Karlsruhe Product Design User’s Manual for Independence

Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie Foyer Grand Concert Hall
Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie Foyer Grand Concert Hall | (Detail) Foto: Elias Hassos

Since 1992, the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design has focused on pluralistic openness in teaching and learning. For students this means being able to move freely among five areas of specialisation, but it also entails discovering for themselves what is useful to their own development.

The time spent in university studies, as Prof. Volker Albus describes it, is the only time in which one can go a bit mad. Freedom prevails, but always in the knowledge that one also must implement one’s ideas in ways that work. The training must impart basic knowledge that enables one to earn a living from one’s work. Above and beyond this, it is up to each individual to develop his own understanding of design as a profession. This might sound a bit uncomfortable, but if one speaks with graduates, what they highlight is the Karlsruhe programme’s greatest quality; recognising one’s inclinations and discovering what facilitation one needs. The course of study itself – and this is what may well be Karlsruhe’s special quality – is a project-based programme. In addition to free themes such as “sleeping in the office,” or “EAT WEAR,” correspondence with partners such as firms or institutions is also emphasised. Thus, in 2015, Karlsruhe’s tri-centennial, the colourful, flexibly combinable seating options distributed around the palace were the product of a group project by graduates.

Platform Kaarrllss

  • Outdoor furniture at Karlsruhe´s  Birthday © Sintesi Labs Design Group
    Outdoor furniture at Karlsruhe´s Birthday
  • kkaarrlls Photo © Philip Radowitz
    kkaarrlls
  • kkaarrlls | Serie Cork, Old World - New World | 2015 Photo © Philip Radowitz
    kkaarrlls | Serie Cork, Old World - New World | 2015
  • kkaarrlls | Serie Cork, Old World - New World | 2015 Photo © Philip Radowitz
    kkaarrlls | Serie Cork, Old World - New World | 2015
  • kkaarrlls | Serie Cork, Old World - New World | 2015 Photo © Philip Radowitz
    kkaarrlls | Serie Cork, Old World - New World | 2015
  • kkaarrlls | Serie Cork, Old World - New World | 2015 Photo © Philip Radowitz
    kkaarrlls | Serie Cork, Old World - New World | 2015
  • kkaarrlls | Serie Cork, Old World - New World | 2015 Photo © Philip Radowitz
    kkaarrlls | Serie Cork, Old World - New World | 2015
  • kkaarrlls Photo © Philip Radowitz
    kkaarrlls
The HFG Karlsruhe banks on an optimal mix of continuity and change. Ines Kaak and Desiree Heiss from the group BLESS and Volker Albus currently hold professorships. Stefan Diez was there until recently, Hansjerg Meier-Aichen still guides projects and Kilian Schindler and Tom Pawlofsky were recently guest professors at the place where they were educated. Change is part of the curriculum, it provides fresh input, but without the longer-term presences, the “Kkaarrlls” brand, supervised by Volker Albus and Stefan Legner, would never have been possible.

The label was initiated in 2009, and presented for the first time that same year at the Milan Furniture Fair. Since then, the limited edition of furniture, carpets, lighting and home accessories increases annually by 10-15 items. To date, the project is financed by external funds, the international resonance is impressive. Can one possibly imagine a better business card?

Sandra Böhm

  • Sandra Böhm | Prei Photo: Sandra Böhm
    Sandra Böhm | Prei
  • Sandra Böhm | Prei Photo: Philip Radowitz
    Sandra Böhm | Prei
  • Sandra Böhm | Prei Photo: Sandra Böhm
    Sandra Böhm | Prei
  • Sandra Böhm | Prei Photo: Sandra Böhm
    Sandra Böhm | Prei
  • Sandra Böhm | Komposita, rests of crop Photo: Sandra Böhm
    Sandra Böhm | Komposita, rests of crop
  • Sandra Böhm | Komposita, eggshell Photo: Sandra Böhm
    Sandra Böhm | Komposita, eggshell
  • Sandra Böhm | 18-12 Photo: Philip Radowitz
    Sandra Böhm | 18-12
  • Sandra Böhm | 18-12 Photo: Philip Radowitz
    Sandra Böhm | 18-12
  • Sandra Böhm | Stem Photo: Sandra Böhm
    Sandra Böhm | Stem
  • Sandra Böhm | Stapled Photo: Sandra Böhm
    Sandra Böhm | Stapled
The idea in which direction it could go came to Sandra Böhm already during her work on her pre-degree certificate. Work with existing material was her motto, and what emerged bears the lovely name Prei. Detailed experiments with papier-mâché, which ultimately gained solidity through the addition of glue and stone powder that allows one to form objects that are both light and stable. The first piece was a bookshelf, various stools followed. Each item is one-of-a-kind, and each time a play with the optics on the utility of the object.

Sandra Böhm makes use of artistic considerations in the case of other designs as well. The foam rolls covered with fabric of Stem remind one of tree trunks, and can be individually placed in seating arrangements. The rack Stacked is also highly versatile in the possibilities of its assembly, and finally 18/12 leaves the question of its use completely open. Böhm is currently at work on Prei’s further development, although the focus is less on a systematisation of utility than on the optimisation of production, marketing and distribution. Böhm hasn’t the slightest intention of improving the stools by means of stackable shapes, instead each one of them is meant to function as an object in space. 

jjoo-design

  • v| children’s doors Photo © jjoo design
    jjoo | children’s doors
  • jjoo | children’s doors Photo © jjoo design
    jjoo | children’s doors
  • jjmm | children’s doors Photo © jjoo design
    jjmm | children’s doors
  • jjoo | "I see something you don’t see" Foto © jjoo design
    jjoo | "I see something you don’t see"
  • Nyta | suspended lamp Photo © Nyta UG
    Nyta | suspended lamp
  • Nyta | suspended lamp Photo © Nyta UG
    Nyta | suspended lamp
Even back in the days when Johannes Marmon and Johannes Müller merely ran the office jjoo, it was a matter of course for the duo to take into consideration the method and profitability of production, with the aim of tying up an all-round package for the customer, as it were. Nonetheless, the two product designers gained the greatest respect when the task at hand was the launching of their own lighting company Nyta that issues minimally designed, technically sophisticated lamps. What the duo’s designs often share apart from reduced forms is a subtly humorous treatment of the theme.

Thus for example, with Kindertüre (i.e. children’s doors), youngsters are given an access to their children’s room tailored to the smaller dimensions of the little persons entering the room, and thereby to their own little world. And the entry they submitted to an architectural art (Kunst-am Bau) contest also flirts with childlike perception. “Ich sehe was, was du nicht siehst” (i.e. I see something you don’t see) is written there in large colourful letters such as one sees on magnetic boards in children’s rooms. A pity that the project was not realised, as the building in question was the headquarters of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (the German equivalent of the FBI), whose task is indeed the procurement of information that no one might otherwise see!

Studio Besau Marguerre

  • Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie Photo: Elias Hassos
    Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie
  • Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie Photo: Elias Hassos
    Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie
  • Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie Photo: Elias Hassos
    Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie
  • Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie Photo: Elias Hassos
    Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie
  • Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie Photo: Elias Hassos
    Studio Besau-Marguerre | Furnishing Elbphilharmonie
  • Besau-Marguerre | Nido Photo: Elias Hassos
    Besau-Marguerre | Nido
  • Besau-Marguerre | Nido Photo: Elias Hassos
    Besau-Marguerre | Nido
  • Besau-Marguerre | MOA for kkaarrlls Photo: Studio Besau-Marguerre
    Besau-Marguerre | MOA for kkaarrlls
  • Besau-Marguerre | MOA for kkaarrlls Photo: Studio Besau-Marguerre
    Besau-Marguerre | MOA for kkaarrlls
If one asks Eva Marguerre if there is something that all the various projects of her work have in common, she cites materiality and colour as central themes. Nonetheless, for all her success and the wealth of contracts associated with it, this joy in and curiosity about experimentation with materials still commands much space. Eva Marguerre and Marcel Besau got to know each other during their university days and in 2012 launched their own studio in Hamburg. While the stool Nido and the basket series Moa from their student days continued to be popular products, the focus of their work has shifted towards interior design. In the last 18 months, the Studio Besau Marguerre was busy with appointing the Elbe Philharmonic Hall. However, “to furnish 6500 m² just with our own designs would have been presumptuous,” Eva Marguerre believes, “and our colleagues’ designs are just too good and too exciting…”

Kilian Schindler

  • Kilian Schindler | Charles Wire Chair  Photo: Kilian Schindler
  • Kilian Schindler | Henry Grid Rack Photo: Kilian Schindler
    Kilian Schindler | Henry Grid Rack
  • Kilian Schindler | Henry Grid Rack Photo: Kilian Schindler
    Kilian Schindler | Henry Grid Rack
  • Kilian Schindler | Glenmorangie Photo: Christian Metzler
    Kilian Schindler | Glenmorangie
  • Kilian Schindler | Porcelain Ono Rosenthal  Photo: Gerhardt Kellermann
    Kilian Schindler | Porcelain Ono Rosenthal
  • Kilian Schindler | kkaarrllssttool, 2008 Photo: bitterfield.net
    Kilian Schindler | kkaarrllssttool, 2008
  • Kilian Schindler | kkaarrllssttool, 2008 Photo: bitterfield.net
    Kilian Schindler | kkaarrllssttool, 2008
“Each new idea set new rules,” as Kilian Schindler summarises his approach, “anybody who wants to play better stick to the rules.” No matter if it’s designing jewelry, a kitchen, a stainless-steel Venetian-blind for industry, or – as most recently – a porcelain service. The product that requires detailed research is still the point of departure, since knowing the history of the object is important before one attempts one’s own solutions. This approach avoids a recognisable signature of the designer. For Schindler, the designer’s task has become more complex. The issue is no longer just designing consumer goods, but making things possible.

This work goes far beyond the design itself and often includes intensive communication with the marketing department in addition to the usual considerations about production procedures. The fact that Schindler, who held a guest professorship at the HFG last year, did not leave Karlsruhe after completing his studies is due to the agreeable work conditions that prevail in the tranquil city. After all: “You’re connected no matter where you are.”

Silvia Knüppel

  • Silvia Knüppel | Pl(a)ywood cabinet, 2009 Photo: Philipp Radowitz © Silvia Knüppel
    Silvia Knüppel | Pl(a)ywood cabinet, 2009
  • Silvia Knüppel | Pl(a)ywood cabinet, 2009 Photo: Philipp Radowitz © Silvia Knüppel
    Silvia Knüppel | Pl(a)ywood cabinet, 2009
  • Silvia Knüppel | Pl(a)ywood cabinet, 2009 Photo: Philipp Radowitz © Silvia Knüppel
    Silvia Knüppel | Pl(a)ywood cabinet, 2009
  • Silvia Knüppel | Drückeberger cabinet, 2007 Photo: Philipp Radowitz © Silvia Knüppel
    Silvia Knüppel | Drückeberger cabinet, 2007
  • Silvia Knüppel | Frankfurter Mélange #1, 2011 Foto ©: Silvia Knüppel
    Silvia Knüppel | Frankfurter Mélange #1, 2011
  • Silvia Knüppel | Home Zoo Covers, 2012 Photo: Rebekka Seubert © Silvia Knüppel
    Silvia Knüppel | Home Zoo Covers, 2012
  • Silvia Knüppel | Wintercoat cabinet, 2007 Photo: Michael Anhalt © Silvia Knüppel
    Silvia Knüppel | Wintercoat cabinet, 2007
Does a traditional form of a piece of furniture also include instructions for use? Is there a set of rules that is universally valid? Silvia Knüppel plays with familiar silhouettes and at the same time guides their use in unconventional, indeed absurd directions. The laminated wood dresser pl(a)ywood cannot be categorised, but offers a veritable rack through shifting or lifting individual layers. The possibility of storing neatly folded textiles or similar things in the furniture of the series Drückeberger is a promise that is given simply through its form. Use of these decidedly classically shaped foam dressers and wardrobes is only possible after individual incisions in the massive object. Then one can follow a somewhat unconventional system of order by simply sticking things in. The designer maintains that something from the old is always present in the designs, but whether it has proven itself in terms of function and use is subjected to question. Shades of well-known armchair designs by Thonet, Eames or Jacobson are easy to recognise in the carpets designers’ shadow. Occasionally it is design classics such as the Ulmer Hocker and the stool 60 or the Frankfurter Stuhl and its Swedish counterpart Lilla Aland that blend into a melange, that still allow the original designs to reveal themselves.

Tom Pawlofsky

  • Tibor Weissmahr und Tom Pawlofsky | 7XStool mit der Kettensäge am Roboter gesägt | Produktionsprozess: Tom Pawlofsky Photo: Tom Pawlofsky
    Tibor Weissmahr und Tom Pawlofsky | 7XStool
  • Tom Pawlofsky | Zweiraumwand, experimental production of free-form, Carved With A Chainsaw Robot Photo: Tom Pawlofsky
    Tom Pawlofsky | Zweiraumwand, experimental production of free-form, Carved With A Chainsaw Robot
  • Tom Tom Pawlofsky | Detailed Construction, Berlin, Ackermann GmbH Photo: Tom Pawlofsky
    Tom Pawlofsky | Detailed Construction, Berlin, Ackermann GmbH
  • Tom Pawlofsky | Zinfandel flexibel, adaptive shelf Photo: Tom Pawlofsky
    Tom Pawlofsky | Zinfandel flexibel, adaptive shelf
  • Tom Pawlofsky | Project management and Production planning Photo: Tom Pawlofsky
    Tom Pawlofsky | Project management and Production planning
  • Tom Pawlofsky | Production of Wooden Puzzle with Chainsaw Robot Photo: Tom Pawlofsky
    Tom Pawlofsky | Production of Wooden Puzzle with Chainsaw Robot
  • Tom Pawlofsky | Zweiraumwand, experimental production of free-form, Carved With A Chainsaw Robot Photo: Tom Pawlofsky
    Tom Pawlofsky | Zweiraumwand, experimental production of free-form, Carved With A Chainsaw Robot
Tom Pawlofsky learned his trade from the shop-floor up, first as a cabinetmaker at vocational school, then at the HFG. He picked up many skills auto-didactically. It was at university that he had the freedom to learn, know and comprehend. Time was when each skilled craftsman had to think about suitable tools and equipment. This is still true, but today there are programmes for modern mould-making. Pawlofsky sees his task at the interface of design and production. In addition to his teaching activities, with his Zurich firm craftwise he develops machine-driven production processes for joinery work in interior design, for instance, but also for realisation concepts for works of art. Thus Pawlofsky, as project manager of a Swiss art foundry, was responsible for the realisation of Katharina Fritsch’s temporary large-format sculpture of a rooster on the Fourth Plinth of London’s Trafalgar Square. By contrast, with digital production 100 to 3,000 pieces are produced for the most part, whereby each individual production process becomes a unique performance for the observer, as if staged by magic.

Carrois‘

Carrois’ | Fira Carrois’ | Fira | © Carrois As early as his degree certification Ralph du Carrois had to answer the question of why a product designer would take up typeface design from the outset, and afterwards surely countless times more. His answer is as artless as it is disarming: typeface is the graphic designer’s tool. And this tool is a product. In project teamwork at university, du Carrois turned his attention to appropriate presentation. As his degree thesis he submitted Maurea, his first humanistic, linear sans-serif typeface.

Others followed after the launching of Carrois’ together with his wife Jenny du Carrois. The teaching typeface ABeZeh for schoolchildren or the scribble typeface Krikikrak or Fira, which is being expanded internationally: Devanagari, Arabic, Hebrew and Georgian already exist as typefaces, Chinese, Japanese and Korean will follow in the next few years. Apart from all that, members of the decidedly successful firm Typefacedesign view themselves more as software developers than as graphic designers. “Typeface has a long half-life,” says du Carrois, “and the question is always who follows whom.”