MoreSleep is the sister agency of the Berlin-based web magazine Freunde von Freunden (FvF), known for its down to earth photography and chatty home interviews with artists, designers, chefs, and other personalities from around the world. With a beehive and a patch of tomato plants on the roof, $600 wallpaper that oozes blue and pink like a sunset, and a stuffed beaver perched next to a classic Eames chair, the MoreSleep/FvF studio doesn’t look like an ordinary office. It doesn’t function like one either, and the place where its designers work can’t be pinpointed to a specific room or desk. Instead it’s a fluid space, with the team drifting from chairs to roof to attic to the special showroom apartment with ease, and it’s between these different rooms that the creative work for the likes of Sony, adidas, BMW, MTV, and Mercedes-Benz takes place. On a frosty fall morning in Berlin I explored the MoreSleep office, and discover that the way it’s organized encapsulates the agency’s aesthetic as well as its ethos.
The first place that MoreSleep co-founder Frederik Frede takes me is up a rickety ladder to the roof terrace he’s built over the years, which looks over Berlin’s central Mitte neighborhood. As well as growing plants and harvesting honey up here, he tells me that in the summer they’ll project movies onto the opposite roof and use the space for breaks and lunch.
This apartment block has housed all of Frede’s ventures over the years. In 2006, he and Torsten Bergler set up design agency NoMoreSleep, which they then sold in 2009 when they started FvF with Tim Seifert. Bergler is the only one who trained as a graphic designer; he was taught by Erik Spiekermann and at one point was even the legendary typographer’s personal TA. When I head back down the ladder, Bergler shows me a poster that he recently made with Spiekermann at the p98a letterpress workshop; the print is pinned carefully to a Styrofoam board like a precious icon.
In 2011 the pair resurrected their creative agency, this time calling it MoreSleep, and together with FvF they now occupy most of the apartments in the building. “We called the new agency MoreSleep because we’re older, so need more sleep, not less,” Frede tells me. “It also showed that we were not only older, but wiser too.”
The studio primarily operates in the block’s attic apartment, with the entire MoreSleep team sitting around one long table (FvF are in another room). “We don’t have a specific seating plan,” says Frede, who arrived last and sat on the only chair available (a small, geometric stool), “and because there’s only one table, the communication is better.” When I ask whether there’s a specific place where they discuss their plans for an upcoming project, Frede characteristically shrugs—a meeting could take place anywhere, on the roof with beers, around this table, in the nearby sitting area, on the balcony, or in the living room downstairs in the showroom. “It’s really relaxed,” he says.
This easygoing atmosphere is also evident in MoreSleep’s relationships with clients. Frede explains that when he’s with a client, he only ever uses the less formal “du” (meaning “you”)—in German, you can address people in two ways, and the highly formal “Sie” is usually used for business relationships. “Our most recent client said their CEO had never been called ‘du’ before,” says Frede. “Apparently they were surprised, but then they just got used to it.”
Fluidity and ease is crucial not only to their work ethos, but to the design of the work itself. According to Bergler “nothing is impossible,” and their projects span both print and digital. MoreSleep approaches all platforms with the same emphasis on clarity and lifestyle, whether designing Companion magazine for Berlin’s hip boutique hotel 25Hours, or a digital 3D iPad showroom for furniture company Vitra. “We don’t separate between different mediums; we only care about the content and how we communicate it,” says Bergler. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a brochure, a website, a mobile platform, or a book.”
Frede takes me down the spiraling, chunky staircase, where we pass staffers drifting casually from one space to the next, and he shows me their downstairs apartment/showroom. The space often gets rented out (APC recently did an event here) and it’s also an area for client launch parties, studio lunches, and FvF readings. “Sometimes I sleep here if work gets too late,” adds Frede (another example of how life and work blurs at MoreSleep).
The apartment is filled with neat interior design tricks—the single bed folds out into a double one, there’s a projector hidden in a secret wall, and the plants in the bathroom are watered by the shower’s mist; everything is clear, cozy, and it has a simple use aimed at making things more comfortable. In many ways, it’s a spatial manifestation of the MoreSleep approach to design, which similarly focuses on what Frede calls “usability.”
When designing editorial platforms for the web, they often prefer the simple scroll to click-throughs. “It’s not because we love scrolling, we just think it’s the natural way that people like to read.” This kind of thinking informs their designs and concepts. The website for Berlin clothing store Lala combines strong photo stories and a simple, flexible grid that blurs the line between content and commerce. All aspects of the straight-forward, flowing design stemmed from considering how a browsing shopper would most like to calmly navigate an online store.
As I chat with Frede, the apartment’s furniture is getting moved around because tonight MoreSleep are launching a book they produced for the USM Modular Furniture company. Like many of the agency’s projects, it combines a clean design with striking photography and personable interviews (written by the FvF team), and the layout’s emphasis is on simple communication. I ask Frede what else they like about minimal design and he carefully considers this question for a moment. “It’s because everything is so chaotic already. We want to make spaces—both online and off—that clears out some of the chaos.”
To step into the world of MoreSleep is to step out of chaos; they call for simplicity and enjoyment, for an easygoing daily environment where the traditional boundaries between life, play, and work (as we think we know them) disappear and become something else altogether.
Photos by Nikita Teryoshin