This is the fourth article of our series “The story as told by those who have lived and are living it” which provides you with different perspectives on the project with the same title. This project was all about putting together the history of adidas in one book for employees. The following guest post was written by Lars Harmsen, Creative Director of Mellville Brand Design, the creative agency which supported us in designing and publishing the book. Here is how Lars feels about this exciting project.
“The story as told by those who have lived and are living it” (Part 4)
Late 2007: my business partner Michael Schmidt called me, very excited. At that time we were discussing the opening of our new graphic design studio in Munich; we had no name, no website or business cards, but we did have tons of experience and… an appointment at adidas. The meeting must have worked well, because four months later we were sharing our love for books with Kadie Casey (adidas Creative Director Brand Design + Events) and Ina Heumann during a first briefing. Peter Moore’s idea of producing “The Story as told by those who have lived and are living it” (read more about it here) made clear that this project would be complex and multilayered. 60 years of history in a linear way. adidas had it all: products, events and – most important of all – great athletes. From the beginning it was clear to me that this book had to be warm and human, with an intelligent and relevant character.
Another three months down the road, on 1 April 2008, we were at the Herzogspark Hotel in Herzogenaurach, the former adidas Sporthotel, presenting our concept in the Käthe Dassler conference room. With the book our vision was to show personal pictures, lots of them, just as if they had been taken out of a shoebox found somewhere up in the attic. Along with the history chapters the reader was to be invited to discover the athletes from the very beginning to today, in pictures printed on pages reduced in size to make them seem more original, warm and intimate.
Finding the ultimate, non-published shot.
We were on the road. A first dive into the adidas history took us with Ina Heumann to ScheinfeldScheinfeld is located in the south-eastern part of Germany and is 40km west of the adidas Group’s headquarters in Herzogenaurach. It is the only adidas-owned shoe production facility. adidas Scheinfeld is known for its unique expertise in footwear production. Over the years, it has evolved from being a traditional factory into a highly flexible service centre. Today, Scheinfeld produces 2,500 pairs of ‘Copa Mundial’ and ‘World Cup’ football boots per day, as well as around 900 pairs of custom-made shoes for adidas top athletes per month. The factory also makes specialised shoes for the Winter and Summer Olympic Games, and is entrusted with exclusive design projects. , for a breath-taking glimpse into the awesome archives there. My heartbeat went up like crazy when I held Jesse Owen’s shoe in my hand!
In the many meetings that followed, Peter Moore and Ina Heumann helped us tremendously by giving us a crash course on understanding what adidas is. The exciting work began, putting together all the ideas and thoughts, together with the texts and quotes gathered by Keith Cooper (his involvement is described here), who proved to be something of a British human sports-dictionary. The challenge was to keep an eye on the rhythm of the story, fighting for an image, begging for more text or shorter quotes, finding the ultimate, the non-published shot. And, by the end of the project, asking the printer the impossible. Knowing that here, too, impossible is nothing.
Ina, a real treasure-hunter, often came up with new material that nobody had known existed, many of them from the Dassler family’s own personal albums. I was particularly attached to an image showing Jesse Owens changing a shoe; the picture is double-exposed, the film-roll having not been properly wound on. For me it’s a mysterious image, expressing change and complexity; a quest, just as the project itself. More than once it was Kadie Casey, ruling the design process with professional charm, who brought us back on track.
Almost three years later, Michael and I were recently looking back over all this work and agreed that this was the project many of us dream of. It is almost spooky that in the process we came across some standards according to which Adi Dassler worked and lived on and we could relate to what this extraordinary man, whose story we had in front of us, on our screens and now in our minds, had thought so many years ago. His spirit is actually living in this company and on the project we worked on. Sixty years of an exciting brand’s history that we helped turn into 648 pages. We truly hope people at adidas will enjoy every one of them.