Within the Scholz & Volkmer senior management, Michael Volkmer still provides strategic direction while at the same time, managing the areas of sustainability and support. As owner, he attaches importance to a particularly creative culture and respectful working relationships. This has been the case for almost 25 years.
When in 1994 the trained photographer and Communications Design graduate Michael Volkmer teamed up with his former fellow student Annette Scholz to become self-employed, there was no way of knowing how the agency would evolve over the decades. It all started with CD-ROMS – for the musician Udo Lindenberg, for Opel and soon afterwards for Mercedes-Benz. And from these first projects came the desire to work with clients over the long term and to advise brands on their strategies.
From golden years to green agency
In the teething years of the Internet, Scholz & Volkmer forged their way with pioneering spirit to take a medium that was mostly characterized by technology and turn it into one more defined by design. For this Michael Volkmer and his team were awarded numerous prizes for excellent design and Michael Volkmer himself became a member of ADC and DDC and since then has been called onto the jury of renowned award bodies such as the Cannes Cyber Lions, DA&D London and ADC New York.
Good design is still the most important aspect of Scholz & Volkmer’s work and it is certainly the most important reason why over the years relationships with big brands grew and why the company continuously expanded. Despite this, Michael Volkmer has always resisted the temptation to sell the agency.
One day, with the number of employees having grown to almost 200, Michael Volkmer was prompted to have a rethink and to change the idea of growth as a goal to an approach with the motto: “Thrive rather than grow”, contrary to the advice of many industry colleagues and experts such as tax consultants who did not think it was feasible.
„Once one understands that growth, by today’s definition, cannot work globally, one then has the moral obligation to take action.“
Michael Volkmer, Geschäftsführung
By way of the see-Conference, originally planned as further training for the agency’s own employees and today one of the largest design conferences in Germany, Michael Volkmer made new contacts with designers, artists, visionaries and representatives from NGOs such as Greenpeace and the environmental scientist Dr Fritz Reusswig. From this came the idea to bring Scholz & Volkmer’s own clients into dialogue with representatives from NGOs. Initially, this was only moderately successful.
Michael Volkmer gradually came to the conclusion that if you want to change society, you need to start with yourself, so he established the “Environments” department in his agency, now known as the “Shared Value” team. The first big project he tackled was to make Scholz & Volkmer the first certified carbon neutral creative agency in Germany and to publish a detailed environmental report. In the following years Michael Volkmer worked towards creating sustainable management in the region and engaged in local politics by way of projects such as the CO2-Marathon, the " Radwende" (Putting cyclists back on the map) and the “Stadtluftanzeiger" (City Air Indicator).
22 years after the S&V agency was founded, Michael Volkmer formed a spin-off with the “Kiezkaufhaus”, a local delivery service which as a socially-responsible business serves as a sustainable alternative to Amazon. Additionally, together with the social psychologist Harald Welzer, he has recently established a society for the formulation of positive visions of the future “Bilder der Zukunft e.V.” (Depicting the future).
And in order to make this happen, to create a future which is worth living in, Michael Volkmer can still be found – day-in, day-out – working in his office at the agency. And the agency itself has changed over the years. What was before a normal workplace has now become a vibrant campus with its own large garden, vegetable plots and even its own colony of bees.
Interview with Michael Volkmer from 2013