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Creative camp with Nike

Unconventional ideas are often discounted. Some are just too outlandish; others are foiled by physics, bust the budget or take too much time. But great things can happen when a way is found to make weirdness work. A case in point: Harried passersby rushing to platforms hardly expect to see an oversized, air-cushioned Nike Air Max sneaker in red blasting through the tiled wall of a commuter train passageway, shattering it into a thousand pieces. Disbelief stops them in their tracks for a second look. After all, the idea of a colossal shoe several meters long kicking through a wall is just too surreal to be true. Unless, of course, you don’t discount it.

Björn Kowalzig and his team are no naysayers: “Of course, our client Nike’s idea of setting a huge shoe sole into the wall of a public underground pedestrian tunnel at Alexanderplatz initially seemed unrealistic,” says satis&fy PM Björn with a laugh, “even without all the red tape.” The folk’s down at Berlin’s transport association have seen their share of craziness, but a giant sneaker putting the boot to the wall of a subway underpass, sending tiles a-flying and walls a-crumbling was a bit much even for the anything-goes mindset of Berlin’s underground authority. However, Björn was undeterred by the institutional lack of imagination and intestinal fortitude. Instead of rejecting an ostensibly absurd idea outright, he, his coworkers in the Production department and the client got together to think the whole thing through. As Björn puts it, “It didn’t take long to figure out that we wouldn’t actually be kicking down walls with a shoe sole, so we decided to simulate the action.” The new Nike Air Max was to be unveiled on Air Max Day, and it was coming up fast. As usual, time was too tight for comfort, so ideas had to be developed and put into action, toute suite. And there wasn’t any leeway for long-distance deliberation. Björn says, “That’s why we invited Nike’s designer to set up an improvised office in one of our conference rooms at Karben.” This way she could work in peace yet communicate and collaborate face to face as the idea evolved.

With the customer in this close, the creative crew was free to experiment wildly in the rooms of Karben’s Scenic support unit, proposing this, discarding that, building something else and starting over until something stunning emerged from all that tweaking and fine-tuning. Rather than actually disfiguring a wall in Berlin’s underground tunnel system, the team created the illusion of depth by placing intricately modeled paneling in front of the wall. “We had to use the original tiles to conjure a realistic look. They weren’t for sale anywhere, though, so we photographed the tiles, made digital prints, cut each tile out and pasted it on a FOREX® panel.” The crew then broke some of the faux tiles and used grouting to glue them to an oversized plexiglas model of an Air Max sneaker sole’s air cushion. satis&fy’s Berlin Production and Graphics & Signage crew set this artwork into the real wall, creating a new front. To enhance the 3D effect, they spread out some bona fide rubble on the floor in front of the eye-catching promotional installation. This set piece had been convincing in the studio, but its effect on location was nothing short of sensational. The red shoe sole bursting through the tiled underground wall worked like a charm, as did the unusual s&f/client collaboration. According to Björn, “This creative camp at Karben was a whole new experience for our client.” And the same offer stands for all our other customers to enjoy.

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