Paul Lechleiter, FRCH’s Chief Creative Officer and Partner has been adding his bold personality and energetic passion for design to FRCH since 1996. This past week, Paul took a break from his eventful schedule to discuss with me his thoughts on design, the creative process, and FRCH.
For the readers who don’t already know you, how do you describe what you do? What is a typical day at FRCH for you?
As the Chief Creative Officer, I take on the role of a jack of all trades. My job is part creative and part organizational. I must think of how I can support and empower FRCH while acting as a resource throughout the firm. I like to think of myself as an enabler, not a dictator.
What inspires you?
Anything but retail design! No, really…I like to look beyond the obvious and really try to watch people as they interact with different environments. Art and the freedom of the artist is also inspiring. I love anything unconventional that twists what you know and encourages you to pause, react, or see things differently.
Do you ever hit creative road blocks? How do you get past them?
Of course I hit creative road blocks! When that happens, I pick a designer I admire and ask myself what would they design. It frees you from your habits and inhibitions and allows you to think differently. Problem solved in no time!
What qualities do you look for in other designers?
Good designers are self-motivated and possess an intuitive sense of wonder and curiosity. They don’t go to the answer right away, but instead ask questions and create more unknowns before coming up with a solution. They are great interpreters and aim to surprise both themselves and others in everything they do.
What is the best part of your job?
The expectations of my role allow me the freedom to think openly. I love being able to ask questions and consider design problems at a higher experiential level. Hopefully, I get designers to create beyond the expected, but also enable others to deliver designs that actually solve a client’s problem.
Each of these projects had a variety of reasons as to why they were great. Liverpool Interlomas, for example, is an architecturally significant environment where we were able to successfully marry the exterior, which was designed by an outside architect, to our interiors. The planning is simple, but creates an emotionally dynamic experience as you progress through the space. Bob’s is all about the merchandise and how the architecture can set the stage for a constantly changing space. We simply gave the merchandising team the tools they needed to do what they do best. Giraffas is a brilliant translation of Brazilian sensibilities in color, texture, and culture. The exaggerated graphics give the space a humorous undertone and allow the space to not take itself too seriously. Overall, the project brings people together around a rich cultural dining experience.
OK, something a little random for you. If you were a flavor of ice cream, what flavor would you be?
Black liquorice, without a doubt. You either love it or hate it. A great black liquorice ice cream is to die for, though—a truly unique and rare treat. Pretty much what I want to be as person. Now, if only I could be. Haha!
What makes FRCH awesome?
FRCH is a rare combo of loony birds and a sensible mode of operation. In design, there’s always the dichotomy of being the artist versus the money making machine. At FRCH, we are appreciative of the conflict and push ourselves to merge reality with expression and realize both sides. Culturally, FRCH has a great sense of humor and is made up of individuals that never take themselves too seriously. Our employees are self-critical and constantly challenge themselves, which creates a healthy competition between studios. At the same time, though, we are a supportive work environment and we always help each other.
Thank you, Paul, for your time, humor, and insights. That concludes our FRCH Leadership Interview Series with a bang!