Within the Passionswege ("pilgrimage ways") craft and design project of Vienna Design Week, Vienna-based designer Valentin Vodev was asked to collaborate with J. L. Lobmeyr, the renowned Viennese glassware manufacturer, now run by the sixth generation.
Vodev developed a series of pictograms to reveal "secret" information about the long-standing Lobmeyr product portfolio—information about the glassware that is never communicated to the buyer, yet passed on verbally from generation to generation to distributors and within the company.
These inside stories are based on technical as well as socio-cultural properties that have been discovered over the past 150 years of the Lobmeyr business. Vodev has brought these attributes to the surface to make them visible. Even though the unobtrusive symbol engravings are not clearly marked at first sight, the delight of discovering them at a second glance is part of the experience when looking through the Lobmeyr glasses.
But once one does discover them, they tell a new story and add a whole new narrative layer to an all too familiar product. Customers can now learn, for example, which pieces are "suitable for deep sea," i.e. to be used on a ship or yacht. Or which ones are the most popular items for a romantic tete-a-tete (therefore labeled as "suitable for rendezvous"), or which ones have "been bought by a celebrity." The designer compares the decorative and revealing symbols to washing instructions on garments.
All in all Vodev developed 33 icons for three thematic categories. In order to communicate these pictographic stories (and in a way, the Lobmeyr product culture) to customers that are more likely to buy their glasses at a big Swedish furniture store than at a high end Viennese glass manufactory, Vodev printed a key on more reasonably priced polishing towels, which were sold in a limited number during Vienna Design Week.