Phoenix Design

Page 1

Industrial Design




Cover  Fraunhofer Care-O-bot 4 Service robot

A conversation with Andreas Diefenbach, Member of the Board at Phoenix Design: You have a big birthday at Phoenix Design this year, don’t you? Yes, we were 30 years old this year, we had our party in November! That’s a long time in design, isn’t it? Yes, for a design agency this is something special, to be successful for this long. For me, at 38, it’s an honour to be a part of Phoenix Design, because of its heritage and also the chance to continue building up that legacy into the future. In fact, this is a pivotal moment in our history. So this feels like a good point at which to consider the future of Phoenix Design, of our clients, and of course, of the design community.

Where did the Phoenix legacy begin? It started in ’87, here in Stuttgart when Andreas Haug and Tom Schönherr set up the studio. Starting their business with clients like Kaldewei, Hansgrohe and later Loewe and Viessmann, Phoenix Design has always been focussed on the home. Andreas Haug came from Frog Design, where he had also been a partner. Frog were quite famous in the ‘70s and ‘80s because they started their business working with Steve Jobs. That is a significant pedigree! At that time, Jobs was here in Germany, for several weeks, working on the first Macintosh computers. This followed on from working originally on the first Apple computers.

But Andreas Haug decided to move on? The spirit and culture of Frog changed. So Andreas Haug and Tom Schönherr decided to build their own design company based on their own point of view. Not just creating design for human beings out in the world, but also creating a good place to work for their employees. So the home remains central to the work Phoenix does? Yes, that’s why I named my talk at Mudam ‘The future of living.’ This is one of the main sources of success for Phoenix Design. We have this strong philosophy. To be human. A lot of well-known designers got their start here. It’s really important to us to be a good brand for our clients but also to be a good company, a positive brand in the community.


Lamy Accent Range of writing instruments

That is unusually public spirited. Since the beginning, we’ve had three words which explain our philosophy: logic, morals and magic. If you understand these three words you can understand how we think. Could you explain a little? The world out there, as well as design, it’s a logical thing. You have to use logic to decide what the future will be like, what will it mean for this product? You have to think first. Not sketching, but thinking. Where do the morals come in? It’s a big word, morals. In fact, they’re all big words, but this one means we solve problems in a good and helpful way, out there in the world. In an everyday sort of way. No BS. A product should be a problem solver and it has to be innovative. It should not be just a one hit wonder. It should last for several years. It must be well done, made to last.

German Design Award 2017 Gold Vorwerk Kobold VK200 Upright vacuum cleaner

Big ask in the age of ‘throw away’ consumerism. For our clients and from an ecological perspective, there is no other way. We don’t do plastic products that last for a week and get thrown away. So, you have standards… But we also need Magic! I think this is the most important one. You’ve got to love the product. Without emotions, for people out there in the world, nothing works well. You can think a lot, you can act morally, but you have to love it, and the people you design for have to love it too.


Shapes Summera Suspended luminaire Selux Astro Street light


Interstuhl Neon Work chair

You have to win hearts and minds. It’s all about emotions. I am always thinking about ‘form follows function’ but you could also say, ‘form follows emotion’ or ‘form follows fun’. This is just as powerful. In fact, it works better.

How long is the research phase? There are different types of research. Ethnographic means it’s strategic research. We did a job for a client last year where we gave a team of five, round-the-world airline tickets.

But how do you bring the magic? The challenge of the future, of design, is to find out the expectations of people and create solutions which solve problems in a new way.

They went to big cities in South America, North America, Africa… literally all over the globe. At each stop they would interview professionals, end consumers and service professionals, talking about the problems and products which are important for our client.

Because, the problems are always the same: you are hungry, or thirsty. People don’t change as fast as the technology does. Problem solving, combined with new technology. This is innovation, but the problems are the same. How do you know where to begin? Research comes first. It’s all about observation of people’s habits. You know, you can take a seat in the middle of a city and just apprise people’s behaviours out there. How do they interact in different situations, with different products?

This is the most in-depth research we do. This took about five months. That’s a significant investment of time. What about if you’re working quickly? Say we have a job to design a faucet for a kitchen. For Hansgrohe, for example. We would take one week going out into the kitchen studios, talking to retailers and consumers. We would also do interviews with users, just to observe their real kitchens, their real cooking habits. We capture this on video, so we can analyse it, just to find out the pain points and opportunities in a really quick way.

Hansgrohe KitchenSinkCombi C71 Kitchen systems

Hansgrohe RainMaker Select 460 Showerpipe

Hansgrohe have played an important part in the Phoenix Design story, haven’t they? Hansgrohe is one of our most important clients. We have worked for them since the beginning. For thirty years now! We are like an in-house design team but not actually ‘in the house’. I think this has been an important factor in our success together. This is a strategic, long term relationship. It’s much more than the typical design agency doing a project, it’s a long term relationship. Being able to take the long view, does that give you a different perspective? It’s really amazing. We are very lucky. You get to see your ideas coming out on the market, and you see how the company changes. How they change their image. You are involved in so many things, like marketing, R&D, brand communication. I know all the guys responsible for these things, we talk every day. It’s great to go in this deep with Hansgrohe, then to have the opportunity to be free and work with other brands around the world. This makes me happy to be a designer.

Hansgrohe Metropol Faucet Series

Do you have a favourite project from your work with Hansgrohe? The AXOR UNO faucet line. At the beginning of Phoenix Design, in ’87, Tom Schönherr designed the first edition. It was redesigned in the ‘90s, and now I’ve worked on the third generation. As it has evolved, this line has become more and more essential. And now, combined with a gold or copper surface, it’s a really nice mix between purism and luxury.

You are looking for an ‘ideal’? You can see it in music, in art, in cooking. It’s not about eating because you’re hungry, it’s about stop eating when you put the food in your mouth and saying ‘Wow, what is that?’ It’s the same in music, in art, and of course, in design. Does it stop with ‘Wow’? We are always talking about first, second and third read.

That process of simplification is essential to design, isn’t it? This is really important. To dive deeper into the core of the essence. In fact you can see this process in our name. We started with Phoenix Product Design.

‘Wow’ is just the first read? It’s quite simple. Imagine you go to a bar and you see a nice lady, you think ‘wow, she’s beautiful, I have to talk to her’. Your first impression works from ten metres. That’s the first read.

Then we got rid of ‘Product’ and became Phoenix Design. And now we’re thinking of changing it to ‘Phoenix’.

You move closer, and this is the second read. You start talking, you hear her talk, her story and through the evening you fall in love.

This is reflected in our everyday work. We’re always searching for the essence of an idea, of a shape.

The third read, the most important. Spending years with this lady, getting married, having kids and after ten years you are still in love with this person. Getting that third read right with a product must be rare? The third read happens where you have a long-selling product on the market with your clients. We designed the Caro line for Duravit in the ‘90s. They still produce this line today and it’s still successful. It’s an evergreen.

What about you, do you own any Phoenix products that have gone the distance? I really appreciate Loewe Individual. A TV. We have this at home. It’s an older product now. I bought it in 2006, but even now, myself and my wife agree, it still feels modern. Technically it’s becoming a bit outdated. But technology generally is getting older a lot faster than design. It’s really iconic. For me it’s like lightening every day. How do you stop yourself from obsessing about details which only a designer would notice? You have a lot of products from lots of brands, so for us it’s all about meaningful differentiation. This is the main problem today and tomorrow. To be different, to be better than the others. Design in terms of being well styled has become more and more normal. But it’s not enough to be just beautiful. There’s lots of beautiful stuff out there. It has to also be innovative.


Metrax PrimedicTM Defibrillator Trumpf TruBend TruPunch TruLaser Machine tools


Loewe Reference System Audio video system

So you focus on genuine progress? Innovation today is more like a jump. It’s not enough to just be more beautiful, you need to ask questions. Going back to our hypothetical Hansgrohe faucet, you could ask, ‘Will we need this kind of product in the future?’.

People imagine that the designer comes in with paper and pens, does some drawings and says, ‘It’s beautiful and I believe it will work’.

Sometimes, you have to think about disruption or destruction in order to build up something new.

Perhaps they used to, but these days, the client will say, ‘Why should I believe you? Please show me why this form or shape, or design, is the ‘right’ solution. It’s not about being beautiful it’s about being ‘right’ for today and tomorrow.

How do clients react if you suggest something completely radical? The research is crucial for this. It helps us present a good argument!

So an emotional appeal on it’s own is no good? No. You can’t just have the magic, you’ve got to be logical, too.

So what got you into product design? The sketching! To be able to sketch something in a convincing way was amazing to me. I saw some people doing this, expressing their thoughts in this wonderful, exact way. And at the age of 14 or so, the desire was born in my heart and my head to become someone who creates things, with his heart and his head. So you began to study? After this I spent a lot of time in school. This profession has changed a lot, to be a designer today is very hard. To be a good designer, to lead a studio, you have to learn so much stuff. And you have to learn more every day. Is it enough to just apply yourself to the books? You have to be willing to learn new things and be excited about looking into the future. But also, you have to go and see art, exhibitions, cooking… these people are all creating something new, musicians, chefs, artists. Product design is about creating something new as well. But for me, the difference between art and design is that with design, the goal is to produce something new for people to improve their everyday life.

Zeiss Touit 1.8/32 Camera lens

Axor Uno Basin Mixer


What are some of the newest lessons for product designers? For me it’s about understanding how digital issues affect things. As a product designer you learn how to use software to create 3D objects. CAD and so on. This is a great tool, but on the other hand, product design is becoming more of an analytic process, focussed at the border between digital experience and physical product design. And what are those borders like? There are no borders anymore! To use a product, there is an interface, but in the future you may not even have a display. You might interact with your voice, for example. The issues are changing all the time.

Midea Group Hybrid Air Conditioner

Are consumers becoming more design aware? The user has changed very rapidly. We have offices in Munich, Stuttgart and Shanghai. The view of the users in China is different to that in Germany.

Sounds too good to be true from a sales perspective. But this consumption changed. People learned to ask the right questions. Do I need it really? Does it change my life? They ask why, why, why?

Are there historical factors? Yes, for example, in Europe, after the Second World War, people were rebuilding little by little, from nothing. But in terms of consumption, everyone wanted to buy everything! Something was new so they bought it. If it was new, you just had to have it.

So it’s about experience? It’s why our profession is changing. It’s not enough to just do a beautiful design. You have to give consumers the answers to their questions. Why do I have to own it? Why pay this much money for it? This is particularly true for luxury, premium products.

So how do Chinese consumers differ from German ones, for example? Chinese and German culture share the same type of logical thinking. I have a lot of experience presenting new designs in both countries. And you always need to say why it’s good. What feature is important and so on. And at the end of the presentation we have to show them the beauty. So first logic and at the end ‘wow’. So it’s not totally different? No, but the Chinese like a bit more attitude. Not the ‘bling-bling’ attitude to show they’re rich. Rather, they’re really open-minded, and interested in the future, in high technology. The products have to look like intelligent digital products. This is much more important than it is in Germany, for example.

Why is the future so appealing to Chinese consumers? We had the industrial revolution 200 years ago in Europe. We have this long wave behind us, coming up from industrial production. The Chinese come up from being OEMs, producing products for others, just 30 years ago. And only a decade or so ago they began to be OBM’s original brand manufacturers. They have started to build up their own brands like Huawei for example, we have been working for them for 10 years now. They are becoming well-known for smartphones now outside of China.

So there’s a kind of youthful enthusiasm driving us into the future? Well, this time range, it’s very short in China. So perhaps this is our role. To say, ‘hold on, think about it. Is it meaningful? Is it important to have it?’ Or do we have to think a bit differently because China is such a huge market? There are just so many people who might use your product. A market of half a billion homes must focus your attention! It does. We have a responsibility to give consumers a direction which is ‘right’.

PUBLICATIONS 01 CHRISTOPH NIEMANN Illustration Design 2009 02 MICHEL MALLARD Creative Direction 2009 03 FUN FACTORY Product Design 2009 04 ANDREAS UEBELE Signage Design 2010 05 HARRI PECCINOTTI Photography 2010 06 KUSTAA SAKSI Illustration Design 2010 07 5.5 DESIGNERS Product Design 2011 08 NIKLAUS TROXLER Graphic Design 2011 09 JOACHIM SAUTER Media Design 2011 10 MICHAEL JOHNSON Graphic Design 2011 11 ELVIS POMPILIO Fashion Design 2011 12 STEFAN DIEZ Industrial Design 2012 13 CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER Sound Design 2012 14 MARIO LOMBARDO Editorial Design 2012 15 SAM HECHT Industrial Design 2012 16 SONJA STUMMERER & MARTIN HABLESREITER Food Design 2012

17 LERNERT & SANDER Art & Design 2013 18 MURAT GÜNAK Automotive Design 2013 19 NICOLAS BOURQUIN Editorial Design 2013 20 SISSEL TOLAAS Scent Design 2013 21 CHRISTOPHE PILLET Product Design 2013 22 MIRKO BORSCHE Editorial Design 2014 23 PAUL PRIESTMAN Transportation Design 2014 24 BRUCE DUCKWORTH Packaging Design 2014 25 ERIK SPIEKERMANN Graphic Design 2014 26 KLAUS-PETER SIEMSSEN Light Design 2014 27 EDUARDO AIRES Corporate Design 2015 28 PHILIPPE APELOIG Graphic Design 2015 29 ALEXANDRA MURRAY-LESLIE High Techne Fashion Design 2015 30 PLEIX Video & Installation Design 2016 31 LA FILLE D'O Fashion Design 2016 32 RUEDI BAUR Graphic Design 2016

33 ROMAIN URHAUSEN Product Design 34 MR BINGO Illustration Design 35 KIKI VAN EIJK Product Design 36 JEAN-PAUL LESPAGNARD Fashion Design 37 PE’L SCHLECHTER Graphic Design 38 TIM JOHN & MARTIN SCHMITZ Scenography Design 39 BROSMIND Illustration Design 40 ARMANDO MILANI Graphic Design 41 LAURA STRAßER Product Design

BOARDMEMBERS Nadine Clemens (President) Mike Koedinger (Vice-president) Anabel Witry (Secretary) Guido Kröger (Treasurer)


COUNSELORS Heike Fries, Silvano Vidale


COLOPHON PUBLISHER Design Friends COORDINATION Heike Fries LAYOUT Lisa Bildgen & Dean Kauffmann INTERVIEW Mark Penfold PRINT Imprimerie Schlimé PRINT RUN 250 (Limited edition) ISBN 978-2-9199462-3-5 PRICE 5 € DESIGN FRIENDS Association sans but lucratif (Luxembourg)

This catalogue is published for Phoenix Design's lecture at Mudam Luxembourg on January 24th, 2018, organized by Design Friends.

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