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(published by courtesy of Package & Design - one of the most influential professional design magazines in China)
Making a product to the extreme is the common spirit of many great designers. In this year’s iF DESIGN AWARD winners list, there is a design company that has been hitting the ground running with a common product in our daily life – 5 of the 6 iF DESIGN AWARDS are toilet actuation plates, among which Visign for More 202 won an iF gold award this year. The creative force behind this minimalist gold award-winning work is ARTEFAKT Design from Germany.
ARTEFAKT Design, founded in 1989 by Achim Pohl and Tomas Fiegl, at first focused on architecture design. In 2006, based on the two founders’ personal interest, it established CYCLING (bicycle product design) as another area of focus for the company. Dedicating itself to two different design segments, ARCHITECTURE and CYCLING, allows the team the greatest possible diversification and opportunity for innovation through a “cross-knowledge creation process.” ARTEFAKT Design, now with a creative team of 15 members in its studio in Darmstadt, provides full service ranging from product strategy and development to market- ready products. Its clients include Alape, Hansa, Hewi, Jado, Kermi, Rehau, Richter+Frenzel, Siemens, Viega, Bosch, Brose, Canyon, RTI Sports and Scott, to name just a few.
The company name, “ARTEFAKT”, is a compound word derived from the Latin words ars (art) and factum (making). It stands for the
interface between “man and machine” that reflects the essential core themes of its work. ARTEFAKT Design believes that industrial
designers should design products that not only meet the user’s emotional and functional requirements but also consider the society and sustainable development. For both the ARCHITECTURE and CYCLING divisions, the “internet of things” will generate
a completely new generation of traditional products: the basic functionality will remain the same, but the “human-product” interface
will give the products a completely new appearance. This again shows the great role that the UX/UI division “user experience / user interface” will play in the future for the product designer. As for identity of brands and products, ARTEFAKT Design believes in
reduction and concentration on the essential components with everything not necessary left out.
Over the years, the works of ARTEFAKT Design have achieved great market success and won over 250 awards, about 10% of which
were “Best of Mentions,” and this achievement could be viewed as a confirmation of its philosophy and contemporary way of working.
For this issue, Package & Design conducted an exclusive interview with Achim Pohl, Co-Founder and CEO of ARTEFAKT Design,
and selected some exceptional design works of ARTEFAKT Design.
Q: Package & Design | A: Achim Pohl, Designer, Co-Founder and CEO of ARTEFAKT Design
Q: First of all, congratulations on ARTEFAKT Design’s 6 works’ winning the iF DESIGN AWARD this year. 5 of the 6 award-winning works are actuation plates, among which the Visign for More 202 won an iF gold award. How long did it take to develop this gold award-winning product? Please talk about its design concept and innovation.
A: It seems to be a bit crazy to receive 4+1 gold award for actuation plates by one competition. Well, this project gave us the extraordinary opportunity to define and develop a complete product portfolio across all market segments. That means, not only design wise but also price wise, technology wise and in addition for an international private and public area. A fantastic challenge, which allows to harmonize strategic and creative work from the beginning on. And a good piece of work over around two years. So first of all, it was important to define the different user groups and their requirements and expectations of the product. Good industrial design is not just a doctrine, but consciously complements the different living worlds and tastes of the people who use the product day by day. As we all know, a product also has to polarize, has to have corners and edges, not to match every man taste, but the person it is meant to appeal to. This is exactly the gene in design that generates emotionality and sensuality. The 202 lives this personality self-confidently and intensely. It seeks discussion, demands the examination of the product. It is precisely the combination of seemingly contradictory formal elements that gives the “Visign for More 202” its appeal. Everyone wants to have it served at some point, then decides for or against it. In no case it is a “nobody,” but it is present and a further step to reinterpret design, to define a trend. Nevertheless, its objective focus on function gives it balance and stability. For me, it is an incredibly exciting piece of industrial design. In retrospect, ennobled by an iF Gold, it is also a great confirmation for the courageous decision makers at VIEGA. Actuation plates are more than just a piece of design in the bathroom. They carry the identity of the company to the outside world, its attitude towards future quality, technology or design trends. They are, so to speak, the face of the company, forming the emotional and functional interface to the user.
Q: It was not the first time ARTEFAKT designed actuation plates for VIEGA. Could you talk about the collaboration between ARTEFAKT Design and VIEGA? During the development process, did ARTEFAKT Design
have a high degree of freedom in creation? Or did VIEGA stay highly engaged?
A: The basis of the surprising huge success during the previous years is the perfection of team play between VIEGA and ARTEFAKT. It’s an eye-level collaboration. Marketing, engineering and design are respecting the high quality level among each other. ARTEFAKT design bears responsibility for the interface between man and product (“building and product”). That means, ARTEFAKT ensures that the technical requirements of the company are used optimally. The user receives the product that is perfectly tailored to him emotionally, functionally and in terms of price. In order to achieve this goal, we are given the highest degree of trust and freedom of decision. Of course this does not only apply to actuation plates, but also to the whole range of products like water inlet or outlet systems or electronic devices and UX design. We carefully coordinate the design of the whole programm piece by piece, developing a CI, so to speak. Even the technical components under the wall or behind the bathtub are optimized by us in terms of design and differentiated within the framework of a colour concept. This enables the craftsman to better distinguish the relevant components during installation and maintenance.
About the VIEGA MULTIPLEX TRIO E3, electronic bath & shower mixer, (see image above): TRIO E3 is advancing the trend of electronic intelligence, combining the bathtub flow and drainage functions into one integrated system. Precise setting of water quantity and temperature saves natural resources, energy and is also pure comfort. It can be operated easily by the rotatable scroll-display.
Q: ARTEFAKT Design has done a lot of design for this kind of product. So why design separately a less prominent part like the actuation plate instead of designing it together with the toilet? Please talk about ARTEFAKT’s design experience with such products. What do you think are the design trends in this field? What are the biggest challenges in the design and innovation process?
A: This is a good point, and we will certainly surprise the market in the near future. Especially in the times of “COVID-19,” a large market will emerge here and there is a considerable backlog demand. For this reason, with VIEGA we have been focusing on electronic networking, touch-free and remote-controllable products from a very early stage. We make intensive use of this know-how in our latest product developments. In the ARCHITECTURE area in particular, we also bring our customers together to develop and implement new solutions. Whereas up to now, it was primarily solitary fitting lines that were “state of the art,” the “internet of things” in particular will now bring the final breakthrough of electronics in the bathroom. The communication of the products with each other, their perfect adaptation to individual users and user groups and building requirements will enable considerable added value in terms of sustainable comfort. App, smartphone, voice and gestures bring individual everyday life and living together. For us designers, this is an exciting development and technology. It places completely new demands on the design. It allows the maximum integration of technology and thus a big step towards optimal hygiene. “User interface” is becoming an increasing part of product identity and a new challenge for the profession of designer. A new and very exciting chapter of product design that gives us a lot of joy and where we can learn a lot.
Q: In terms of cycling products and architectural products, does ARTEFAKT Design have different design processes? Please talk about the typical development and design process of ARTEFAKT Design regarding the two types of products. Would the entire design process carry through under a comprehensive brand framework?
A: We always see our products only as a part of the whole, of a product environment. So we always start with the definition of the people who will use the product. We put ourselves into their individual living environment, emotional and functional requirements which connect them with the product. Are the products used by one person or a group of people? Only from this can the product requirements and product strategy be determined. In a second step, we always analyse the current trends in the market regarding design, technology and functionality and define their future significance for our product. In the area of CYCLING, we are talking about an extremely technology-heavy product. The disruptive development of e-mobility, for example, constantly places completely new demands on the products. In this area, we develop in many small steps and in the context of workshops, intensively together with the engineers in order to unite the design and technical goals again and again. An extremely homogeneous development process which requires unbelievable confidence in the abilities of the development partner. In the field of ARCHITECTURE, on the other hand, our products always become part of a design environment. They have to be fully functional and, above all, emotionally complementary in terms of design. This means there are only “2 development steps” to determine the appropriate design. In every case we then accompany our customers through the design phase up to the market launch, organize design price applications and patent applications. It is an incredibly extensive process until a product can successfully conquer the market.
Q: ARTEFAKT Design creates identity for brands and products through both reduction and concentration on the essential components. Can we understand it as the concept of “Minimalist Design”? Please elaborate on the design philosophy of ARTEFAKT Design. How do you define ARTEFAKT’s design style?
A: The question is – what does identity mean? Identity means to have a recognizable personality, not to be a nobody. In this respect, it is necessary to sharpen or focus the existing identity of a company, or to describe a targeted identity and to work out all attributes connected with it, and to put them in the foreground. Everything that is not necessary for this or even contradicts this goal should be left out. No innovation for the sake of innovation and no being different for the sake of being different. We at ARTEFAKT call this – REDUCE to IDENTITY – if you understand this as minimalism, yes, it’s our handwriting or the ARTEFAKT typical style that describes our quality. But it has nothing to do with geometrical or organic and nothing to do with rational or emotional. It’s simply the reduction to the essential and the creation of an identity. This is our philosophy to design and generate products that perfectly complement different living environments.
Q: How do you see the future trend for cycling design?
A: The key word e-mobility describes the dominant trend in this area and has completely shifted the focus of work across all bicycle segments. In addition to sports equipment, the topic of “Transportation” has moved into the center of attention. The gap between car and bicycle is increasingly closing. Functional mobility from A. to B. is becoming the core topic. CARGO or URBAN bikes transport big and small things around the family and work and bring them comfortably to work and back. Even in the professional sector we develop last mile transport options for parcel services. Besides the bicycle manufacturers, this is also a huge future market for companies like our customer BOSCH. Here, the planning of the digital future around drive and safety technology is in full swing. Here we have the opportunity to design products for an emission-free and sustainable future.
Q: You have been a judge for many international design awards. As for you, what’s the significance of participating
and winning an award? Do you have an internal criterion for selecting works for entries?
A: Yes, that’s right. I was also part of the jury for the “iF DESIGN TALENT AWARD 2020.” The topic was the sustainable use of our resources. It was incredibly exciting to judge the entries of young designers from all over the world. Fantastic solutions on the topic of water shortage or sanitary hygiene in problem regions give you hope for a better future. Respect for these young designers. My selection criteria for the yes or no assessment are based on my design philosophy: if the product has a focus, an identity, if it is free of unnecessary ballast or superficial features, if this is also clearly worked out in a creative way and looks up-to-date, then it is worth an award for me. Exactly this is also the basis for respecting cultural differences, different income level and individual requests – not just making one’s own focus the yardstick. Exactly these are the criteria we are measured by. More than 250 awards and about 10% of them “Best of Mentions” confirm our way of thinking. In any case, it is always a thrilling moment to win an award and a great confirmation for our clients and of course for us designers.
(Source: Package & Design, 2020, May Issue, p. 50-63)
More from the series of the Package & Design Magazine, May Issue 2020: