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Pioneer in Smart Home Industry – 60 Years iF Awards for Gira Giersiepen

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.

Pioneer in Smart Home Industry – 60 Years iF Awards for Gira Giersiepen

About Hans-Jörg Müller

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.

iF: 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.

The 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.

Pioneer in Smart Home Industry – 60 Years iF Awards for Gira Giersiepen

HomeMaster - iF DESIGN AWARD 2001

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.

Most recent iF DESIGN AWARDS for Gira's smart home product

This high-quality device line was developed to operate KNX Smart Home applications. The main area of application is for controlling lights, blinds, and room temperature, though many other functions can also be controlled. Simple, clear lines and quality materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, and glass characterize the design concept. Large buttons and optional individual laser engraving help to simplify operation. Functional form and long-lasting materials create a high-quality product that can be integrated into diverse environments. For a uniform look, it can be combined with the matching Gira Esprit design line when installing additional power outlets, etc.
Gira Push Button Sensor | KNX smart home system, iF DESIGN AWARD 2020

This high-quality device line was developed to operate KNX Smart Home applications. The main area of application is for controlling lights, blinds, and room temperature, though many other functions can also be controlled. Simple, clear lines and quality materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, and glass characterize the design concept. Large buttons and optional individual laser engraving help to simplify operation. Functional form and long-lasting materials create a high-quality product that can be integrated into diverse environments. For a uniform look, it can be combined with the matching Gira Esprit design line when installing additional power outlets, etc.

The functional design and carefully selected materials, such as the display cover made of real glass, give this door intercom system its look and feel of quality. The station is operated with the high-resolution full-touch IPS display, which offers a large viewing angle, and five capacitive speed buttons. Tactile feedback can be activated to assist the user during operation. The options for surface mounting or base mounting, as well as the wiring type, also make the device suitable for easy retrofitting of a video door communication system in an existing building.
Surface-Mounted Home Station Video 7 | Door intercom system, iF DESIGN AWARD 2020

The functional design and carefully selected materials, such as the display cover made of real glass, give this door intercom system its look and feel of quality. The station is operated with the high-resolution full-touch IPS display, which offers a large viewing angle, and five capacitive speed buttons. Tactile feedback can be activated to assist the user during operation. The options for surface mounting or base mounting, as well as the wiring type, also make the device suitable for easy retrofitting of a video door communication system in an existing building.

The Gira System 106 is a modular door communication system with metal front plates featuring an elegant, clean and sophisticated design, robust materials, and compact, cutting-edge technology. The modular system is flexible to configure and can be adapted or expanded at any time. Simply mounted on the wall, the system is equally well suited to new builds and retrofits. The modules which can be arranged vertically, horizontally, or in squares.
System 106 | Door intercom, iF DESIGN AWARD 2018

The Gira System 106 is a modular door communication system with metal front plates featuring an elegant, clean and sophisticated design, robust materials, and compact, cutting-edge technology. The modular system is flexible to configure and can be adapted or expanded at any time. Simply mounted on the wall, the system is equally well suited to new builds and retrofits. The modules which can be arranged vertically, horizontally, or in squares.

The new Gira G1 is the intelligent central operating unit for the entire building technology. Whether switching and dimming lights, raising and lowering blinds, or controlling room temperature: All the functions can be conveniently controlled by touching or gesturing on the brilliant multi-touch display. The newly developed, intuitive Gira Interface even makes time-controlled programming of automatic functions or creating comprehensive scenes easy. In connection with the DCS-IP-gateway, the Gira G1 can also be used as a home station.
Gira G1 | Building operating unit, iF DESIGN AWARD 2015

The new Gira G1 is the intelligent central operating unit for the entire building technology. Whether switching and dimming lights, raising and lowering blinds, or controlling room temperature: All the functions can be conveniently controlled by touching or gesturing on the brilliant multi-touch display. The newly developed, intuitive Gira Interface even makes time-controlled programming of automatic functions or creating comprehensive scenes easy. In connection with the DCS-IP-gateway, the Gira G1 can also be used as a home station.

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(interview published in July 2020)