How do we create our partner editions at BACKFORCE? Interview with our graphic designer André


NAVI, BIG, GamerLegion, Eintracht Spandau - some of the most successful and well-known teams swear by BACKFORCE and have partner editions designed especially for them.

Our BACKFORCE partner editions embody the style and identity of the teams and are designed by us and our partners in close cooperation.

We spoke to our graphic designer André about what exactly this design process looks like at BACKFORCE.

Hello André, as a graphic designer you tend to work in the background. Could you please briefly introduce yourself and tell us what exactly you do at BACKFORCE and what you are responsible for?

As a graphic designer at BACKFORCE, I am responsible for the look of our website backforce.gg, our product photos, the creation of assembly and operating instructions, as well as packaging. I design banners, flyers, advertisements and presentations. Sometimes I support you with the graphics for our social media posts.

Another of your tasks is to oversee the design process for the partner editions at BACKFORCE. What exactly is a partner edition?

From my point of view, there are basically two different types of partner editions. On the one hand, we work together with influencers or charitable projects, for example. On the other hand, we equip eSports teams and clans with chairs. Every team has its own style and design, and together we make sure that the chair has a look that suits them. In terms of appearance, look and feel. Most of the partner editions can also be purchased in our store.

"If you're sitting in a meeting and the partner says they're hyped about the new chair and want to get it made just like you designed it, then we've done our job right."

And what distinguishes our partner editions from licensed products from other chair manufacturers?

We work closely with our partners so that it's not just some chair with a license, but so that we can say at the end: "Hey, we both worked on this and we think it's great." The aim is to come up with a chair that we both like. If you're sitting in a meeting and the partner says they're hyped about the new chair and want to get it made just like you designed it, then we've done our job right. And if the partner contributes their own ideas or has other requests, we listen very carefully. It's really important to us every time that we work together and that the result is a product that our partners enjoy sitting on. Something that we all think is great, and hopefully the fans and customers too.

How much influence do our partners have on the design?

Yes, a very big influence. Basically 100 %. In the end, it's the partner who says: "Yes, this is how we do it." It's a process in which both sides naturally contribute their ideas and wishes. Unfortunately, we also have to say no to some ideas because we can't implement them that way, but we do our utmost to satisfy everyone.

"But we never think: "Oh, we'll just put a logo sticker on it and that's it...". We really want to create a chair every time that you can't otherwise get from us."

Do we also have other partner editions apart from those already mentioned?

With PCGH, we have a partner edition that is completely tailored to them. Not just with the embroidered patches and their logo in the brooch. And the fact that the chair is completely in blue really makes it an edition that stands out and looks completely different from all the other models in our store.

This is also important to us with the other partner editions: they should stand out from our range and not look too similar. From a product management perspective, it is of course more efficient if all chairs are as similar as possible, but then you could just take the standard chair and embroider the logo on the headrest. With other chair manufacturers, that might be fine. But we never think: "Oh, we'll just embroider a logo on it and be done with it...". We really want to create a chair that you can't otherwise get from us every time.

We sometimes have very different editions of BACKFORCE V and ONE. How do we decide which chair models are best suited to a partner?

That usually comes from Stefan (Head of BACKFORCE), whether we prefer a BACKFORCE ONE or V - or both: with the Navi edition, we have an example where both editions are very different in design. We took the trouble to create a completely unique design for both chairs. Both chairs also offer different options. Some partners say of their own accord that they want to do both. Then we usually do that too.

So, you could say that you work with the guidelines you are given. The respective partner is the source of inspiration, as is Stefan if he feels that it would somehow suit the target group better.

Right: What suits the target group. I mean, there's an edition coming soon that I can't talk about yet, but BACKFORCE V certainly wouldn't have fitted this chair.

We are known for our high level of customization. Customers can create their own patches, and we also have a template for the design of the brooch. Do we have any other options for customizing the chair in the partner editions?

We customize the brooch and patches for the partner editions. Everyone has their own patches. For example, "Ha Ho He" for the Hertha edition or "EINS" for Eintracht Spandau. They also have their own foil in the brooch, where the BACKFORCE logo is on the normal editions. Theoretically, the customer can do this themselves.

Beyond that, it's mainly the type and colour of the cover that goes on the chair. There are fabrics and artificial leather with different surfaces. We can also have both printed. Of course, we can also influence the colour of the stitching. In addition, the partner editions usually have an embroidered logo on the headrest. These are all things that customers cannot customize themselves in our store.

What do we have to look out for when selecting the materials?

We make sure that the fabrics match our claim to be sustainable. What materials they are made from and where they come from. In the case of the BACKFORCE V, for example, this is a recycled fabric made from plastic bottles that we use for the cover. Then we have to see if we can get the fabric in the right partner colour. In order to make the right choice, there are folders with fabric samples of the respective colours.

You usually get a design manual from your partner. It contains everything you need to know to create a chair in their design: the colours, the logo: what can I do with it. And then you look at how you can transfer that to a chair in fabric and colour. We and our partner first gather initial ideas and designs independently of each other. Then we sit down together and discuss them. But it always depends on the individual partner. Sometimes the design manual is only two pages long, others have really thick books.

With Navi, for example, they put a lot of emphasis on the design and most of the suggestions came from them. We then looked to see if and how we could implement them.

But sometimes we just make the designs and the partner says: "We really like design 5, let's do it that way."

And are there things that are not possible and why?

Of course, there is always the economic factor. The chair can't be too expensive if we want to sell it in our store. There are things that can't be produced in series to cover costs, but only make sense for a one-off piece that you make for an influencer, for example. You can pursue crazier ideas in that case.

Then there's the problem that the fabrics that come into question aren't always available in the colours you need because there's no demand for certain colours in the furniture industry.

"...And if there is a fabric in this colour, then it has to meet our sustainability criteria."

This brings me to the next question: the CI guides of the partners should of course be taken very seriously. In some cases, there are entire brands that are registered for certain colours. Telekom comes to mind spontaneously, where you can be sued if you use exactly the same magenta. Have there ever been problems with this, for example because a fabric in a certain colour was not available from our supplier or where it was simply difficult to obtain?

Yes, that does happen from time to time. NAVI has a very bright lemon yellow in its CI. I like yellow. I have nothing against it. But you rarely see lemon yellow furniture. And if there is a fabric in this colour, then it has to meet our sustainability criteria.

Unfortunately, there was no fabric available in the right colour that met these criteria. So we decided to have the manufacturer dye the fabric especially for us.

And on the NAVI ONE there is this yellow line that can be seen on the sides of the chair. There's an element from NAVI's CI that they wanted to see on the chair. Unfortunately, you can't buy a fabric with such a pattern just like that. In the end, we solved this by creating an endless pattern, which is then printed onto a long length of fabric. Depending on where you cut out the fabric, you can see a different part of this pattern and every NAVI ONE looks different as a result. I think that's very exciting.

The NAVI editions in particular have details that differ from the standard edition. In the shoulder area of the ONE, for example, there are squares instead of the diamond pattern.

This also goes a bit into the next question: Has one of our partners ever had a suggestion or request that was particularly unusual?

The headrest on both NAVI editions is covered with Velcro fleece tape, for example, so that you can attach the icon patches that you can buy in the NAVI store.

We’ve let the community vote on the final design for one of our normal editions, the purple BACKFORCE ONE. Unlike most models, we have lined the edge and individual elements of the seat with purple artificial leather. Could we theoretically dye each of these segments in other colours, like the VW Golf 3 Harlekin?

Theoretically, each individual fabric segment could have a different colour, yes.

Of course, with so many possibilities, there is almost endless communication. How do you prepare these ideas so that our partner has a good idea of the end product?

We visualize it on the computer. We have the individual chair models and can colour all areas or add different fabric textures. I prepare different versions that we then present. The possibilities are not limitless, but there are many variations. Ultimately, you have to pay attention to the balance of colours, and you can rule out a lot of things in advance that don't make sense and don't look like anything.

How do you decide which of the many ideas to show our partners?

Under no circumstances should you show too much. It's better to have three designs that are clearly different from each other than a thousand similar ones that are only different in the details. The details can be defined later once the general direction has been set. A lot emerges when you talk about it together. And then you can freely combine the designs with each other and something new emerges.

What does the decision-making process look like once the first drafts are ready with the partner?

As I said, it's always a bit different. Sometimes we make designs entirely, sometimes the partner makes designs, too. We then provide our templates so that they can get creative themselves. When the first drafts are ready, we discuss them again internally: What makes sense, what should we not do. You don't always see all the possibilities and variants that are available, and there are things that you haven't even thought of yet. It's always best to discuss this as a team. What is also very important to us is that we make sure that the chair doesn't look too similar to chairs that already exist. Be it our standard chairs or a partner edition.

We then send the designs to the partner or, ideally, present them live so that we can see the initial reaction unfiltered. For example, we went to BIG's office. That was convenient because they are also in Berlin. You can drop by, sit down in the conference room and present the designs on the projector with everyone involved. BIG had also made their own designs, and then we looked at what was actually similar and where the differences were. If the partner is not in the area, then we do it via a video conference.

I present the designs and explain a bit about them: Why does it look like this? Why not differently? What have we had bad experiences with so far, etc. What we never do, for example, is cover the seat with white fabric or white artificial leather, because that is simply very susceptible to discolouration.

Once this first phase is complete, you have feedback from your partner and know which direction to take.

That goes straight back to the next question I wanted to ask: are the designs usually green lit straight away, or do you have to make changes to individual aspects or do something else entirely?

Yes, you actually always have to do that. Very rarely do you get the final chair on the first presentation, although that has also happened.

How do we make sure that the materials match?

At Interstuhl, we actually have samples of all the fabrics that we generally use. If that's not the case, we look online first. What's available? And then you can also order colour samples before you make your final decision. You always have to look at something like this live. Never rely on what you see on the screen. There can be big differences. Sometimes it's a bit difficult when you're here in Berlin and the fabrics are in Baden-Württemberg, but then I rely on the trained eyes of my colleagues on site. If they say it matches, then it definitely does.

Of course, the partner has to like it in the end. We've already said that several times. Were there moments when you thought you would have preferred a different design and how do you deal with that?

Well, you certainly always have your own favorite, and sometimes you don't understand the world any more when it goes in a completely different direction. But to be honest, I'm very happy when my partner really likes the chair, and it's well received by the community.

Which partner editions were particularly challenging for you and why?

Generally speaking, it's always difficult when you don't have much to work with. For example, if a partner's colours are only black and white. Or if it's a colour that we already had, and you think you've already solved it perfectly. Finding something equally good is sometimes not so easy.

I also wanted to know what you enjoy most about the design process, and whether there are any tasks that you would rather hand over?

Yes... Choosing the right shade of colour is sometimes difficult. When you have to find a matching yarn for a fabric that is exactly between two shades, and you have to choose one of them. I sometimes sit there for a long time and when I've decided on one shade, the next day the other one fits better again.

And what do you particularly enjoy?

The scariest thing, but also the best, is when the chair is in front of you for the first time, and it looks exactly as you imagined it. That's fun. When you say, okay, what we came up with worked. It could have backfired. When everything fits, and you end up with a really nice product from all the digital data you've created and discussed for months. It takes several months from the first draft to the finished chair. And then people sit on them. We have chairs to photograph and I see them in real life for the first time. That's actually the best thing.

Thank you very much for your time and your insight into the design process of our partner editions!

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