Max Pietro Hoffmann on creating Autostrada Studios as a collective space with a collaborative spirit
Based in Berlin, Autostrada Studios is a multidisciplinary design studio specialising in creative direction, photography and graphic design. They work with a host of cultural clients within Germany, always maintaining an approach defined by content, research and close collaboration. In response to the renaming of the practice from Studio Max Pietro Hoffmann, we got in touch to find out more.
EM Hi Max, how’re you doing?
MPH Hi Elliott, thanks I’m quite good at the moment, even though winter is coming and a possible second corona wave.
EM So, Studio Max Pietro Hoffmann is now Autostrada Studios. What triggered the name change?
MPH When you start your own studio, it is quite common to start with your own name, as the work is very much connected to your person. Since the studio started growing, I felt the need for a general change, which reflected also in the name of the studio. I was looking for more flexibility when approaching bigger clients and in addition to that I wanted to create a collective space to start working together with other people under a name that underlines the collaborative spirit of the studio and is less defined by my own name. Autostrada in that way is a continuation of Studio Max Pietro Hoffmann, but with a broader approach.
I wanted to create a collective space to start working together with other people.
EM Opening up your ‘baby’ to other people’s ideas and ways of working can be a difficult transition. How have you found that process?
MPH The transition of a studio to the next phase is always difficult, but paired with a lot of excitement. Working in a team always improves the work, because different ideas and different approaches come together to develop a unified design language. We are still in the process and I hope new exciting collaborations and projects are coming up in the next months.
EM How did you come up with the new name? What does it mean to you?
MPH Coming up with the new name was a rather quick and fun process. I was always joking with friends about the fact that the abbreviation of my name (Max Pietro Hoffmann) is MPH = miles per hour. So Autostrada is a wink at this abbreviation and the really German word autobahn. As I’m half Italian it felt right to decide for the Italian version of autobahn = autostrada. Even though intended to be more fun than serious, it defines quite clearly the work of the studio, straight forward and solid, mixed with good taste and an admiration for aesthetic things.
My interest for visual things probably first started with picking up photography.
EM Before working on your own and running your studio, what’s your background?
MPH My interest for visual things probably first started with picking up photography, which is also still very relevant in my work. Mostly because of my grandfather, who worked as a set-photographer from the 1960s to the 1990s for directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci, Sergio Leone or Pier Paolo Pasolini, I started experimenting with his old cameras. After high school, I studied Integrated Design in Cologne. The interdisciplinary approach of the study programme in Cologne still has a big impact and is an important part of the approach in our projects, by bringing together people from various disciplines. After a working experience in a design studio in Cologne, I moved to Berlin and started the studio in late 2017. Since then the studio is evolving and now taking the next step.
EM How would you define your design approach?
MPH The approach we take for our work varies from project to project. Primarily every project starts with an extensive conversation with our clients. After the first initial kick-off, we go back to start the research part. Every information and little visual note is collected and organised in different mood boards. After this first phase, we go back to our clients to refine the briefing and clarify in which direction we would start working. In the second phase, we start with the concept development. In this phase it is important to us to leave room for every idea that is coming up, even the ones you believe on first sight are not strong enough or even stupid. Often it is harming a good result to start excluding ideas and solutions already in the beginning. As our work is based on a close collaboration with the client, we present our first concepts to our clients before starting the actual design process. We want to avoid getting dragged into the famous ‘guessing’ game with too many design sketches and corrections rounds. Once the concept is signed off by the client, we can find a precise design solution and always double-check it with the initial concept paper we created in the beginning.
EM Do you have a project which you feel best defines the future direction of the studio?
MPH It’s hard to define the studio’s work by one specific project. But there are projects that for sure are decisive for the direction the studio is heading. I would definitely say that the project for the MOFF Magazine back in 2017 was an important one and also the rebranding of the Berlin fashion label HUNDHUND. We are currently working on a redesign of an important german magazine, so let’s see where this will head us :)
EM Do you have a dream client?
MPH Oh that’s a difficult one. It would be definitely a challenge to work on a campaign concept for a bigger NGO. I also would love to work with a theatre here in Germany and develop together the visual language throughout each theatre season. This type of long-term relationship with the client is something I’m looking for.
EM Has your work been affected because of COVID-19?
MPH At the beginning of the crisis, we definitely felt things were slowing down. One of our clients for example closed business for two months from one day to the other. At first, I was worried, not only concerning our work but also in which direction the whole situation would move and which effect it would have on all of us. I feel we all have started to find an arrangement by now, but we still need to continue as the second wave is becoming a reality. Personally, the pause gave me the time to start thinking in which direction the studio should move. Two big steps were already made by changing our name and moving to a new studio space. Other new exciting things are planned for the beginning of next year, so let’s see what happens.
EM Talking of the studio space, what do you think defines a successful working environment, both visually and culturally?
MPH I think the most important things for a good working space are: the people, enough space, a good balance between quiet and busy and of course enough natural light. Also, the neighbourhood and the surrounding is very important. Our new studio is located on a big street, with big housing projects from the former GDR. Going down this street feels like being in a different city, this I still find always fascinating and helps me focusing better on the work of the studio.