Office of Possibilities
Depth and breadth? Office of Possibilities and the art of choosing your creative discipline
During the Christmas period we conducted a round table discussion to articulate what SKEWED is about. We will be releasing this discussion in three parts over the coming week. 2021 is shaping up to be a big year for us and we wanted to give you all an idea of what lies in store.
SKEWED is purposely an amorphous organisation. We don’t want to conform to the old rules of the industry that try to push you to fit into neat little boxes. Instead we want to carry the spirit of the amateur in an age when everything is hyper polished. We have always said that we are a collective rather than an agency. And we don’t say this to reinvent the wheel. Businesses like Pentagram have found ways to flourish with unusual structures.
In the last year we have quietly added Gothenburg and Stockholm to our family of offices. With London to come in the very near future. These offices have a loose split of capabilities thanks to the already flourishing existing practices there. OP in Gothenburg are experts in space. PJADAD in Stockholm brings incredible art direction. Our London studio from which this is being written, brings editorial nous.
This addition of these capabilities is something we think is great. But even more exciting to us is the possibilities this opens for the unusual. What happens when there is cross pollination between these offices? When innovation experts look at graphic design or art directors turn their hand to physical structures. We honestly don’t know the answers to these questions but we are very excited to find out.
Part 1 of our round table lies below…
Key (in order of appearance):
DK: DK Woon
PK: Petter Kukacka of PJADAD
RDJ: Robert During Janson of OP
ME: Marcus Engman
PH: Petter Hillinge of OP
AN: Axel Norlander of OP
CA: Caspar Andrén of OP
Standing from left: Robert During Janson, Dan Börjesson, Axel Norlander
Sittning from left: Petter Hillinge, Jacob Kouthoofd Mårtensson, Caspar Andrén
An Acronym in Search of a Name
Why don’t we start off with the four of you then – the Office of Possibilities guys. What do you guys do and how?
Is that what OP stands for?
Yes, that’s what it stands for but we had so many variations in the beginning, thinking, “It could be called this, it could be called that.”
We came up with the initials first. It’s a backronym.
We sat down – I think at your place, [gestures to Petter H] one evening and we started drinking. Well, I think we drank something called OP that night because you had a bottle in your freezer. We were like, “It’s so fucking hard to get a name right.”
And it was at that point, we just looked at the bottle and someone said they thought OP works well. And of course we all though, “Oh it’s really too bad that it’s taken… We could use that.” But we decided to use it anyway.
Then we had to find out what OP should stand for. We made that bit up afterwards.
Marcus Engman joins
We have a new joiner.
Where are we at in our discussion?
The OP guys were explaining where OP comes from and how they were they were drinking one night, and that’s about where we’ve gotten to.
That’s what we do, we drink.
We drink a lot and then we come up with ideas…
We then sat down and we thought what could OP be? Then when someone first said Office of Possibilities. We thought, “Yes that sounds perfect!”
«Why do you have to decide? That's always been my question.»
OP.™ office in Gothenburg.
The Name is Perfect because Possibilities are Endless
We used that [OP] because it also actually symbolises well what we actually do and how we work. Everything we do – you start in one very specific creative field, in my case, architecture. Then you always brush shoulders with creative heads in other disciplines. It’s basically also why all of us are here, I guess.
That [architecture] is Petter H and Axel’s background too. Caspar’s background is within engineering, but basically mainly in innovation.
We are multidisciplinary though. I myself have always been interested in graphic design and how storytelling works. As soon as you work within one field, you have to or more or less always get to start thinking in the big picture.
Why do you have to decide? That’s always been my question.
Exactly. I could never decide either. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a graphic designer or a photographer or whatever. Then I started studying architecture.
The big problem with architecture is that it could take forever sometimes. It could be process on process, endless lobbying and everything. When you then can switch to another creative profession, it is so refreshing because the timespans are much quicker.
«As soon as you work within one field, you have to or more or less always get to start thinking in the big picture.»
How OP Met
I’d like to go into maybe how you guys met. How did that all happen?
I think it started out with myself and Axel – but we all studied in Lund. Axel and I actually studied industrial design. Both of us went to Copenhagen to study together for some time. And it was during that time that we also met Robert. For a period, myself and Robert were working at the same places in Copenhagen – at BIG and Kilo.
Basically during this time we started talking more and more. We started talking about why people set up businesses the way they do and why people are act the way they do and so on.
Then fast forward to a couple of years later, when all of us had worked in our roles for a while. I was a freelancing product designer and Axel, you were quite tired of your job, you could say, right?
We had some good new projects coming in and decided that you would jump ship. At the same time, we started talking to Robert who also wanted to change direction in life. At the same time, Caspar, was also thinking of jumping ship and taking things in another direction.
Yes, exactly. I was working at a consultancy firm previous to OP.
You’d originally taken a really different direction from these guys then!
Yes, exactly. We mainly worked with the innovation in business-to-business companies. I’ve always dreamt of starting my own business. Me and Petter are in this running club on Tuesdays and our girlfriends have known each other since way back.
Anyway, we started talking about what was to become OP. You said that you were talking to Axel and Robert about this and starting up a business. I think we actually had a lunch near to Gothenburg. We sat down for lunch and stayed until the restaurant said, “You have to leave now”. I think from that point we talked at least every day.
«I realised that Caspar loves cars as much as I love cars. Then it was perfect. I knew from that point that Caspar was a good guy!»
Was it quite a while spent talking before jumping? Or was it all about taking a big jump?
It went really fast actually. To probably the point where I joined the discussion, I think it took maybe one to two months. Then we were off.
Yes. I don’t think it was in that first lunch because I can remember meeting Caspar for the first time and talking about cars.
Exactly because we met and talked about cars.
Yes. We met each other at Petter’s place for a quick coffee or something. Then I was just- I was always skeptical because Caspar was coming from quite a different background- It is, of course, a creative background but in more of sales kinda way. Also pitching ideas and all of that, which is so essential to how this works and why it works good. Coming from my background that’s the strange work. You’re sitting in Excel looking at the charts or something! Then we started talking and I realised that Caspar loves cars as much as I love cars. Then it was perfect. I knew from that point that Caspar was a good guy!
How long have you guys been going as OP for?
New year it’s going to be three years.
Ongoing work with SKEWED Productions
The Scale of Skewed
You guys are coming into SKEWED. What do you think is really going to change for you with being part of SKEWED?
I think things will actually continue along the diverse path we are already treading if anything. We know there are a lot of different talents within the SKEWED group that can work together in bigger projects.
Then, of course being able to tackle bigger problems together. As a new business we always strive to work with the– What should I say?
Yes, right people and working on projects that actually change things.
Higher up in the food chain.
We really see the possibility of reaching bigger clients together with Skewed. We don’t want to be working with the middle bosses that never have the possibility to change anything.
Also creating bigger change. The H22 project, [eds note: more to come on this in the near future] it’s like you can really do something, change the city and so on. That’s what we always aim for!
We’ve always been striving to make change from the beginning with all the projects that we do. Not making just another product that already exists, we want to make something that is better or that changes the world into a somewhat a better place to be. I think this really opens up the chance of doing that even more.
The exhibition TITTA MUSIK! / LOOK MUSIC! designed by OP.™ at IKEA museum! 20.02.2020 – 03.05.2020 team: IKEA Museum & PJADAD
The Importance of Integrity – and Being a Collective!
So If I could twist this a little… Marcus, how did you first hear about OP and what was the first time working with Robert, I guess?
He was handpicked by me for IKEA once upon a time [laughs], for a really ugly project that he did, but he still believes in it. The Golden Eggs of Recycling.
I like the idea, but I hate how they look-
That was his contribution to city planning of the future. Let’s put in golden eggs into the cities. I was more thinking about people, and he was thinking about golden eggs!
«I was more thinking about people, and he was thinking about golden eggs!»
And you knew right and straight away that this is the next Corbusier who is going to revolutionise the city and-
From those golden eggs.
No, but what I liked from that, is that Robert has always been a fighter. He still is. There is always something that we can fight for and change. That’s what I appreciate with you [Robert], but also with the other guys on OP.
It’s not just to do what you’re asked to do, but actually you try to make a change, and to take on the fight to make that change. I think that’s important, actually, to have that integrity. That’s what I look for in everyone that we work together with, especially the one who’s going to be part of our Skewed universe. Integrity is important.
Also, maybe that’s why we have this setup. Instead of buying everything and everything should be exactly the same, I think it would benefit our organisation if we have some kind of integrity, and also our own business goals and so on, each and every one of us, and still be part of something which is bigger but is not setting up too many rules for us. I think that’s what I’m aiming for. That’s why we talk about it in terms of more like, what do we say? A-
Yes, a creative collective rather than some kind of business setup.