Interview with Sabine Unger, Director of Munich Creative Business Week

Why good design will make the future better

The Munich Creative Business Week is Germany's largest design event. During an interview, Director Sabine Unger explains why sustainable and good design is important and gives personal tips for this year's MCBW.

The Munich Creative Business Week (MCBW) takes place over nine days in Munich. It is Germany's largest design event and is sponsored by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy, as well as by the city itself. Within nine short years, the number of visitors has risen from 12,000 to 70,000 – a success that can be attributed to its wide-ranging and inspirational programme.

Sabine Unger, Director of the MCBW, not only offers personal event tips, but also sheds light on multi-faceted design processes and why it is difficult to crumple hand-made paper.


Ms Unger, what is special about the Munich Creative Business Week?

What makes it special is that it is not a trade fair rooted in one location, but rather because the MCBW lives from its programme partners. It is a showcase for design throughout Bavaria and offers a platform for all those involved. This year, 220 events by 140 partners will take place in Munich and the surrounding area. We also address two target groups. On the one hand, professionals with the “CREATE BUSINESS!” programme, and on the other hand the design-centric public audience with “DESIGN SCHAU!”. With the latter, we render design topics accessible, put on special exhibitions and offer an inspiring host of different experiences.

In terms of content, you deliver something quite new every year with the various events on show, right?

Yes, despite the broad spectrum of offers. We don't just want to entertain, but also offer content that tackles socially important topics. In 2020, we will be looking at the six major trends of the future: The future of cities, work, innovation, digitalisation, communication and fashion.

The future of cities in particular is a very topical subject that raises many questions, isn't it?

Absolutely. What sustainable solutions are there for our cities in terms of mobility or living space? How do cities have to be built so that air circulation is still effective? Ströer, one of our sponsors, has developed a bus stop where the roof is covered with moss, which filters CO2 from the air. Other questions include: Where will our children be able to enjoy their own space when our cities are becoming ever more crowded? What traffic concepts are there for all the commuters? Innovative and creative solutions are in great demand, both now and in the future.

"The way a product is designed determines how many resources are needed and whether it can be recycled. 80 percent of subsequent resource consumption is already determined in the design process, which also has a lot to do with the materials used.“
Sabine Unger

Is that why this year's theme was chosen to focus on “sustain by design”?

Yes, sustainability is more topical than ever. In addition to classic product design, there is also, for example, social design, which places social issues firmly in the spotlight. Design is just as important for sustainable economic cycles as it is for upcycling, where waste products are converted into new products. Design processes make it possible to save resources right from the start, to test the water with new approaches and even to think beyond existing barriers to innovation.

In what way?

The way a product is designed determines how many resources are needed and whether it can be recycled. 80 percent of subsequent resource consumption is already determined in the design process, which also has a lot to do with the materials used. In sustainable fashion, one of the challenges is to generate zero waste cuts, i.e. not to leave any waste material behind. That in itself is a high design achievement.
One other exciting point is the durability and value of products. During a symposium at the Gmund Papierfabrik, the Managing Director Florian Kohler held a test with us visitors. First, he asked us to select a message in our inbox on our mobile phones that we no longer need and then delete it. And just like that, it was gone. Then we were supposed to crumple up a sheet of paper that we'd been given. And that worked, too. At the end he pointed us to a card made of high-quality handmade paper, which had been placed at every seat. Nobody was able to crumple it up and throw it away (laughs).
He also had an old tin can with him in which his grandmother had kept her flour. This has been in his family for generations and is still used today. I found all this very impressive. What is considered valuable is not simply thrown away.

In a European comparison, Munich rests in second place behind Paris as a creative location, and in a comparison of German cities, it is even ranked first. How come?

The MCBW was set up as a beacon project for the topic of design in Bavaria, because people associate Bavaria with many things – with the art of engineering, for example – but less with the terms “design” and “creative metropolis”. Yet there has always been a strong creative scene here. In Berlin, for example, there is a great deal of dynamism when it comes to design, art and culture, yet the old saying still goes: The real money is made in Munich. Here, gross added value is consistently higher, which in particular is due to the industrial location’s strength, which also has a high demand for creative services. Besides that, in Munich you can't always afford to experiment for many years, because life is too expensive for that. You have to achieve success quickly. And one last point: The city itself and Bavaria are doing so much for the creative sector and offer not only generous subsidies, but also consulting services such as the Kompetenzteam Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft (competence team for culture and creative industries).

Where can you enjoy and procure innovative and sustainable design in Munich?

Around Gärtnerplatz (square) and in the Glockenbachviertel (quarter) there are many boutiques and shops that manufacture sustainable products. And especially when it comes to fashion, I have discovered an incredible and sustainable movement in recent years: The Rennschmied & Wagner label offers high-quality menswear that is produced exclusively in Germany. It is pricey, but you wear the fabrics until they literally fall off your body. Behind Eliev, there is a Syrian-born fashion designer who creates his collection pieces in a sustainable way. His roots play a role in the design, as it merges with other European influences.

Also interesting: Here you can find even more inspiration from Sabine Unger for young design talents.

What do you wish for the city's future when it comes to creative experiences?

Up until September 2020, there will be a “Markthalle der guten Dinge” (market hall of good things) as part of the “Breakout” interim use approach. It can be found at Bayerstrasse 25. Creative designers will exhibit their products on the ground floor of the Co-Working Space, where you can browse and shop for yourself. I would like to see a department store like this in the city in the long run.


Personal tips from Sabine Unger for visiting the MCBW 2020:

Within the MCBW Forum we are so excited about the project oursuperstore: 30 projects and products were selected, which were created by social enterprises – for example in workshops for people with disabilities – in cooperation with designers. These products can be purchased.
Free of charge

The Designkino (Design Cinema) puts on films that deal with design in the broadest sense, for example the documentary “True Cost”, which deals with the problems of fast fashion.
Free of charge

"Design processes make it possible to save resources right from the start, to test the water with new approaches and even to think beyond existing barriers to innovation."
Sabine Unger

Vogl Creatives: The Vogl print shop produced high-quality design cards to this end, on which the stories of designers and their favourite objects are told. Good design can create a relationship between people and products. It's not so much about the product brands, but rather about the stories that are associated with them.
Free of charge

The Greenstyle-Messe (fair) is an event for fair fashion and accessories. During one weekend, visitors can browse through 40 eco-labels and purchase collection items. Anyone who wants to delve deeper into the topic has the opportunity to take part in a conference. Tickets for the fair cost EUR 10.

The Münchner Modepreis (Munich fashion award) will also be presented during the MCBW. There will be a public vote on which collection pieces should be displayed in shop windows all over the city.

Another point worth mentioning is the fantastic idea behind the Designbus: a 90-minute city tour with two creative people who discuss great design and, at the same time, reveal their favourite places in the city. Guests must register beforehand, the trip costs EUR 5 and is organised twice with different designers.

One public space event is the light installation by Jan Kuck at the Siegestor (gate) with the lettering “DESIGN! Or no SIGN!”. In his work, the artist deals with the responsibility borne by design for shaping the future.
Free of charge

At the Universal Design exhibition you can discover just what design can do for people. A classic: the handicapped accessible bathroom. Universal Design as an economic factor combines hands-on economic action with social responsibility and societal empathy.
Free of charge

The Munich Creative Business Week takes place from March 07 to 15, 2020.



Text: Anika Landsteiner; Photos: Frank Stolle


The City of Munich is also affected by the nationwide tightened measures to contain the coronavirus. All important information about the coronavirus and your stay in Munich can be found here.