Ramy Nagy & Clare Marash Interview Tori Deetz from Visual Magnetics
In this new series, our Madeo team interviews insightful people from our community. For the last few years we have been growing our offices in New York within a creative and collaborative building, facilitated by WeWork. We deeply believe that successful collaborations lead to incredible results. So, we sat down with Tori Deetz, our neighbor, friend, and the Creative Director of Visual Magnetics to talk about how they’re changing the way people think about design, innovation, and collaboration.
Visual Magnetics produces magnetic paints and other materials that allow people to easily have movable objects and elements on different surfaces. It’s fascinating once you see and touch their objects. Imagine a wallpaper that you can easily peel off and move to a different room, or a shelf that you can literally place anywhere on your wall and easily move anytime, with no screws or need for drilling — just magnetism.
Here’s a short video introducing Dynamic Spaces, their latest initiative.
MADEO: In terms of your influence on office spaces, and instilling a certain kind of work culture, what is the company’s goal? What is your ideal vision of how people work together?
TD: Our ideal vision of an office culture is one that doesn’t settle on one way and carry those ideas on for too long. Our work is all about transformation of the space, but it’s also about not being stagnant – if you made a change that no longer suits your needs, it’s ok to go back to the drawing board. Sometimes people get stuck in a mindset or in a process for a reason that has nothing to do with achieving their goals. We want to encourage people to never think about things as static, and to be able to constantly use tools in different ways. If we can instill that in a physical form, we’re hoping people realize that things can always change within.
For example, we don’t come into clients’ spaces and say, “What material do you like? What color do you like?” We say, “What are the issues you’re running into when it comes to productivity?” Oftentimes they realize that their surroundings aren’t being used in such a way that facilitates their work style, or company culture. We give clients homework, too. They brainstorm, give feedback and take part in the solution. At the root of it, it gives us a really broad understanding of what they need.
We’ve only really brought people on our team that have that same addiction to discovery and learning new things.
I imagine that approaching from a place of problem-solving has brought along some interesting collaborations?
Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been involved in some really interesting projects. For example, we are collaborating with a company called We Inspire that is making digitally receptive layers of our material that could turn a whole wall into a projected touch screen that’s used with a digital pen.
It goes beyond the smart board idea; it’s an entire wall, or even room depending on your needs. You can have over 20 people interacting with it as one screen, all at once. Imagine what you can do with that in an office, a classroom, or at a conference. And it is surprisingly affordable, especially when compared to other digital collaboration boards. You’re working with a material that you just roll on-to the wall, and then you’re all set and ready to go with just a projector and digital pen.
There’s something that feels so digital about your materials even though they’re not. What do you think is the relationship between the digital and physical space?
We’re trying to create seamlessness between the digital and physical, not only in building it—in Photoshop, Illustrator, what not—but also making it tangible, that process where the printing happens.
The attitudes toward design, customization, the culture of doing things yourself; all of these attitudes have been changing. In effect, it’s the growing need for things to be modular, fitting together, and being able to be moved around based on the need— it’s responsiveness. Things are expected to be responsive. We’re reactivating print in a way that is responsive.
We strive to have our technology be human-centered. It’s in human nature to gravitate toward tactile things. Being present and moving around a space, using it to facilitate productivity helps get your mind working in a way that being stuck staring into a screen will never be able to satisfy.
Our products should be just as adaptable as the people who use them.
What shifts have happened in the last few years, for the company and also in the world, that have facilitated Visual Magnetics’s growth?
There are quite a few things. The digital wall covering market is growing. Wall coverings are coming back in style. And then there’s the importance of environmental considerations. I think that the fact that all of our materials are PVC-free and most of this is 100% recycled materials is helpful. Aside from using mostly second life materials, our products can also be recycled through our complementary recycling program. The iron that is separated during our recycling process is used in the production of cars.
I also think that our technology has played a big part —it’s kind of a whole new way to look at wall surface and interior design.
Do you think this new attitude and working culture exists within your own team and company culture?
I think so. At Visual Magnetics, we all kind of have this attitude that is ‘do what needs to be done; wear a bunch of hats; if you don’t know it, learn it,’ and we’ve only really brought people on our team that have that same addiction to discovery and learning new things.
I think it’s also been a good inspiration for us to be part of a collaborative office building with companies like Madeo and other great neighbors. We’re in a company that is rethinking space and how we’re using it. So, it’s been a good place for us to grow.