DOUBLE STANDARDS are no standards
During a visit to Chris Rehberger’s studio and workshop in a Kreuzberg backyard, we spoke about the designer’s artistic vision as it manifests itself in his three ventures: DOUBLE STANDARDS, LIVING STANDARDS, and the PERLON record label.
As he saluted us peeking through a coated strip curtain that seemed to be made from vinyl, it became clear how his diverse activities have gradually branched out from Rehberger’s base camp. Rehberger, who hails from the Stuttgart area, trained in graphic design before he began his career at a print magazine. Later on, he tried advertising and even packaging design. Although his friends urged him to focus on one thing, Chris Rehberger didn’t really see his future in any of the traditional disciplines. Much like Andreas, Chris refuses to be pinned down. At the heart of his practice lies the well-established graphic design agency DOUBLE STANDARDS, which specializes in design for the arts industry, but equally important are LIVING STANDARDS, his product-design spin-off, and techno label PERLON records, which he runs together with Markus Nicolai and Thomas Franzmann. Development is born out of necessity, and this is what holds together bag, table, sunglasses, lamp, and music.
Chris, please tell us about your first encounter with Andreas.
That must have been ages ago! It was in his first shop in a backyard off Münzstraße. I simply went there as a customer. Andreas always seemed very pleasant to me, never pushy or anything like that—he was just extremely likable from the very first moment. I still remember a shirt jacket by his brother Kostas that I bought in Andreas’s first shop. It was a kind of shirt, but with a zip so you could wear it as a jacket. I wore it for ages until it finally fell apart. I was really sad when it broke.
Your first venture into product design was in 2016, when you established LIVING STANDARDS and presented the Standard bag at Andreas Murkudis. Now you’re launching the OCSID lamp and the TurnTable. What was the idea behind LIVING STANDARDS, and will we see a whole line of furniture by Chris Rehberger in the future?
(laughs) DOUBLE STANDARDS is obviously centered around graphics and print, but we’ve always had this fetish for objects. We always used to make so many different items for our clients, from films to trophies and other custom-made objects. So when we had the idea for the bag, I thought it would all end up getting too confusing. That’s why I decided to launch another label, and Moni came up with the great idea of founding LIVING STANDARDS. So we separated our client work from our own product design. DOUBLE STANDARDS is the design agency, and LIVING STANDARDS does the objects. I don’t actually know if furniture is the right term for it. I see the products distributed by LIVING STANDARDS more as objects that have a certain use value. Concerning the future, we’ve got a few things in preparation, but we haven’t really figured out how to manufacture them yet. But you can expect some more objects from us!
Each of the objects carries a different space along with itself and within itself. How do they become living objects?
For us, everything operates within a space. Even graphic design is not an entity in itself. A poster, for instance, needs the surrounding space in order to be able to communicate and to exist at all! To me, everything gives space, shapes space and takes space. That’s why I take it for granted that these objects are able to interact with space. In my work, I kind of see myself as a space invader (laughs).
Are there any personal standards that summarize your views on product and graphic design as well as music?
Yes, definitely, but it isn’t easy to put them into words. Actually, they really count when I have to make a big decision. What’s really important to me is a kind of simplicity. Really simple, almost embarrassingly simple. Well, but only almost!
So could we say standards are something of a gut feeling?
Yes, but we’ve defined our own standards that we always stick to, although we don’t necessarily have to talk about them. Everyone should follow their own standards and these, in turn, have to coincide with the client’s.
Let’s get back to the TurnTable. It reminds us of Enzo Mari’s legendary 1960s prototype. What is your take on the classic? How did it come to bear your signature?
The reference to Enzo Mari is accurate. I very much like his pre-IKEA approach: I need a table, so I’ll just get some timber and build one! For me, that’s the most democratic way of thinking about furniture. On the other hand, there is also this amazing young Dutch designer, Wouter Scheublin, who built a chair that inspired the shape of my table. I think there is no need to negate all the influences that shaped one’s design. That’s just how things have always been developed. Different ideas are merged and transformed into something new. Whoever looks at that table should either be inspired to build it on their own or, if they aren’t a skilled craftsperson, simply purchase one! The table can also be made to measure, from small coffee table to a large dining table for up to eight people. I’ve made one of them for myself; it’s in the living room now, and we always have dinner around the table. I want to be able to really use the objects, and the table is indeed very suggestive. Oh, and the signature, I’ve signed the table on the bottom side.
The OCSID Lamp is described as an inversion of a disco ball: instead of reflections it creates shadows. What’s your relationship to Berlin’s nightlife, and how does it relate to your Label PERLON?
Exactly, the lamp has a negative disco-ball effect. The basic idea was to dunk a mirror-ball in black dipping paint, but then I thought that was a little too blunt. I was thinking about how to build a kind of inverted mirror-balll. Nightlife in Berlin today isn’t much different from what it used to be, but it actually has professionalized quite a bit. It’s now much more organized than back in the 90s, where in the warehouse parties dance rooms were defined by plastic canvas walls and loud techno blaring from the speakers. This DIY-feeling behind it was more prominent whereas today the technology, in particular the quality of the sound system, is taking center stage in the experience: people are interested in highs and basses and want to hear the best sound quality.
Both the table and the lamp you’ve turned upside down—is this also true about the eyewear by PERLON for MYKITA?
The dream was to define the shape of a pair of glasses from our Perlon lettering. When I first communicated the idea, we all thought that we wanted to create a pair of glasses from our writing. Or engrave the lettering on the frames—which of course wasn’t an option. Actually it’s a very simple idea, but the design process took several days. We wanted to translate the rectilinear and, at the same time, round form of the lettering into the glasses—and these straights and curves are now found in the glasses again.