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Interview with Klaus Schroeder, design-people

We were pleased to exhibit the work of the Danish design studio design-people in our iF showroom in Hamburg. Lena Riemenschneider spoke to the strategic director of the studio, Klaus Schroeder.

What is Nordic Design, and how is it different from other national or regional schools of design?

Traditionally, Nordic Design comes from interior design, while German design for example comes from product and engineering. As a result, Nordic Design is more focused on the entire spatial context (living spaces or public spaces), and tends to have a holistic perspective. Its formal language stresses functionality, simple lines with a human touch and ‚authenticity‘ in the choice of materials.

You are a German industrial designer living and working in Denmark. Was your decision to move to Scandinavia a career move?

Absolutely. Nordic Design appealed to me from early on. After my undergraduate studies in design, I decided to continue my studies abroad. Denmark was one of my first choices, along with England. In the end I chose Aarhus because of the friendly reception I received from the Dean and the holistic atmosphere at the Aarhus School of Architecture design department. After finishing my Master‘s Degree at the Braunschweig University of Art I moved to Denmark and started my career.

What inspired you to design especially for the female market?

Since its founding 10 years ago, design-people has focused on interface design for technology products. Our user studies, in which we met with women who were not interested in existing technological products, piqued our interest. We wondered: what is the actual relationship between tech products and female users?

What did you find out?

We discovered that none of the three tech companies involved in our research (Bang & Olufsen, Jabra, and Danfoss) had specific insights about how female target groups perceive their brand and their products. We also discovered that it takes clear and motivating benefit stories about how new tech-products can improve everyday (social) life to get women interested in buying technology. Women are more demanding in terms of ease of use, because they usually don't want to focus on the devices themselves and are busy with their social lifes – whereas at least some men tend to be more interested in the gadget itself.

The tough task for designers is to create tech-products that make a woman's home look and feel nice – or at the very least, which are not invasive. So please no additional displays in the living room.

What was it like working with Vifa?

We started our collaboration with the Vifa management and development, when the company and brand was reinvented into an audio luxury brand with the help of Chinese capital. With our expertise in female responsive innovation, design and branding we were able to uniquely position the Vifa band and to give the products a their special Nordic design language. The extensive use of interior fabrics from the Danish manufacturer Kvadrat contributes substantially to the Vifa look & feel.

What role does a design award play for a user-focused company such as design-people?

It motivates, rewards and documents our dedication to implement innovative and refined design solutions together with our customers.

Is there a particular product that is in dire need of a redesign?

In the home stretch of its soon-to-end career, the parking machine (erstwhile parking meter) could use an interface makeover: as a finishing touch so to speak.

Speaking of the future: Where will design be in ten years?

In ten years, it will still be possible to make people happy with surprisingly good design solutions, although many of these will be in the digital realm, where most of us will spend increasing amounts of time. The female influence on design will become more pronounced in numerous markets.

And yes: In ten years, the parking machine will be a thing of the past.

Klaus Schroeder

Klaus Schroeder is Strategic Director, CEO and partner of design-people, Aarhus, Denmark - an innovation and design company.

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