In this interview for #MORETHANOFFICE, sustainable entrepreneur Linda Matějovská wonders if companies won’t soon be gifting experiences instead of things. She’s the co-founder of Conscious & Craft, designers of sustainable, high-quality advertising items and gifts.
When would you say is the ideal time for a company to start working on their Christmas gifts? Is it already too late?
Most companies already start in May. That’s the ideal time if they’re looking for something original and want to be sure to manage it all on time. But even autumn isn’t too late; we can still think up an interesting idea that can be implemented by Christmas.
What do you see as the worst promotional gift?
The worst gifts are the ones you don’t want. Useless items where nobody thought about who they’re for, what role they’ll play, and their future fate.
Linda Matějovská. Her personal motto is: Working on projects with positive impact. Photo by Conscious & Craft
What's the cause, in your opinion? After all, it’s natural for people to want to give something nice and not cheap imported junk, right?
People tend to pick up cheap things because they’re cheap—and convenient. You look through the catalog, you pick a product, you print a logo, and you’re done.
But it’s not just about that. Sometimes you just might think it’s a good idea to give out some neon orange ties to men because those ties are in your brand colors. Without thinking about how there aren’t many opportunities to really wear a tie like that.
What kind of gift from another company, meanwhile, makes you happy?
A bottle of wine or, say, a box of gingerbread cookies is always sure to please, of course. Also whenever you know someone has taken some time to think up a creative package or add an original message.
A gift set called “Christmas in a box” designed for KPMG. This set included Czech glass ornaments, spices for mulled wine, and some interesting Christmas-themed statistics. Photo by Conscious & Craft
Does it make any sense for a company to give out gifts at all? Wouldn’t it be better, more sensible, and more responsible for them to not have gifts?
It depends. We like to distinguish among three categories of corporate gifts—internal materials (company pencils, notebooks, etc.), merchandising (products that a company sells to its fans), and gifts (things given out for free).
We help companies fine-tune their internal materials to perfection; they need these. And we help them set up or strengthen their merch, because it builds up a healthy relationship to their brand. “Want to support us? Buy a t-shirt or a notebook.”
And as for gifts?
Companies have a deep-rooted feeling, for now at least, that they want to give out some kind of physical gifts at Christmastime. So let’s at least help them to minimize things here, so that instead of a large number of miserable gifts, they give out just a few, but high-quality. It’s a process. Perhaps in coming years firms will change here and start preferring to give out experiences, or to devote their money towards sensible projects instead.
We’ve produced a collection of leather wallets for furniture makers Wiesner-Hager; these make use of leather that they can’t include in their seats or chairs. Photo by Conscious & Craft
This spring you founded the Conscious & Craft project. Am I understanding the name right when I see this as your wanting to “craft fine products and be conscious of their impacts?”
That’s right. We’re confident that quality and sustainability can go hand in hand. It shouldn’t be a compromise. Let’s think of it this way: Mr. Conscious and Mr. Craft have met up and are thinking something up. One of them is paying more attention to quality and production, the other towards people and the environment.
You’ve noted elsewhere that C&C uses “ecodesign.” What exactly should we be imagining here?
Put simply, this is design that takes a product’s whole life cycle into account. We don’t just worry about “how it looks,” but also how (and from what) it’s made, how it’s used, and how its life ends.
For KPMG, a consulting company, we’ve designed a glass trophy that we’ve customized for their golf tournaments. Photo by Conscious & Craft
MADE IN CZECHIA
Let’s say I’m a company that has decided to work with you. What are the steps after that?
First you meet up with us so that we can understand what you really need. Together we create a “design brief,” in which we determine the occasion for which you’re seeking the products, what you want to express through them, and what your target group is. You can let us know what gifts inspire you or what, on the other hand, leaves you cold. The more we comprehend at this first meeting, the more exact our designs will be.
Together with the brief we’ll then send you a price offer and, once you’ve approved it, we’ll get started on the creative phase. Within two weeks you receive a presentation from us with 3 to 5 ideas for each product. We then choose the winning designs from among these, process them for you in detail including graphics, copywriting, and packaging, and upon approval we produce them for you and deliver them.
How long does an order like this take on average? And how much does it cost to produce this sort of original, sustainable gift?
The length of this process depends on the complexity of the designs, your requirements, and the manufacturing time needed. It can last a few weeks or even several months. It’s similar with the price as well. It depends on whether you need just a few dozen trophies or 2,000 notebooks. But on average our prices range from 400 to 2,000 CZK per unit.
And for Skanska, a real estate development firm, we’re thinking up a new notebook with a cover that reflects a characteristic element from one of their buildings, like its concrete structure, a running track on its roof, or an atrium filled with greenery. Photo by Conscious & Craft
Where do you have the products manufactured? Is it a must for you that they be Made in Czechia, or do you also send out products to be produced just anywhere?
When it comes to custom products, we’re managing to keep them all produced here in the Czech Republic. We have contacts for some handy glassmakers, carpenters, paper mills, and printers. This makes communication easier and faster too; in short it works out best for us this way.