Brown earthy whitespace

What happens when 20 designers are given the opportunity to grow their own vegetables and herbs?
We at IXDS don’t only want to have a freshly cooked team lunches on Tuesdays, we also want to be able to produce the ingredients ourselves. And so, the revolution of grids, timetables, team management and deadlines has begun!

Participation and playfulness. These are some of the core founding values that define our culture at IXDS. We believe innovation can come from the most unexpected places and that one never finishes learning when experimenting new things. It is with this mindset that we recently embraced our latest company culture prototype: starting and managing a collaborative corporate garden. And we are not alone!

It all started with a simple but common challenge: how to promote collaboration among employers from different offices? Why? Because, although working and being around the same area for many hours per week, there is little or no interaction opportunities for people to get to know each other outside our own office walls. The owner of our amazing office complex, the insurance company Allianz, recognized this problem and started a year-long gardening experiment to help lower barriers, mix hierarchies and promote knowledge exchange.

And so, just in time for the seedling to be planted, the IXDS “green team” was put together to join 10 more companies on the “Mediengardening” adventure.

As designers we feel committed to treating this new challenge like any other project we come across in our daily routines. This means having clear project goals, detailed time planning and prototyping, prototyping, prototyping. How can we optimize plant distribution to have the best harvest? To ensure stable production over the year when should we organize plant transplantation? How many radishes do we harvest before the kale takes up all the space? It was while discussing these issues that we wondered if we should make our garden smart and interconnected, but for now we realized that half an hour a day in the garden works wonders for health and work-life balance. In addition, it increases motivation and appreciation from other employees.

So far we’ve harvested three yellow zucchini, two peppers and lots of salad-ready goods like radishes and cherry tomatoes. We’re already able to enrich our Tuesday team lunch with our own harvested beetroot and herbs. We’re planning on doing a pasta party with beetroot-walnut- and basil-mint-pesto this week!

We are still experimenting and optimizing. We gained a lot of insider knowledge from professional gardeners and have redesigned the whole garden area to best suit the plants’ requirements. However, we did discover a big drawback of our four-day work week: who takes care of the plants over the hot, sunny summer days? Maybe we will, after all, we can still make our garden self-aware and just a little smart.

This story was written together by our Munich designers Ornella Giau & Dominik Witzke