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In our anniversary interview with Hans-Jörg Müller, Head of Product and Design Division, he explains why smartphones have pushed Gira‘s Design.
The German company Gira Giersiepen based in Radevormwald is celebrating its iF anniversary this year. The manufacturer in the electrotechnical industry has been taking part in the iF DESIGN AWARD for 60 years. In this time, the company has won 63 awards. We congratulate on this achievement and would like to thank Gira for their loyalty.
Gira is known for innovative products of intelligent building system technology and well thought out design. The company has been developing switches and socket outlets for houses and apartments for more than 100 years. Additionally, Gira has determined the so-called smart home as a powerful growth market. Where digital assistance and monitoring systems make life easier, safer and more resource efficient. Today Gira is one of the pioneers of modern building technology.
We spoke to Hans-Jörg Müller, Head of Product and Design Division, about why smartphones are no competition for Gira and what simple design language has to do with lifestyle.
Hans-Jörg Müller, born in Elberfeld (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany), studied economics specializing in organisational psychology and innovation at University of Wuppertal (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany). Since April 2016 he is head of product and design at Gira. Müller started at Gira in 1992 responsible for design and technology. Between 2006 and 2016 he transferred to sanitation manufacturer HEWI as head of innovation, design and marketing.
Gira and networked living belong directly together. Do you have a favorite
smart home product that you no longer want to miss in your own home?
H.-J. Müller: Of course, I have many favorite products. In short, it’s a mixture of designs and functions from three decades of Gira, such as G1, a multifunctional interface for the entire building control system. I also use System 55, a complex switch range with all other functions required in the building.
Home Master is probably the first smart home product with which
Gira won an iF prize in the product discipline in 2001. At that time, the
technologies in the field of intelligent living were still in an early infancy
stage. From today's perspective, how would you describe the mood within the
company at that time to starting developing smart home products, and thus also
entering a new type of design?
Our philosophy has always been to combine functions and to equip devices intelligently for the use at home. What was once intended for large objects and residential buildings is now usable and affordable in the mainstream of normal houses and apartments. Smartphones and apps have further advanced the development of smart home. This gave us a big push. We didn't see it as competition at all, because we were given more opportunities in terms of functionality.
Gira received its first if DESIGN AWARD for a smart home product called HomeMaster in 2001. It is a line of switches for controlling appliances such as lights, heating, louvre blinds and windows. It features a reduced number of intuitive control elements for user friendliness. The HomeMaster is based on an open operating system to which new functions can be added simply in form of software modules. The clear design and ergonomic benefits of the system are readily apparent in well as the menu-based GUI. By means of it the user can access information at any time by rotating the dial or pushing the button. Various interfaces to other systems can be incorporated and the unit can be linked up to multimedia concepts. The user can configure the GUI himself / herself.
For many people smartphones serve as extended arms. User demand for apps is increasing. And Gira reacts flexibly to changes in the market. You are now offering a smart home app, a kind of universal remote control for android and iOS systems, with which you can simply switch the heating on – from anywhere.
Of course, it‘s precisely in communication where exciting products are created because there we always combine physical design and interface design with the interaction between people and products. All this has several levels, which is interesting in the field of communication as well as for us product developers.
In your opinion, where are the challenges to satisfy both end users and the industrial sector. How does design adapt to this?
Our design concept is following Dieter Ram’s ten principles for good design. We are silent servants. We want to integrate products that take place in a smart home into various styles of living. That's why our design language is simple, rather reluctant and of high quality. These principles apply to our products in the industrial sector as well as in smart home. However, both areas pursue completely different technological systems and functional requirements.
(interview published in July 2020)