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Reflect Everyday

Reflect Everyday

After the Design Everyday initiative has so far mainly dealt with the perspective of the designers, the access of manufacturers and producers is to be increasingly examined in the future. Sophie Wittmann (Trewit) and Stefan Ehrlich-Adám (EVVA) were our first discussion partners. Interviews by Sabine Dreher (Liquid Frontiers).

Read the interviews here:

Interview with Sophie Wittmann (Trewit)

Sophie Wittmann took over the family business founded in 1879 in Scharnstein, Upper Austria, together with her brothers, Max and Rudi. Since then, the craft business specializing in solid wood with a focus on series production made to measure has been operating under the name Trewit.

In an interview with Design Everyday, Sophie reflects on the role that cooperation with designers plays in the orientation of the company.

Design Everyday: Your company looks back on a long tradition and accordingly has a wide range of expertise in the manufacture of furniture. Under what circumstances do you work with designers?

Sophie Wittmann: There are different backgrounds that lead to cooperation. Sometimes someone comes to us with a design and then it is usually a production-related question as to whether and how the project suits us. Since we process solid wood, the materiality on the one hand and the construction method on the other hand play a decisive role. But since my brothers and I took over the business in 2020, we have been able to better plan collaborations with designers and also approach them proactively. So, we approach design studios and commission specific designs.

DE: Can you describe a specific collaboration in more detail?

SW: The cooperation with the designer Robert Rüf, for example, came about by chance. With the new construction of the Patscherkofelbahn, the architects Innauer Matt agreed with the client at an early stage that the mobile interior design would be specially developed for the building. There have been such constellations time and again in the history of architecture, but in the recent past they have become rare and industrial series products are more likely to be used.

DE: What added value does this holistic approach to design create?

SW: In that case the furniture family extends over many elements; From the bar stool to the table, high table, serving trolley to ski stand, the loose furniture was designed down to the last detail. This perfectionism can be felt in the overall concept. But what makes another interesting aspect is the fact that the interplay of architecture and furniture design is derived from two different handwritings. Robert Rüf is not an architect, but an industrial designer. He was familiar with Innauer Matt‘s design and designed matching furniture, which, however, is stylistically in contrast to the architecture. This creates a certain tension. The furniture embodies an individuality, which nevertheless completes the overall picture.

DE: An approach in which different expertise comes together at an early stage deters some because they fear that the costs and the timeframe will explode. How can you imagine this process at eye level?

SW: Time management is a very essential point because the feedback loops need space. First series should be planned very precisely. For this, templates have to be produced and machine settings have to be adjusted. You have to develop the furniture step by step using prototypes and you cannot go straight into production with a design. We create samples and take seat samples, pulling the process through step by step. We start with a working model, followed by a series of samples before all settings are released for production. The good thing about the project was that, despite the development costs of the design, we stayed below the estimated total costs for the furniture. We not only fell short of the internal budget, but were also able to keep up with series furniture made of this type of wood in an industry comparison. Our experience shows that you can carry out such a project with a quantity of 100 or more, provided the client has the affinity for this approach.

DE: With a view to your business model, can you compare an order of magnitude between the proportion of collections and the proportion of custom-made products?

SW: It‘s hard to express that in percentages because the distribution is changing a lot. We notice that our collections are in increasing demand because they are simply beautifully designed. This segment is very much in development.

DE: How do you organize the cooperation legally and economically?

SW: We prefer license agreements with royalties over a one-off payment, because it is difficult to predict how a product will develop.

DE: You mentioned that you are now actively approaching designers to develop certain projects that are particularly important to you. Do you currently have something special in the pipeline?

SW: Yes, we are extremely excited about a project that we have just started with Vandasye. It is about a rehearsal or orchestral chair for musicians. Another very exciting, functional piece of furniture, for which we are already in the preliminary design phase, is being developed together with the designers from Lucy D and — because the project has a large proportion of upholstery — with an additional partner, Joka. The drafts will follow in early autumn and I am confident that we will see the first prototypes this year.

DE: You have been operating under the name Trewit since 2020. What‘s new about this appearance?

SW: The process of change has been going on for a long time and we are now living it so authentically that we finally had the impression that we only changed the name and the language of the website. Much remains the same in the company; the qualities of the legacy are our breeding ground for the future. At the same time, the name expresses an attitude that we are increasingly exhibiting. This includes the commitment to design and to ecology. We have been committed to solid wood for a long time. That sounds sustainable per se, but there are still a lot of edges that have to be sanded in order to convey the topic convincingly to the outside world. The new website is intended to express more clearly what defines us and who we are.

DE: You now run the company with your two brothers? How are your competencies distributed?

SW: Trewit is derived from the family name Wittmann. But it also refers to the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome, where three paths from different directions cross, creating a special place. We are also very different, not only in character, but also in our careers. Max, my older brother, who is in charge of production, is actually a mechanical engineer. I myself had an economic education and only later developed the desire to join the company. Rudi, my youngest brother, already specialized in wood at the Higher Technical Institute, but then graduated from the Art University in Linz. We combine Max‘s technical background with my economic-communicative orientation and Rudi‘s creative-artistic approach. The craft unites us all.

Fotos: Trewit

Wittmann GmbH
Mühldorf 4
4644 Scharnstein


Interview with Stefan Ehrlich-Adám (EVVA)

Since 1999 Stefan Ehrlich-Adám (*1964) and his wife Nicole have been running the family company EVVA Sicherheitstechnologie GmbH, which celebrated its centenary in Vienna in 2019. With branches in ten countries and a worldwide sales network, EVVA is one of the leading companies for the manufacture of cylinder locks and locking systems.

With Design Everyday he talks about the effectiveness of design in a product that leaves little room for visible design.

Design Everyday: Locking systems are a long-standing technology that is used every day, but which is also constantly changing. What does this dynamic mean for your company?

Stefan Ehrlich-Adám: EVVA is a company that comes from the classic world of mechanics, that has felt at home in this world for many decades and that is continuously developing the world of mechanical locks. Up until about 30 years ago, the majority of locking cylinder technology was based on a patent from 1865. In the last twenty years, however, new mechanisms of action have been invented and, on the other hand, the advent of electronics has changed the industry significantly. It is our concern, on the one hand, to develop highly secure, high-quality cylinder locks that should also offer a certain level of convenience.

DE: What role does design play in the development of locking systems?

SEA: Design has always been an important factor. The old, relatively large padlocks represented attributes such as large, powerful, heavy. However, modern developments are moving in the direction of miniaturization, whereby the space for the mechanism of action in a cylinder is relatively limited. The big challenge is to incorporate as much useful technology as possible in the smallest possible volume. This makes the space for design elements smaller. What remains for the design is the medium, be it a key, a chip card, a code carrier or a combination of these elements.

DE: Can you explain where the designers come into play in such a technologically complex product?

SEA: In the world of mechanics, patent protection plays a very important role. So that our development investments flow back, we as a manufacturer receive an exclusive manufacturing right for a certain period of time. This means that we either have to regularly equip our systems with new patentable features, or we have to set up a completely new system from a technological point of view. At the beginning of June 2021, we launched a system based on a completely new platform. We worked on it for about three years. In terms of design, the key shape, the bow and the way in which the embossings are arranged were only played with in the last third of the development phase. The shape of the bow suggests the type of use. A reversible key system in which the key can be used in both directions requires a symmetrical bow. A key system in which the key can only be inserted in one direction requires an asymmetrical bow so that one knows intuitively how the key is inserted into the lock. In addition to functional aspects, it is about finding design elements that make the product particularly appealing compared to old systems on the one hand and allow a certain brand recognition on the other.

DE: What is the significance of stylistic trends and zeitgeist?

SEA: There is a time element in design. The key used to be an instrument to open the door, today a key is something special per se. It would be ideal if we came to a place where just laying the key on a table makes a special impression. I find it amazing that design can make a product so appealing that everyone immediately falls in love. The process of how our industrial designer works together with marketing to link the design to a story is exciting.

DE: Are you bringing in external expertise for this process?

SEA: For about ten years we have had a very good cooperation with Georg Wanker, an industrial designer from Graz who has already helped design a number of products. In the past, our chief developer drew ten reids after developing the product, and we worked in a small team to vote which ones to take. Today the process is more professional and holistic. The message of the product is developed together with marketing.

DE: Your new Akura 44 system has strong identities. What‘s behind it?

SEA: It is our first product with strong recognition features, from which we want to generate a product family. Up to now, the rule was that a new key should always look completely different from its predecessor. Today the claim is that there is a recognition feature in terms of design that identifies an EVVA product. This is a first step and I‘m excited to see what the next will be.

DE: What influence do the possibilities of contactless locking systems have on your developments, for which I no longer need a medium, but only an
app on the smartphone to open a door?

SEA: That is not a contradiction. We have already managed to combine the two worlds following the idea of »best of both worlds« by equipping a key with an electronic chip. In the future, the two worlds will interlock earlier in product development and develop a common design language. With our next generation of electronics, design plays an important role right from the start. We know roughly how much space we need for our electronics and we have to think about how we can integrate the systems into the lock cylinder but also into the door fitting. That means it is much more visible and we have more space to use the design language. In the future, design will also be an important factor right from the start, because we want to have a say in the shape of the hardware from the outset, and this also has an early influence on the manufacturing costs.

DE: What do the ever shorter product cycles mean for your industry?

SEA: The maximum duration of patent protection is twenty years. That is why we have to develop a successor product or a new system after 12 to 15 years. This is especially true in the world of mechanics. In the world of electronics, components have a lifespan of around ten years. Due to these shorter cycles, we are forced to carry out redesigns more quickly and to adapt the electronics again and, under certain circumstances, to redesign them easily. Today we are called upon to deal with product development more often than in the past.

DE: Are the findings from the pandemic accelerating this dynamic?

SEA: Today we are dealing with contactless systems even more. They offer more comfort and are therefore trendy. If I can open a cylinder with my cell phone, that‘s useful because you always have the cell phone with you; the key is more likely to be lost than the smartphone. However, in every locking system there is a mechanical link at the end of the chain. Identification and authentication are carried out electronically, which releases the locking mechanism. Therefore, the mechanics in particular must always be designed to be safe and reliable. The proportion of electronics will grow and permeate the systems, but electronics will never completely replace the world of keys.

DE: How do you deal with the competition in global markets?

SEA: We see a big difference between the European point of view and other countries like the USA or Asia. The comfort-driven decentralized systems gain a foothold there faster. If you look at the design, however, you come to the conclusion that many products in Europe would not screw on the door because they do not fit formally. In the USA and Asia, functionality is in the foreground, while in Europe the design standard seems to be higher. That is likely to change, but right now design is playing a much bigger role in Europe.

DE: How do you explain that?

SEA: Europeans have a different approach. In Italy, for example, there are dozens of handle manufacturers who all strive to create a beautiful design. In Germany alone there are large manufacturers who also have a name in the world of architecture. You don‘t find that in America. That‘s the nice thing about Europe, that we want to score with the appearance. It‘s not just about the functional, you want to deal with things that you are happy about every day when you see them.

DE: You are, among other things, chairman of the Industry division of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Vienna Presidium of the Federation of Industrialists. What relevance does design have for industry?

SEA: It‘s hard to say because there is no cross-industry approach here. In some industries it plays a subordinate role, in mechanical engineering functionality and technology are in the foreground. It makes a difference wether it is an everyday product that tens of thousands of people come into contact with every day or a machine that is operated by very few specialists and that nobody sees. Design is a supporting element. It can go in the wrong direction if the technical quality of a product takes a back seat due to an unappealing design. That‘s not supposed to be the case, but design has the potential to increase the sales value of a product.

Fotos: Bernhard Schramm, EVVA

EVVA Sicherheitstechnologie GmbH
Wienerbergstraße 59 – 65
Postfach 77
1120 Vienna