• Hei_picture_06_300dpi

    A visual from the Heineken information pack

Graphic Design

Heineken are re-imagining the nightclub – with design at its core

Posted by Rob Alderson,

The countdown to this year’s Salone is well and truly on with the design world converging on Milan in just 12 days. One of the most intriguing, ambitious projects will be unveiled by Heineken, who are scaling-up their design DNA into a fully-fledged nightclub experience. It’s the culmination of a year-long process which has involved a team of 19 designers from Tokyo, New York, Milan and Sao Paulo, selected from different disciplines to re-imagine a night out with design at its very core. We spoke to some of the key players to find out how it all worked…

“We wanted to create a platform to go even further, to be even more progressive and more experimental,” says Mark van Iterson, Heineken’s Global Head of Design. “A club seemed perfect for us to create since it’s an extrovert space where design is of crucial importance in setting the scene.”

First announced at last year’s Salone, the 12 month journey has been a rollercoaster. After submitting portfolios, 15 designers from each of the four participant cities were asked to speak at Pecha Kucha events to see how they reacted under pressure and how they interacted with others. Mark and his team selected product, graphic, motion, fashion and interior designers for a project where cross-pollination was going to be pivotal.

“The complexity of creating one coherent concept across all elements was a big challenge,” he said. “It shouldn’t feel like an exhibition of 19 designers, it should feel like one club, combining different perspectives, resulting in one great evolving experience.”

  • Bc

    The space in Milan shown on a poster aimed at potential designers

  • 26-1_novnp-300dpi

    An early mock-up of the interior

The final 19 then went on tours of nightlife hotspots of their home cities, not only to bond but to see what what worked and what didn’t in existing clubs. From there the team identified six areas which come together to create a successful clubbing experience – connecting, discovering, getting a drink, dancing, cooling down and ending the night. Working with an expert team of coaches, the designers started to work up concepts using an online collaboration portal. The theme chosen was “changing perspectives” and the idea generation was aided by a community of clubbers who were able to make comments and suggestions using the online hub.
Everything from the bottle design and the staff uniforms to the interior decoration and the dance floor was up for discussion.

Graphic designer Andre Coelho played a big part in pushing the RGB concept finally incorporated into the Changing Perspectives idea. “Since the beginning of the project I had in mind that the different elements of the club should interact with each other, creating surprising effects – lighting interacting with bottles, dance floor interacting with music and dance steps, and so on.”

“After the concept was defined, the graphic designers and I had to find graphic solutions for the bottle, patterns and other elements. The main concern was creating a pattern that could represent the concept and be universally adapted by the rest of the team.”

  • 24-1_community-3-300dpi

    The interactive hub where designers, mentors and clubbers came together.

  • 27-10_andre-and-sandra-300dpi

    The identity Andre Coelho helped design

  • 38-3_1-h-bar-interaction-300dpi

    A mock-up of what the interactive bar might look like

What the online portal also did was to facilitate designers working with their counterparts from the same discipline as well as their geographical colleagues, creating a multi-layered web of communication. However this was not without its challenges. Designer Lee Gibson told us: “It is certainly harder to pitch and present your ideas in a completely virtual environment. We found that as a smaller group here in New York, that time spent together talking through ideas, sketching, and designing was really important.” Lee revelled in the “freedom” of the project and credits the Heineken mentors for pushing the concepts “as far as they could go.”

One of his major preoccupations was to work out how the “flow and movement within the interior” contributed to the environment. ”We ended up creating narratives for different people coming to the space and enjoying the experience in different ways, with different endings. While the form of the elements and spaces was critical, the way that they sit next to each other in the space will really determine how successful we are with the design.”

“With an event, you have to create a bang! and try to create a night that will last in people’s memories.”

Adam Aleksander

Experiential designer Adam Aleksander also believes the science of a good night out boils down to interaction. “With an event, you have to create a bang! and try to create a night that will last in people’s memories. Even if your production isn’t 100% tight, the energy of sincerity shines through and energises the guests.

“The nightclub, as I saw it, was in danger of feeling like a science fair. My job was to come in after the interior design plans and figure out how to make this feel like a party, get people out of their shells, and really create a fun atmosphere. We have created a system of games and techniques and turned the space into an interactive world that is fun and engages people right off the bat.”

Launching a project like this at a place like Salone brings its own pressures but the team seem confident, and massively excited. This fascinating experience in group design dynamic is reaching its crescendo and we’ll all find out next week how well it’s worked.

  • 26-2_dec6_adjust_gibson-5-300dpi

    More interior mock-ups

  • 26-4_hkn_dreamywaitress-300dpi

    Early sketches for the staff uniforms

  • 27-3_imagen3-300dpi

    Designs for potential heat-sensitive bottles

  • 35-2_11-300dpi

    A look at what the bar products could look like

  • Heinnnnnnn

    A visual from the information pack

This article was produced in partnership with Heineken


Posted by Rob Alderson

Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including itsnicethat.com, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.

Most Recent: Furniture Design View Archive

  1. List-galvin-brothers-jameson-its-nice-that--product--console-bench

    Last time we met the Galvin Brothers, we were driving around the Yorkshire countryside where they apparently knew everybody, and the pair was just gearing up to create a range of designs for “whiskey drinkers.” The project was a part of The Jameson Works, a community for makers which sees the whiskey brand work with creatives on different projects, each one focusing on the process of how they make what they make. In this case, it was a range of furniture for a bar that would best suit drinking whiskey.

  2. Virgin-clubsize-itsnicethat-list

    If you’re tasked with redesigning the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse at Los Angeles International airport – the very last room visitors to the US’ beautiful west coast are going to see before jetting back off to their own grey lives – you’d best make sure you do a bloody good job of it. Virgin Atlantic were thoroughly aware of the potential pitfalls of such a project, and so have set about creating a space which encapsulates the warm, individual spirit that the company has gone to such lengths to establish. And it seems to us that they’ve succeeded.

  3. List

    Bringing a new perspective to industrial design and illustration, a show at The Aram Gallery sees RCA graduate Rachel Gannon illustrate a series of furniture designs, with each discipline feeding into the other as Rachel’s work is exhibited alongside products by industrial designers André Klauser and Ed Carpenter, who work together under the moniker Very Good & Proper.

  4. List

    Moving Mountains is the brainchild of Hawaiian designer Syrette Lew, who founded the company in Brooklyn as a vehicle for her stunningly simple designs. She has a range of jewellery and bags, but specialises in furniture, having launched her first collection last summer. The objects are all hand-crafted from wood and maintain a timeless sensibility, drawing inspiration both from traditional shaker furniture and modern geometric shapes and colours. The resulting objects are simple but stunning, showing off the marks of the maker’s hand to highlight the uniqueness of each made-to-order piece. They’re damn good at photographing their catalogue too…

  5. List

    There was a time when if someone said “leather furniture” to me, a horrid image of an ugly, olive green, squashy three-piece looking like it had had an allergic reaction to something was conjured. Thankfully, designers such as Kueng Caputo have refreshed my opinion of leather furniture by bringing it into the present day with an air of sophistication and coolness.

  6. Main

    Sometimes the best projects are just people injecting some light into dormant, ubiquitous objects that lurk in corners waiting to be transformed. Ever contemplate how the clutter of objects on your shelves don’t really fit on your shelves? No problem. Kyuhyung Cho – creator of such design classics as the Poke Stool and Oneness is back with collaborator Erik Olovsson to give a new answer to our interior design prayers in the form of ROOM, a collection of mismatched boxes that can be arranged to form a curiously beautiful shelving unit. As well as being easy on the eye, it’s also pretty hilarious, particularly the part that has a separate hole for each of your pens to sleep in like a stationery version of a dovecote. Lovely.

  7. Wolfond-list

    We’re absolutely gutted not to be at the Salone Del Mobile right now as it turns out this is the year that everyone is there (that’s right, EVERYONE). Among them is Jamie Wolfond, one of Brooklyn’s youngest and finest furniture designers, who’s there to launch his debut collection at Designersbloc. If last year’s display is anything to go by the whole Designersbloc show should be a treat, but Jamie’s work in particular is well worth the journey.

  8. List

    Ambika Subramaniam is currently studying for a BFA at Washington University in St. Louis, though the level of skill evident in her designs suggests a skill far beyond her years. Her design fuses her Indian and Louisiana heritage to create efficient design solutions influenced by the mythologies and traditions of eastern culture. These chairs are from Ambika’s Framed Seats series, through which she considers furniture as a means of framing interior spaces. Constructed from wooden bases and a series of interwoven ropes, they almost resemble sailboats – practical and sturdy while simultaneously appearing somewhat fragile. They also come in a choice of big, medium or very very small, much like the chairs Goldilocks tests in The Three Bears tale. Furniture design doesn’t get much more appealing than this.

  9. List

    I’d like to say that I tracked Jamie Wolfond down through meticulous research and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the North American furniture design scene, but the reality is I was trying to find his email address to contact him about a magazine delivery. Still I’m seriously glad I found his website as its contents are a refreshing take on contemporary furniture design.

  10. List

    Piet Hein Eek already has an international reputation for creating furniture from waste material. He made his name in the 1990s for producing products built entirely from discarded materials too expensive to be turned into anything else. His frustration with this situation stemmed from the fact that the materials were thrown away not because they were of no use, but because the cost of labour was too great to make the finished products economically viable.

  11. List

    It’s no secret that Fort Standard make fantastic objects of use and pieces of exquisite furniture. The New York-based designers have been featured on the site before for their intricate and extraordinary contribution to the world of adventure, Life Is Precious, a ten-piece survival kit for the distinguished hiker. Now we’re featuring them again for their most recent beautiful object, created for an excellent cause. Chainsaw Stools are a collection of stools roughly hewn from fallen trees and painted with colours inspired by storms. They’ve been produced to raise funds for aid relief after Hurricane Sandy and we’re pretty confident they’ll have done an excellent job of it.

  12. List-2

    Where can you find a giant bronze thumb, a chair made out of a female mannequin and a statue of a cowboy all in the same London location? That’s right, The Barbican! And it’s not a collection of weird, semi-fetishistic memorabilia, but an excellent exhibition of some of the most notable works to mark Pop Art’s takeover of the design scene in the latter half of the 20th Century.

  13. Main

    ‘Tis the season of furniture adverts and we’re getting bombarded from all sides by bogus pine warehouses flogging their beige leather numbers at ‘only one nine nine!’ To counteract this is the cooling oasis of Nick V. De Marco’s website, which showcases his extraordinary, ultra non-boring furniture. Sure, Nick’s more of an artist than a carpenter, but it doesn’t mean we want his molecular Void table in every room of our house. Check out the rest of his rather colourful portfolio over on his site.