Nine years ago, Torsten Bergler teamed up with fellow graphic designers, Tim Seifert and Frederik Frede, to launch Freunde von Freunden, a website that pays house calls on creative types around the world. Since then, the popular Berlin-based site (whose name translates to "friends of friends") has spawned two books, a design showroom/event space, a community hub and countless partnerships with major brands and creators.
Bergler, meanwhile, has also found time to launch an integrated creative agency, MoreSleep, and a graphic design resources site, Design Made In Germany. Below, The Caret catches up with the busy Berliner about Freunde von Freunden, nostalgia-inducing apps and the stagnation of digital design.
Hi Torsten! We love FvF. How did it get started? What's your origin story?
At the end of 2008, there was the financial crisis so we lost two big projects and had some spare time. So we (Tim Seifert, Frederik Frede and myself) thought, ok, let’s do something where there’s no client involved, because, as a creative that’s what you always fantasize about, right? So we just did it, and tried things out and did it the way we thought was right.
What is your role today?
Well, it's a great combination of the three of us. Tim is doing the sales and business development, Frederik is the Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director, and I’m taking care of the tech and the system in general, and together we are talking strategy, where we wanna go and what we would like to do etc. And it's working out quite well.
How do you explain the site's success? What is the core appeal?
There are two sides I think, one is getting a peek into people's homes, and getting inspired by that. This kinda voyeuristic side of it. And it’s also about introducing the readers to interesting people, that are our friends. I always say that it’s about connecting dots without any boundaries, connecting readers, brands, friends and having fun at the end while creating something that people enjoy. And now we have the FvF Apartment and the Friends Space, where we can bring people together in physical spaces.
Who are your favorite profiles?
My favorite is someone that I knew already. Erik Spiekermann. He founded FontShop, a type foundry. When I studied he was my professor and I think 3 or 4 years later, we interviewed him for FvF so it felt like I’d come full circle.
There was also a guy we interviewed last year, Julius von Bismark. He’s an artist now and he’s pretty successful. I studied with him so that felt full circle, too. Getting friends into something that you created, that’s my personal favorite.
We did one with the band, Moderat, which I’m just proud of because it’s people that I admire. By agreeing to be interviewed on the platform it was like they were saying, “Yeah we like the stuff you’re doing.” That’s kind of the best compliment.
What about in general? What is FvF's most popular post?
That’s probably Christian Boros; he owns this WWII bunker in the city centre of Berlin. He’s housing his art collection in there and on top of it he built his home. It’s also in the first FvF book.