightly more polite acoustic experience – polite in a sense that it’s more open. So you’re introducing audio into your day to day, but you’re exposed and you’re outside. You’re not locked down.
The Batband provides the space between which hasn’t been addressed before. We find it incredibly exciting. The Batband is now available for pre-order.
What exactly is diagonal thinking in practice?
Say I have a problem and there is an immediate solution. But hold on a second. There are thousands of other solutions which are basically not forward thinking at all. They’re not backward thinking either, but what we do is diagonal thinking.
It’s about being open. Openness allows you to think of radical things such as “what’s this audio experience like for cats?” You could say “why the hell are you talking about cats suddenly?” But this leads to a sense of imagination which is not opened when you’re thinking, “we’ve got a target audience and we need to sell them a product, and it needs to be at this price point, and it needs to look and feel a certain way.” It’s really defined and by being super defined, the solution will probably be bland, boring and mundane.
The only thing that links our products is that open approach of imagination and that open space of potentiality. So, if tomorrow we do something totally different again, and people say “these guys have gone bonkers,” we will say that was the most appropriate solution to that problem.
For example, McCann Ericsson, the largest ad agency in the world, approached us and said they wanted to transform the way their organisation works. They’re quite an old agency and wanted to freshen up their methods and processes, so they can create more broadly. The solution was a new environment – move 550 people from one building to another – and to create new methods of working, new ways of creating community, new ways of creating a sense of belonging and new ways of generating ideas. That was all choreographed by the space that we designed. As well as the processes and communication, everything from the way you booked a meeting room to how you ideate, was developed in the studio.
Do you have a favorite design object?
The objects that really fascinate me are the objects that have changed the world like the umbrella, glasses, the toothbrush. They’re not real design objects as such, but they’re a great reminder for us of the meaning of design. They’ve transformed our world. Impactful experiential design. Really incredible things.
Where do you get your
All our inspiration comes through observation and we’re deep observers. We really like to observe behaviour and like to observe every little detail to the point that you can understand the person you have in front of you without them saying a word.
To be surrounded cross generationally is very important for us as well. You see things as a much more layered perspective as opposed to ‘a’ generation.
Also, a lot of our inspiration is drawn from the mistakes that we make, and how we can improve those mistakes.
What 5 things can you
not live without?
People, change, action, imagination and passion.
What's next for Studio Banana?
We don’t really know what we want to be, and that is important to us because we can become multiple things. We are an imagination studio, we will always be an imagination studio – what port that might end up at is a consequence of the ideas and imagination that are generated and the methods we put together. What that output, communication, product might be – we hope not to define for a long time to come.
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