2. November 2023


Do luxury companies need employer branding? Montblanc says yes. And we are proud to have been chosen to implement it. Today, PAGE reported on the multi-channel campaign "What moves you, makes us" with which Montblanc is on a talent acquisition mission. Fresh, modern, cheeky - but fully authentic. After interviews and surveys with 1,500 employees, it quickly became clear what connects them to the traditional Hamburg-based company: Collegiality, a sense of togetherness, and above all the passion to create something extraordinary - and that can only be done together.

An employer brand can only emerge from within the company - we thank Montblanc for trusting us to embark on a strategic and creative journey that has been challenging at times. The company has shown courage - and is now being rewarded with an employer brand that expresses all that has already been lived. And that is the way it should be. No bullshit needed.

Read the full article here

Are you looking for ways to make your company stand out in the battle for talent? Then get in touch with us. We look forward to defining promising paths and exploring them together.

6. Juli 2023


Berlin/ Reno, July 5, 2023. Berlin-based design firm, Graft Brandlab announces that it has been chosen as the official design partner for the highly anticipated exhibition, "DEEP TIME: SEA DRAGONS OF NEVADA," at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada. The exhibition showcases rare, never-before-seen ichthyosaur fossils excavated from the deserts of the American West. It will include historic Nevada discoveries made by paleontologists of the early twentieth century, along with the latest finds of renowned German paleontologist Dr. Martin Sander, who has been working in Nevada’s Augusta Mountains for more than three decades. The exhibition is co-curated by Sander and Ann M. Wolfe, Chief Curator at the Nevada Museum of Art. Graft Brandlab, led by Prof. Nikolaus Hafermaas, will develop a multimedia exhibition concept that brings the ancient ichthyosaur fossils to life in a visually stunning and captivating presentation that blurs the boundaries between art, science, and design.

Back to the future: Multimedia experience reveals life of 250-million-year-old marine reptiles

Opening in August 2024, the exhibition delves into the world of marine reptiles known as ichthyosaurs which lived 250-million-years ago. These ancient sea creatures—historically nicknamed “sea dragons”—were predators in the Triassic Ocean, the vast body of water that surrounded the supercontinent known as Pangea. Considered the largest living animals to ever exist, the exhibition uncovers details of the ichthyosaur’s unique anatomy, feeding styles, habitat, and their eventual extinction. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a life-sized, sculpture of a pregnant ichthyosaur called “Annie,” (named after turn-of-the-century paleontologist and philanthropist Annie Alexander). The 32-meter 3D visualization, based on recent scientific data, employs spatial and sculptural design techniques to invite visitors to come face-to-face with the awe-inspiring creature. Augmented and virtual reality elements will further bridge the gap between the past and the present, inviting speculation about deep time, the future, and our evolving world.

Science is driven by beauty: Graft Brandlab stages natural science in a contemporary art context

Graft Brandlab's task is to artistically present these remarkable fossil discoveries, creating an exhibition that transcends the boundaries of traditional scientific displays. “Science is driven by beauty,” says paleontologist Martin Sander, so it makes sense that such an exhibition would be undertaken by an art museum.”

“The Nevada Museum of Art is home to the internationally recognized Center for Art + Environment and much of our program is committed to interdisciplinary investigation and blurring the boundaries between art, science, and design,” added Ann Wolfe.

Building upon their expertise in spatial design, Graft Brandlab's Managing Partner | Creation, Nik Hafermaas, will apply his artistic vision to the DEEP TIME exhibition. The award-winning artist Hafermaas, known for his previous work at the Nevada Museum of Art, embraces the fusion of art, architecture, science, and design and emphasizes that nature itself is a work of art. By placing scientific discoveries in an art context, the exhibition challenges visitors' perception of time and offers a fresh perspective on our place in the universe.

"Our ego, with its short life span of about 70 to 80 years and an average height of about 170 cm, is put into perspective when compared to the ichthyosaur lady Annie, who lived more than 250 million years ago. And looking to the future, where will technological development take us? It's a very exciting topic that spans the fields of paleontology, evolution, ecology, technology and culture," says Hafermaas.

Reno - the international art mecca in the Nevada desert

Founded in 1931, the “Nevada Museum of Art, Donald W. Reynolds Center for the Visual Arts, E. L. Wiegand Gallery” is the only art museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in the state of Nevada. The Museum serves as the perfect backdrop for the DEEP TIME exhibition. Located in the Great Basin of the American West, the region attracts international visitors who flock to the Black Rock Desert to attend the annual Burning Man Festival. Nevada is also located within the matrix of major Land Art installations by Michael Heizer, Walter De Maria, Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, and Ugo Rondinone.  In 2009, the museum established the Center for Art + Environment, an internationally recognized research center that supports the practice, study, and awareness of creative interactions between people and their natural, built, and virtual environments.

About Graft Brandlab

At the intersection of art, design and technology, Berlin-based innovation agency Graft Brandlab strives to make the intangible comprehensible, be it emotions, visions, past histories or future scenarios. Rico Zocher, Managing Partner | Business, and Prof. Nikolaus Hafermaas, Managing Partner | Creation, lead the agency founded in 2014 by Graft Architects. Graft Brandlab is characterized by its multidisciplinary approach, bringing together strategists, architects, artists, interior designers, graphic designers, marketing experts and software engineers. This allows the team of international talent to realize the full spectrum from the development of creative strategies to their manifestation in the real world in the form of multimedia branding, communications, architecture, interior design and mediatecture. Their clients include Montblanc, DKB, Volocopter, Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Gebr. Heinemann, E.ON, Volkswagen and Zalando.

More information on www.graftbrandlab.com

Press Contact
Anna-Maria Gerhart, Corporate Communications

T +49 175 4454 712


16. Juni 2023


War of talents, shortage of skilled workers, recruitment initiatives: This trend does not stop at the luxury industry. In view of the personnel shortage, the Hamburg-based luxury company Montblanc is also relying on a brand-new employer branding. A year ago, medianet, Austria's business magazine for marketing & sales, reported on Graft Brandlab's pitch win. Now the multichannel campaign is in the starting blocks. medianet spoke with Sascha Schneider, Chief People Officer of Montblanc, and Rico Zocher, Managing Partner of Graft Brandlab, about the campaign's development, results and prospects.

The full interview can be found here.

Bold tone, expressive look: More about the campaign on our project page.

29. März 2023


On March 23, 2023, we had an extremely exciting North Tower Conversation with personalities from research, business and creation on the topic of Artificial Intelligence. Here are six takeaways to share with you:

1. ChatGPT is just the beginning – a variety of specialized AI applications are already waiting in the wings. Ultimately, operating systems will need to be rethought to be AI-native. In the future, human-machine interaction will be based on conversation.

2. AI is not a miracle cure – AI can optimize many processes but does not automatically improve already dysfunctional processes. Used correctly, it holds the potential for entirely new business models. An AI economy will give rise to entirely new market players.

3. AI made in Germany? – Digital transformation remains a challenge for many German companies, and AI could pose an additional overload. There is a great danger that Germany will fall even deeper into a transformation deadlock and continue to lose innovative power.

4. AI and ethics – In the global race for dominance in AI, ethical concerns are in danger of taking a back seat. We need to advocate for a responsible and ethical approach to AI and drive the development of policies and regulations. It's a balancing act to keep up with the pace of development.

5. AI in marketing – AI enables brands to engage in empathetic and individualized dialogues and scale customer engagement. But the true character of a brand is largely shaped and manifested by human, engaged communities. In the future, every touchpoint will be dialog-based, and empathy will be the key differentiator for brands.

6. AI for people – True innovation requires recognizing connections and breaking new ground, an ability that will stay with us humans for a long time to come. Using AI just for the sake of hype will do society more harm than good. That's why, as a society, we need to recognize the opportunities of AI while being aware of the risks.

*For our quarterly event series "North Tower Talks" we invite each time a group of thought leaders to discuss a topic relevant to our times. Would you also like to be a guest on one of our exclusive panels? Contact us at info@graftbrandlab.com

6. März 2023


The GRAFTlab building at Invalidenstrasse 5, designed by our partner GRAFT Architects, is our new home in Berlin-Mitte. 

There are still some finishing touches to be done, and when everything is ready, we'll show you our new workspace - right here. Stay tuned.

2. März 2023


Less burnout less stress, less sickness - with the same productivity: according to a recent British study, the advantages of the four-day week are clear. The marketing magazine W&V wanted to know how creative agencies like Graft Brandlab deal with such a working time model.

Rico Zocher, Managing Partner | Business of Graft Brandlab:

"I fully agree with the idea of making working hours more flexible. However, a fixed model that ultimately requires everyone to deliver 100% productivity in 80% working hours is not, in my opinion, the 'universal solution'. Some people can benefit from it, such as families who can better organize their daily lives. Others may feel driven by an unconscious pressure to do more in less time. And then there are many who are immersed in their work, value collegial exchange, and may feel cut off.

At Graft Brandlab, we approach this differently. We focus on the individual employee. We accommodate personal circumstances by offering flexible work models: Alternating models between home office and office hours, predominantly remote work, or even individually agreed on part-time models, depending on the life situation. In this way, we work together with the employee to create the optimal work model for him or her. 

We are a creative agency and creativity needs space and time to unfold. We provide this space - on an individual basis. It is important to be in constant contact with our employees because situations can change. And as HR managers, we need to recognize this early on.

So I am not a fan of one-size-fits-all models. They just don't fit every business model, every company size, and every industry. We are a boutique agency with international clients. They expect us to be personally available during normal business hours. As a service provider, we want to meet that demand - in person, not with chatbots."

Read the full article here.

19. Dezember 2022


Is the crisis the new normal? For several years now, business, politics, and society have faced new challenges. First, climate change, then the pandemic, followed by the Ukraine war, the energy crisis, inflation, and the threat of recession.

How do top managers deal with these situations? Do crises create new incentives for innovation? What impact do today's times have on corporate branding, team cohesion, employer branding, and prioritization of issues?

We took these questions as an opportunity to survey executives from 12 well-known companies in a wide range of industries, including Airbus, Flixbus, Hornbach, Deutsche Wohnen, EDGE, Bridgehouse, and even BECYCLE, between September and October 2022.

The five most important findings:

1. A strong corporate culture is more important than ever.

2. Buzzwords are out. Long live authenticity.

3. Empathy is the new leadership quality.

4. Brand Story: It’s all about humanity.

5. Purpose first. Then innovation.

1. A strong corporate culture is more important than ever.

The pandemic, with its global impact, especially on the world of work, represented an unforeseeable situation for all the leaders interviewed. The "new normal" has created new facts that have left tangible effects. Offices no longer fill up as naturally as before, and the lockdowns have become a digitization driver for many companies to enable home office and hybrid working. Andreas Muschter, CEO of the European project developer EDGE Technologies, focuses on four fields of action when developing future workplaces: "Sustainable, smart, best design, with the highest possible feel-good factor. In addition, CO2 neutrality with the highest degree of flexibility."

In terms of corporate culture, on the other hand, new rituals are needed to strengthen togetherness. All executives surveyed emphasized that maintaining and increasing employee satisfaction is the most critical factor, and corporate culture must be lived and exemplified. Charlotte Geyer, Co-Owner and Consultant at Bridgehouse, emphasizes how important "working on the inner attitude [is] for decision makers to make a culture change in the organization sustainable." In her view, leaders need to "stay in touch all the way to the home office." "Human connection, relationship building, and emotional connection are critical in hybrid environments."

The employer brand book, once handed out, has had its day - continuous processes, communication at eye level, and new rituals are necessary for guiding principles to become lived corporate culture.

2. Buzzwords are out. Long live authenticity.

Overall, the challenges of recent years not only put into question purely value-based strategies but also put a particular focus on the levels of action and communication. In particular, the increased demands on employee management mean that concrete steps must follow words. At the top of the list is the need for companies to demonstrate how they are living up to their social responsibility. Karsten Kühn, CMO of Hornbach, puts it in a nutshell: "After all, if your company goal is to make a positive difference in people's lives with your products and services, then you don't need to look for a purpose."

René Obermann, Chairman of Airbus SE and Co-Head of Europe at Warburg Pincus, also backs clear words. "As never before, clarity, truth, authenticity, and consistency are now required. [...] Clarity, so that people understand what is going on in the minds of corporate management and how the direction for companies is defined. Clarity instead of the slick corporate lingo that still is prevalent."

It turns out that many executives have developed a clearer understanding of this in the course of the last few years, and (pre-)living these values has long since ceased to be zeitgeisty buzzwords.

3. Empathy, the new leadership quality.

Value-oriented action requires empathetic employee- and brand management to be anchored in the corporate culture long term and needs to be perceived in the external image. Here, too, the majority of the leaders surveyed emphasized that mere declarations of intent are no longer enough. Employees, the public, and customers expect authentic, assertive communication showing how companies create meaning and add value.

Daniel Krauss, the founder of Flixbus, also sees the relevance of empathy but points out that "empathy is an inherent skill[...] and therefore very difficult to learn. This will make it more difficult to select and assemble managers in the future because you can no longer select only by education and career."

4. Brand Story: It’s all about humanity.

Interestingly, despite their economic challenges, brand managers have recognized that simply focusing on growth strategies can no longer be effective. Instead, companies say they are increasingly focusing on the orientation value of brands and authentic, people-centered brand storytelling.

Cornelia Schneider, former Vice President and Head of Global Experiential Marketing at Hyundai Motor Company, Seoul, calls for a rethink from global to "community-based activities that are individually controlled. Bolder ways will be much more necessary in the future without being burdened with big budgets." For her, individualized, human-centered actions and multiple narratives will make up the brand work of the future.

5. Purpose first. Then innovation.

In light of current and upcoming exogenous challenges, companies face the growing complexity of implementing innovative strategies that require agile teams and can guide the entire company through volatile times stably and consistently.

René Obermann, chairman of Airbus SE, reinforces the thesis. "The increase in complexity can drive you pretty crazy. The task of corporate management at this time is to strengthen the defensive and, at the same time, also take advantage of opportunities in an anticyclical manner. Sure, we need to invest to the best of our ability, e.g., in process automation, in building data leads and analytics, in security in general and cyber protection, and of course, in the major growth areas of our time. At the same time, keep a cool head, so the multiple, parallel challenges don't get on top of you."

In this context, emphatic leadership and collaboration are the decisive factors for success. Innovation for innovation's sake has long since ceased to be the guiding principle; the meaningfulness of (economic) action is the standard of evaluation in the new normal. Daniel Krauss of Flixbus emphasizes the importance of the interpersonal, especially in a world where "many repetitive skills [...] will be performed by machines in the future." Because that's "what machines can't do." 

Conclusion: Crises require courage - yet open up new opportunities.

The abundance of simultaneous challenges has reached a new quality and an additional level of complexity. Old strategies need to be put to the test; new ways need to be found to contest a transformation of a new kind.

Hornbach is already getting to grips with this. Here, the "largest flexibilization project" in the company's history is just being ushered in, "where everyone can choose how much they want to work. Why? Because we feel that there is no longer any reason to divide the world rigidly into full and part-time any longer," explains Karsten Kühne, Hornbach.

Companies that want to overcome today's crises and be more resilient must become more human, collaborative, and emphatic. Only then will they be able to react more sensitively to dynamics, recognize opportunities and use them as a competitive advantage.

At Graft Brandlab, we see ourselves as an engine, accelerator, and corrective in this process. "As an innovation agency, our central concern is to support our clients with future-proof and sustainable strategies, concepts, and ideas, especially in challenging times. Especially now, our creative and emphatic consulting and strategy development are in demand. Because the resilience and success of our clients also make us successful," says Rico Zocher, Managing Partner of Graft Brandlab.

8. Dezember 2022


Mediatecture is the seamless integration of digital media into the built environment. The goal is to create empathic spaces that enable people to experience the full potential of digital intelligence.

Since its early days, the success of the internet has depended on innovative user interfaces — the growing amount of electronic digital data required an imaginary topography, a virtual space, to exist in our brains. We needed windows of all kinds to access and interact with this virtual reality. In the physical world, PCs and screens, keyboards, mice, and other hardware started to inhabit our environments. By aiding portability, the emergence of smartphones as powerful mobile computers was key to the success story of the internet. New apps with intuitive user interfaces have radically changed how we interact with the internet and communicate with each other in our daily lives. Yet our understanding still sees a separation of physical and virtual space, which we can visit and interact with independently. We propose a step-by-step scenario projecting a future where architecture and media merge and enable a truly smart environment that is at once intuitive, human, and aesthetic.



    The first digital revolution created a simulated world extending behind screens; the second will liberate digital content and reconnect it with our physical world.

    Screens will become larger and break free from their conventional envelopes; the surfaces around us will not only frame space but allow for dynamic activation through media. At the same time, devices will become smaller and seem to disappear over time. Head-up displays in cars and even smart glasses are only some of the possibilities that could replace screens.


    Rather than dulling our senses, well-designed augmented reality will help sharpen them, thereby enhancing our abilities.

    Screen-led atrophy will be followed by an active digital environment that will enhance our physical senses ­­– scale and materiality will have to correspond and react to the full range of our sensory apparatus.By examining aspects that were not previously communicable in the digital realm, we will be able to discover what human sensory experience really means: Empathy, innovation, serendipity, atmosphere, fidelity, autonomy, privacy, the subconscious – these are some of the key non-physical ingredients that make up our analog reality.


    When merging with smart digital spaces, it will be necessary to keep looking for an adequate translation of what it means to stay human.

    Material boundaries will be broken down and offer a new perception of the world, enabling a seamless coexistence of people, media, and space.Digital hardware will gradually assume the form of a quiet, minimal material presence in the background – users will not be distracted by technology but become immersed in it and direct it intuitively according to their needs. The key remaining step is the seamless integration of access tools into our modes of human expression and perception – eyes, ears, skin, voice, and gesture – and the total integration of virtual information into the physical space that surrounds us.


    The interplay between the user and a building needs to be renegotiated – architecture itself will become the new user interface.

    Currently, the concept of a smart building is mostly limited to its technical infrastructure and is often more sophisticated than its users’ actual needs. The intelligence of a building should offer a new dimension: A better, more empathic interface that enables an intuitive relationship between smart environments and their users.


    Information can attain an aesthetic quality of great narrative potential.

    Using artistic strategies to translate data into visual experiences will allow people to develop moreempathy toward their environment and improve their overall quality of well-being.The positive performance of environmentally optimized buildings is highly dependent on user behavior: Visualizing such information will help nudge users toward more energy-conscious behavioral patterns.


    Striving for an equilibrium between nature and mediatecture must become part of design practice.

    Energy consumption is becoming the key driver for ecological intelligence. Whenever augmented environments are created, energy and creative focus are missing in the upkeep of our physical habitat: nature. Technological discoveries from other fields (art, material sciences) can inspire new, sustainable solutions on an architectural scale that display low energy consumption, conform to natural perception, or lower light pollution. A circular economy and cradle-to-cradle thinking require complete documentation of buildings, streets, and infrastructure, and will turn our built environment into a resource of the future.


    When designing for the physical world, digital technology shouldn’t be an afterthought — the drastically different life cycles of a building’s physical shell, its furnishings, and its digital hardware and software need to be well-calibrated.

    At any given point in the life of the building, all these elements need to be orchestrated while allowing for a constant stream of updates. To ensure a future-proof design, digital components need to be integrated into the physical space using a “loose fit” approach.


    The sophistication of media integration in augmented spaces will greatly enhance the built environment's long-lasting experiential, ecological, and investment value.

    The rise of an economy of human interaction and sustainable collective behavior as an alternative to purely material and capital-based ideologies has just begun. As the fundamental element of culture, human interaction will become the currency of the future. Innovation, ideas, learning, and the exchange of knowledge will be the corresponding products – media interfaces will allow us to increasingly overcome physical borders and move toward a fluid global commons for human culture.


    Mediatecture and augmented spaces have the potential to combine the best qualities of the digital and physical worlds, and thus create truly hybrid experiences.

    Global data exchange has allowed us to understand the human footprint on this planet. Can real-time information about our individual impact embedded in our individual physical reality motivate a change in behavior, or will it lead to a collective regulation of societies? The blend of physical and virtual space will augment the possibilities of social rituals on a combined public stage.


    The value of a physical experience will be measured by the digital flow it is able to generate.

    Flow is what people experience when they are fully immersed in an activity without distraction: The perfect harmony between the user and a smart space.

    Until now, computers and the internet have allowed us to become more efficient in how we do things; tomorrow, the digitized environment will encompass more and more of what we do.Humanity will be confronted with a new challenge: What do we live for and how do we spend our time? Designers and architects will help transform digitization into opportunities to understand the value of augmented environments that feel human and empathic to pursue and embrace our creativity. Mediatecture will become a symphony of data, space, and beauty.

    (c) James Turrell and the first Mediatectures



Photo Ⓒ TEDxUniPotsdam

11. Oktober 2022


This was not our plan. What we conceived as an intimate discussion, actually made headlines: “Empathy in Architecture and Technology”. We are thrilled that this topic was taken up by the inspiring business magazine SHEconomy in an article about intelligent city planning. 

Prominent guests of our network “Female Contemporary Tribe” are featured in this article with their profound knowledge and opinions on the future of workplace design and city planning. Among them Miruna Turbatu, Head of Business Development at Graft Brandlab, who founded the network in 2019 together with Julia Carloff-Winkelmann, Chief People Officer at the mobility company Dance. Three to four times per year, they invite female leaders from different branches like finance, architecture, mobility, technology, art, and more to discuss innovation topics. These events offer a safe place to exchange ideas, grow one’s own knowledge, and expand the personal network. 

Many thanks to Gesche Joost, Pirjo Kiefer, Oona Horx Strathern for their contributions to this topic. 

The magazine is now available in print and online. Available here: https://sheconomy.shop

10. August 2022


The dramatic changes in the labor market are also affecting the luxury sector. Rico Zocher talks to medianet.at about how Graft Brandlab tailors employer branding strategies to today's luxury brands to help them acquire new talents. 

"In the war for talent, luxury brand status is no longer enough. Companies must formulate and offer a compelling and meaningful value proposition”, explains Rico Zocher, Managing Partner of Graft Brandlab. 

Read the full article on medianet.at

Photo by Federico di Dio on unsplash.com