Recent design from Halle The feeling corresponding to the knowledge

Stefan Schwabe | Gutfather, 2016 | In collaboration with Fraunhofer CeRRI and Sebastian Kletzander
Stefan Schwabe | Gutfather, 2016 | In collaboration with Fraunhofer CeRRI and Sebastian Kletzander | © Stefan Schwabe

The more than one hundred years history of the University of Art and Design Halle is closely interwoven with questions of the usefulness of form and design. Its name, Burg Giebichenstein (i.e. Castle Giebichenstein), may suggest a fixity of tradition. Its presence in the discipline of design looks different.
 

The modern design campus in Neuwerk no longer has about it anything of a fortress, bringing to the warm cordiality of the city on the River Saale an ambitious contrast. For, according to the architect and interior architect Axel Müller-Schöll, who teaches here and was the former rector, the school is shaped by the fact “that, as the second-biggest of Germany’s art school in the provinces, we have to be a bit better, since no one comes here because of the city”.

The workshop – an anachronism?

Along with the Bauhaus, the workshops in Halle were regarded in the 1920s as the decisive impetus of the German design world. While the Bauhaus symbolized a cool and functionalist technicism, Halle at that time stood for an organic development of design out of intensive work with materials and production processes that harmonized use and feeling. Under the slogan “workshop principle” this reputation still precedes the school today. It also still forms the foundation of design studies in Halle, which in addition to industrial design, interior architecture, fashion and virtual design, include rarely taught disciplines such as ceramic and glass, textile, game and teaching design. The Design Campus has 42 larger and smaller workshops. The significance of the terms “workshop” and “craftsmanship”, however, has changed: with the digitalization and hybridization of the entire area of design and art, there are today large central workshops that everyone shares. But also in the area of digital technology the workshops are not places of one-sidedly conservative and backwards-looking tradition. They remain important “so that students can use a digital printing machine to do not only what a conventional printing machine can do, but can also find their way to new forms of expression”, emphasizes Müller-Schöll.

As “College for Industrial Design”, the Burg became after 1956 the most import educational institution for design in the GDR; the product ion process of the individual piece of handcrafted work was now replaced by the industrially manufactured mass product. This phase, when the school was answerable to the SED, is quickly dismissed today: uninspired standard design, poverty of form, lacking individualism. Figures such as Rudolf Horn, who taught in Halle from the 1960s to the late 1980s, and who explored the scope of a democratized design within planned mass production by designing furniture that was producible in series yet was intended to remain individualizable in specific form, seldom appear in this narrative. For Müller-Schöll, “the GDR history” has been decisive only in one respect: “It acts here rather as a backwind that pushes us to do something different, to do it better, to have a say. This stance marks the potential of our students.”

Design as stance

Another, structural consequence has also been updated in the present, which has probably had a share in influencing many graduates of the Burg to practice design in a decidedly application-oriented, socially inventive and “responsible” manner. “Perhaps”, conjectures Müller-Schöll, “social issues are more present here because those in the main recruiting area of the school have been very strongly influenced by the development of the new federal states and the fact that, unlike West German students, ours come mainly from families who can provide no financial safety net. This is a different basis on which to deal with society and your place in it.” Beginning with the initial principle of the Burg, the programme of training promotes above all a certain stance – one also relevant to economic conditions. Today marketing departments research target group and then buy a design that the company has not itself developed, explains Müller-Schöll. In the best case, the designer can represent his stance – towards the product and the company.

The challenge for contemporary design consists, according to Müller-Schöll, in creating an effect for things – not necessarily a bombastic one, but one that corresponds to the thing itself and its purpose. Halle is a place that is a bit quiet, a bit slow, but where at the same time it is possible to concentrate, a possibility that design today needs. “Information always takes time to be digested. Because people change comparatively slowly. They need time till they have the feeling corresponding to the knowledge. And we also design for that.”
The following portrays six young designers, all former students at the Burg, who design things in a visible borderland between usefulness and aesthetics, between social problems and style. They each find his or her own answers to the question about the task of design today. That their answers, however, are part of a quest can read in the designs themselves.

Stefan Schwabe

  • Stefan Schwabe | Growing A Roll, 2012 © Stefan Schwabe
    Stefan Schwabe | Growing A Roll, 2012
  • Stefan Schwabe | Growing A Roll, 2012 © Stefan Schwabe
    Stefan Schwabe | Growing A Roll, 2012
  •  Stefan Schwabe | Gutfather, 2016 | In Zusammenarbeit mit Fraunhofer CeRRI und Sebastian Kletzander © Stefan Schwabe
    Stefan Schwabe | Gutfather, 2016 | In Zusammenarbeit mit Fraunhofer CeRRI und Sebastian Kletzander
  • Stefan Schwabe | Gutmentor Scenario, 2016 | In Zusammenarbeit mit Fraunhofer CeRRI und Sebastian Kletzander © Stefan Schwabe
    Stefan Schwabe | Gutmentor Scenario, 2016 | In Zusammenarbeit mit Fraunhofer CeRRI und Sebastian Kletzander
  • Stefan Schwabe | Gutmentor capsules, 2016 | In Zusammenarbeit mit Fraunhofer CeRRI und Sebastian Kletzander © Stefan Schwabe
    Stefan Schwabe | Gutmentor capsules, 2016 | In Zusammenarbeit mit Fraunhofer CeRRI und Sebastian Kletzander
Few designers illustrate the hybridization of their profession as does Stefan Schwabe. His work at the interface of design, art and science asks about the role of designers in gaining scientific knowledge. In collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute CeRRI and the glassblower Sebastian Klatzender, Schwabe developed in 2016 the project Gutfather: a capsule that traverses the human organism and changes its form according to the influence of microbes until it has become an objective imprint of the microbiome and is excreted. The metaphorical “gut feeling” and the complexity of the microbiome in the scientific perspective here come together. With Growing A Roll, Schwabe presented in 2012 an apparatus that produces from bacterial cellulose a potentially endless roll of material, which is as edible as it applicable as a raw material for the production of objects. Schwabe has taught at the UdK Berlin and worked as an independent designer since 2010. His projects are experimental designs that demonstrate biotechnological possibilities, explain them and make them visually and tactually comprehensible. Thus he pursues a kind of poetic science “in search of an image and material-based language for the space in which words stumble and fall”.

Antje Mönnig

  • Antje Mönnig | Projekt „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“ | Jette reading © Marco Warmuth
    Antje Mönnig | Projekt „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“ | Jette reading
  • Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“ © Antje Mönnig
    Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“
  • Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“ © Antje Mönnig
    Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“
  • Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“ © Antje Mönnig
    Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“
  • Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“ © Antje Mönnig
    Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“
  • Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“ © Antje Mönnig
    Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“
  • Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“ © Antje Mönnig
    Antje Mönnig | Cover and examples from „Unmöglich. Aber machbar.“
“Sometimes I’m not sure whether in future I can study what I want to study, or go where I want to go. For example, in the direction of art. There you really don’t know whether people accept you because (claps her hands audibly) you’re ‘visually handicapped’. It’s not easy”, says the sixteen-year-old Henriette Schöttner, who is in the fifth form of a “perfectly normal school” in Halle, although she has only between ten and twenty per cent vision. Henriette is one of the people whom the communication designer Antje Mönnig sought out to interview for her book Unmöglich. Aber machbar. Inklusion für blinde und sehbehinderte Schüler (i.e. Impossible. But Doable. Inclusion of the Blind and Visually Handicapped Schoolchildren). The book combines factual knowledge about the daily life of visually handicapped schoolchildren in the educational system with personal voices, such as Henriette’s. Mönnig’s final project in the subject of Editorial Design, supervised by Prof. Anna Berkenbusch, was published in 2016 by the German Central Library for the Blind (DZB).
In addition to interviews with visually handicapped schoolchildren, the book contains the results of Mönnig’s research on the distinction between inclusion and integration and typographies that are particularly easy to read for the visually handicapped. It comprises discussion on various school models and numerous illustrations of teaching aids, many of which testify to the resourcefulness of the teachers who have hardly any material to draw on from school book publishers. A book as useful as it is elaborately produced, whose design is intended to open further paths of understanding beyond the text information: the black cover with Braille inscriptions and the transparencies of the inner part, which hinder reading and simulate various visual restrictions, give the reader access to different levels of experience. In 2014 Unmöglich. Aber machbar was awarded the Designer Prize of the University of Art and Design for its committed concern.

Roman Wilhelm 羅小弟

  • Roman Wilhelm | Poster aus der Arbeit „Heung – visual dialects and the power of local cultural identity“, 2015 © Roman Wilhelm Roman
    Roman Wilhelm | Poster aus der Arbeit „Heung – visual dialects and the power of local cultural identity“, 2015
  • Roman Wilhelm | Poster from „Heung – visual dialects and the power of local cultural identity“, 2015 © Roman Wilhelm Roman
    Roman Wilhelm | Poster from „Heung – visual dialects and the power of local cultural identity“, 2015
  • Roman Wilhelm | Laowai Sung, Type-Specimen, 2015 © Roman Wilhelm
    Roman Wilhelm | Laowai Sung, Type-Specimen, 2015
  • Roman Wilhelm | Laowai Sung, Type-Specimen, 2015 © Roman Wilhelm Roman
    Roman Wilhelm | Laowai Sung, Type-Specimen, 2015
  • Roman Wilhelm | Laowai Sung, Type-Specimen, 2015 © Roman Wilhelm
    Roman Wilhelm | Laowai Sung, Type-Specimen, 2015
  • Roman Wilhelm | „Heung – visual dialects and the power of local cultural identity“, 2015 © Roman Wilhelm
    Roman Wilhelm | „Heung – visual dialects and the power of local cultural identity“, 2015
  • Roman Wilhelm | „Heung – visual dialects and the power of local cultural identity“ | Hong Kong, 2015 © Roman Wilhelm
    Roman Wilhelm | „Heung – visual dialects and the power of local cultural identity“ | Hong Kong, 2015
“Laowai” is the common Chinese word for “foreigner”. Roman Wilhelm called the first Chinese font that he developed Laowai Sung (老外宋). He worked on the more than 33,000 glyphs for five years; an experiment, for their totality is intended to indicate not a trouble-free use but rather, as Wilhelm says, imperfection. Instead of blanking out how the font fails to attain to calligraphy, the hand-crafted typeface makes foreignness its focus. Since his studies at Halle and the Leipzig Academy of Graphics and Book Design, Wilhelm has worked commuting between Europe and Asia, teaching in Beijing, Hong Kong and Seoul. He reveals this space and his positioning within it visually in typographic projects and publications and aurally in sound installations. Sound and typography become agents for a finding of one’s way that has boundaries, which themselves give expression to new signs and so shift boundaries.

Carolin Schulze

  • Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014 © Carolin Schluze
    Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014
  • Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014 © Carolin Schulze
    Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014
  • Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014 © Carolin Schluze
    Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014
  • Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014 © Carolin Schluze
    Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014
  • Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014 © Carolin Schluze
    Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014
  • Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014 © Carolin Schluze
    Carolin Schulze | Falscher Hase / Bugs’ Bunny, 2014
Once again bacterial cellulose: like Stefan Schwabe, Carolin Schulze has made a cultural kit from it. It is intended as a starter to convey basic “culinary hacking” techniques of fermentation. Schulze works on cultural techniques of nutrition and their socio-ecological significance today – for example, in the experiment Falscher Hase / Bugs Bunny, which has won several awards. Schulzes’s version of Falscher Hase (literally: “Mock Rabbit”), a German meatloaf dish, is based on a mealworm paste that is shaped into the form of a small rabbit by means of 3D printing, which can then be fried and eaten. The industrial designer sees her work as a campaign for rethinking the food sector. Her thesis: cultural imprinting stands in the way of ecological and social progress, preventing the success of products that would reduce raw material consumption. The only way to meet this is through a cultural response – by making the whole tasty to the eye. The fried mini-rabbit is only one example of responsible food design, and one that wishes to be taken not with bitter seriousness but rather as preserving an element of the absurd. Design, for Schulze, is a tool that makes cultural conventions and the latest technology visible by means of wit and, at the same time, can present a viable alternative.

Knoth & Renner

  • Knoth&Renner-move-ON | Website for Werkleitz Festival, 2015 © Knoth&Renner
    Knoth&Renner-move-ON | Website for Werkleitz Festival, 2015
  • Knoth&Renner | Schiiwerfer | Album-Website for swiss musicians Göldin & Bit-Tuner, with !Mediengruppe Bitnik © Knoth&Renner
    Knoth&Renner | Schiiwerfer | Album-Website for swiss musicians Göldin & Bit-Tuner, with !Mediengruppe Bitnik
  • Knoth&Renner | Poster for the Werkleitz Festival, 2016 © Knoth&Renner
    Knoth&Renner | Poster for the Werkleitz Festival, 2016
  • Knoth&Renner | Website for Werkleitz Festival, 2016 © Knoth&Renner
    Knoth&Renner | Website for Werkleitz Festival, 2016
  • Knoth&Renner | Poster for Werkleitz Festival, 2015 © Knoth&Renner
    Knoth&Renner | Poster for Werkleitz Festival, 2015
  • Knoth&Renner | Webseite Exposition Transparencies, 2015, Bielefelder and Nürnberger Kunstverein © Knoth&Renner
    Knoth&Renner | Webseite Exposition Transparencies, 2015, Bielefelder and Nürnberger Kunstverein
Christoph Knoth and Konrad Renner met in 2005 at Burg Giebichenstein. They have been working together since 2011 in Berlin and Leipzig, especially on the design of websites and visual identities in the areas of art and science – for example, for the German and New Zealand pavilions at the 2015 Venice Biennale, the Zürich Kunsthalle, the Leipzig Academy of Graphics and Book Design IHGB) and the Werkleitz Festival in Halle. Their website designs are marked by the presence of perplexing elements, which inscribe themselves into the memories of users and can leave their traces even on the web interface and navigate and explore backgrounds. Recently Knoth & Renner cooperated in the graphic and typographic realization of the audio-visual web album Schiiwerfer by the concept artists Göldin & Bit-Tuner. Before, the biggest thing for graphic designers was to design an album cover; today it is to design the website of an album, Knoth recently told Creators Project. Knoth & Renner are also active in university teaching and are currently guest professors of typography at the Bauhaus University in Weimar.

Konrad Lohöfener

  • Konrad Lohöfener | Split shelf system Foto © Leo Fiala
    Konrad Lohöfener | Split shelf system
  • Konrad Lohöfener | Split shelf system Foto © Leo Fiala
    Konrad Lohöfener | Split shelf system
  • Konrad Lohöfener | Circle Folding chair Foto © Konrad Lohöfener
    Konrad Lohöfener | Circle Folding chair
  • Konrad Lohöfener | t stands for trouble Foto © Konrad Lohöfener
    Konrad Lohöfener | t stands for trouble
  • Konrad Lohöfener | t stands for trouble Foto © Konrad Lohöfener
    Konrad Lohöfener | t stands for trouble
  • Konrad Lohöfener | t stands for trouble Foto © Konrad Lohöfener
    Konrad Lohöfener | t stands for trouble
  • Konrad Lohöfener | t stands for trouble Foto © Konrad Lohöfener
    Konrad Lohöfener | t stands for trouble
  • Konrad Lohöfener | t stands for trouble Foto © Konrad Lohöfener
    Konrad Lohöfener | t stands for trouble
The discussion about “pure form” is one of the oldest in the history of design. The product and furniture designer Konrad Lohöfener, who studied in Halle and at the Danish Design School in Copenhagen, has carried this discussion forward. He is a minimalist who finds the greatest scope and tension in work with simple, basic forms. This may be seen in his furniture, such as the unpretentious shelf system split, which is variable in height and expandable in width, and in circle, the multi-award-winning folding chair that is held in position by only two ropes that translate the weight of the sitting person into tension. A wooden block ensemble for children and adults, called forma, contains only three basic forms and two colours. Turned, combined and offset in relation to each other, the coloured blocks yield a variety of possible patterns. Inspired by the principle of the rope suspension bridge, Lohöfener’s objects hold in balance the contrast of the heavy and robust to the ultra-light: concrete meets simple installation possibilities, heavy load meets filigree framework constructions and supporting membranes, statics meets mobility. Sometimes the tension between design and use leads to conflict. Thus t stands for trouble is a table with a buckle on device on its underside: a shield for a street fight that will probably never take place.