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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), Stefan Ehrlich-Adám (EVVA), Helen Thonet (TYP) and Reinhard Kepplinger (Grüne Erde) were our first interview partners. Interviews by Sabine Dreher (Liquid Frontiers).

Read the interviews here:

Interview with Helen Thonet (TYP)

Helen Thonet and Florian Lambl
Helen Thonet and Florian Lambl

TYP Distribution & Design GmbH is a developer, manufacturer and distributor of furniture, objects and editions. Founded in Vienna in 2018 by Helen Thonet and Florian Lambl, the label sells a constantly growing collection. This includes new editions of furniture designs from the 1930s, expanded with contemporary commissioned works and graphic editions. The program, which is geared towards project business, is to be made known through an internet platform, a road show and showrooms. In an interview, Helen Thonet provides information about the company‘s motivation and objectives.

Sabine Dreher: Your name stands for the legendary furniture manufacturer who revolutionized furniture making from the mid-19th century onwards. The core of the collection of the company you are building up together with Florian Lambl consists of furniture designs from the 1930s. How did this initiative come about?

Helen Thonet: Florian and I come from the same industry, so to speak. We‘ve known each other for a long time. He studied both communication and product design. Before founding his own office in 2004, he worked for Meike Meiré in Cologne. He has been running his own office in Berlin since 2006, which was responsible, among other things, for the entire brand image of the Italian furniture manufacturer Mattiazzi. Of course, I am shaped by my family background and, as my mother-in-law‘s successor, I am responsible for determining authenticity in the Thonet archive. We said: Something is missing. There is a niche we want to fill and we are looking for something new. Originally there was the idea of​publishing designs by women, but then we came across Erich Dieckmann, from whom we had seen a chair. We were thrilled that there are entire books with designs that have never been realised. We recognized the quality and wanted to change that. The TYP project started with the development of the D1 chair.

SD: How exactly did you approach the development and what scale did you have in mind when you started?

HT: Dieckmann is a special case. He has been dead for more than 75 years. Unlike most Bauhaus artists, Dickmann did not leave Germany; his creative work was prevented under the Nazi régime from 1933. He died in 1943 and since we could not find any descendants, licenses are not an issue. But our interest in Josef Albers‘ designs also met with goodwill and we were able to produce them immediately. The Italian legend Cini Boeri was visited by Florian in Milan shortly before her death in September 2020 and she personally approved the new edition of her Bacone sofa, which we have in the program. From the start, we also had the PEL Chair in our portfolio, a classic by the Austrian architect Bruno Pollack from 1931, which was particularly successful in England. Jasper Morrison revised the design and adapted it to today‘s requirements.

SD: How did you pull off the project?

HT: After we had not only Dieckmann, but also Albers, Boeri, Morrisson and a few others in our portfolio, we hired an American advertising agency for the promotion. The idea was to meet architects and so we initially wanted to publicize our program with a roadshow, but then the pandemic got in the way and we had to postpone this plan. We used the time to develop other products as well. That was a good opportunity to differentiate our range, but the lockdowns delayed the actual launch for a year and a half.

»D1«, Erich Dieckmann
»D1«, Erich Dieckmann
»Pel«, Jasper Morrison
»Pel«, Jasper Morrison
»Beautiful Numbers«, Stefan Sagmeister
»Beautiful Numbers«, Stefan Sagmeister

SD: You also offer graphic editions in your shop. What‘s up with the prints?

HT: We have two editions in the program No News Today by Meike Meiré is a screen print series with seven motifs in which Mike superimposes layout grids from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung with influences from the Bauhaus aesthetic. Beautiful Numbers by Stefan Sagmeister is a five-part series that visualizes the measurable results of positive social developments. Both editions match our orientation in terms of aesthetics and content and are therefore a coherent addition to our program.

SD: In an interview I read the sentence that you are looking for designs that are so ingenious and plausible that they can be produced economically and at reasonable prices.

HT: This applies particularly to Dieckmann. We didn‘t understand it that way at first, but when it came to production, it became apparent that we didn‘t need CNC milling and that there was hardly any waste during processing. It‘s similar at Albers. That‘s what characterizes our search movement, but maybe it is just exactly what we like, for example with Klemens Schillinger‘s designs. Everything is clearly thought out and the side effect is efficient production.

SD: The pandemic slowed you down, but you started your program anyway. Your goal is the project business, working with architects. How is your experience so far?

HT: Our plan works so far. We have presented the collection as far as possible. There were two stations on the road show; in Vienna and in Berlin. Our big tour has not been cancelled, it will definitely come, because such products need a physical presence, not least to give those interested the opportunity to check the quality of the craftsmanship. This is particularly important for architects because it is their responsibility that a product they use is really good. Just online this doesn‘t work.

»A3 Daybed«, Josef Albers
»A3 Daybed«, Josef Albers
»A1 Lounge Chair«, Josef Albers
»A1 Lounge Chair«, Josef Albers

SD: You have very high quality standards in terms of material and processing, which is done exclusively in Europe. What are the effects of the current price explosions on your production?

HT: We produce in Italy and source our upholstery from Slovenia. We still feel little of the price explosion. It may be that something is reflected in the transport costs, but otherwise we are not yet affected by it.

SD: What are your short-term and long-term plans for the future?

HT: We have to grow and we want to open up more. This includes that we will set up showrooms, also in connection with cafés. We want to show that our products work and are suitable for project business.

SD: What criteria do you use to select partners for your contemporary designs, or do opportunities just fly to you?

HT: We have different approaches, but yes, the contacts often come from our direct or extended environment, such as the current collaboration with the designer Magdalena Casadei.

SD: Could you describe which developments in contemporary design you find exciting at the moment? In layman‘s terms, it is sometimes hard to imagine that another chair is needed when there are already so many models.

HT: TYP is geared more towards the lifestyle market than developing new furniture. However, we don‘t necessarily want to be trendy, but also like to look in the opposite direction to most of our competitors, even if that might sound arrogant.

SD: I don‘t think so, but can you be more specific? Is your anti-cyclical bias characterized by looking to the past, or are there other factors that drive you?

HT: I think it‘s a mix. First and foremost we ask ourselves why produce new designs when there are so many perfect old designs that have never been produced. That‘s the case with Diekmann, for example, and then there‘s the other approach, like with Klemens Schillinger: We had an idea about a chair into a certain direction and when we happened to see it in a gallery, it was clear that it would fit well into our collection. We don‘t look strategically into the future, instead cultivate that impulsive approach that allows us to combine things. We see something and say: That‘s great. We do that.

»Bacone«, Cini Boeri
»Bacone«, Cini Boeri

SD: Although, in your work with the Thonet archive you cultivate a decidedly scientific and analytical view.

HT: Yes, that‘s true and it‘s always exciting to see how modern the furniture from the 1920s and 1930s is and how well it has been preserved decades later.

SD: What can we expect from you in the future?

HT: We have various projects running and are always open to new designs. The collection grows with experience and knowledge of the areas in which we want to supplement our range. Gut feeling is an important part, but ultimately every decision is based on an analysis and is deliberately made after an intensive discussion within the team, in which everyone involved brings in very different perspectives.

An important factor is of course the question under which conditions we can produce a design economically. We see ourselves as
a democratic furniture supplier because we aim to offer very good design at affordable prices. From this point of view we sometimes have to say goodbye to a project. For example, we had a lamp from Cini Boeri that we thought was great, but in marble it was too complex to make and too expensive. Something like that is sad, but it is an important aspect that the prices are right in the end.

Photos: TYP
»Tube«, Klemens Schillinger
»Tube«, Klemens Schillinger

Schlösselgasse 11/1/26
1080 Wien


Interview with Reinhard Kepplinger (Grüne Erde)

Reinhard Kepplinger
Reinhard Kepplinger

Reinhard Kepplinger (*1957) has been the owner and managing director of Grüne Erde, together with Kuno Haas since 1993. The company, which started in 1983 as a small ecological alternative business with initially a single product, now operates 14 shops in German-speaking countries and generates sales of approximately 76 million euros (FY 2020 – 21) with nearly 550 employees.

In an interview with Design Everyday, Reinhard Kepplinger talks about ecological values, natural raw materials and sustainable growth.

Sabine Dreher: Grüne Erde was founded almost 40 years ago according to a certain philosophy and with a strong vision. What distinguishes the attitude of the 1980s from the ecological lifestyle of today?

Reinhard Kepplinger: Not much in terms of values, if you look at the outer appearance it’s worlds. Back then, the green-alternative movement presented itself in a kind of cereal look. I, too, walked around in dungarees. In the meantime, not only do the products look different, but also the people behind them — but the values have remained the same. For us, the central idea has always been to combine ecology and social thinking with quality and durability.

SD: How has the role of aesthetics changed in this context?

RK: From the beginning, we distinguished ourselves from others who worked in this field because our concept of ecology was comprehensive. You can’t make ecological products without paying attention to aesthetics, because if after years you don’t like what you have, you will dispose of it and then the ecological advantage is gone. The design of our products should be timelessly appealing. In the very beginning, when we couldn’t afford designers, we followed the example of Japanese design. For our first cabinet, we used doors and old wooden joints that we borrowed from Japanese partitions. In Europe at that time, in the 1970s and 1980s, the old craft was thrown overboard and they had replaced the traditional material and form language with Resopal panels and composite materials.

SD: You say that as a small eco-company, they couldn’t afford designers back then. Could you turn that phrase around today and say that today you can’t afford to produce without designers?

RK: We started working with designers as soon as we could. The first real designer we worked with was a friend with whom I remodeled the showroom building. He was then the only one who designed furniture for us for a long time, because at that time a small alternative company was not a desirable reference. Working ecologically was not cool. But that has changed significantly in the last twenty years. Now we are in the fortunate position of being able to choose the designers we want to work with.

SD: Can you describe the process of a product development in more detail?

RK: It starts with a mix of analysis of our range in terms of function, material, validity and design guidelines. This incorporates feedback from our customers, ideas from employees, product management, sales and distribution. This results in a brief for the designer that defines our ideas relatively clearly. Most of the time, this is not implemented in one go, but rather in several rounds of working together to get to the product. The process from idea to production can take two to three years, depending on the difficulty and workflow, or – if everything fits – just half a year.

SD: How many new products are added to your range each year?

RK: We have a rule of thumb: We want to renew our range one hundred percent every ten years. This means that we renew about ten percent of the products per year, although this cannot be broken down to the individual product. There are classics, such as we have had in our range for 30 years. Our first product was a mattress, the Weiße Wolke, followed by bedroom furniture and comforters. In this area, we still have a big lead in terms of quality and comfort.

Mattress »Weiße Wolke«
Mattress »Weiße Wolke«

SD: Your product range is defined by its ecological credentials. How exactly do you achieve this?

RK: Our basic principle is that we use only renewable raw materials, wherever possible from controlled organic cultivation or controlled organic animal husbandry. We only make individual exceptions if the raw material is sufficiently available, as in the case of quartz sand for glass, for example, which we need for our lamps and cabinet doors. Since the length of transport routes is ecologically relevant, we primarily use materials that are locally available. The wood for our furniture must not be transported further than a maximum of 500 kilometers to the joinery. Normally, the sawmills that supply our joinery in Carinthia are located within a radius of 100 kilometers.

With our GOTS-certified natural mattresses we have to make compromises, because there are no domestic natural materials which, among other things, guarantee the elasticity of our mattresses. Therefore, our maxim for natural latex, coconut fiber or cotton is that they must come from controlled organic cultivation. For all Grüne Erde products, we pay attention to transparent supply chains. If we can no longer clearly trace where the raw material comes from and how it is processed, then we say goodbye to a material and look for an adequate substitute for it. As in the case of cashmere, for example, which we have stopped using since 2017 and instead process alpaca wool and yak hair. Our consistently ecological approach often requires a lot of fiddling around, but thanks to the high level of passion, commitment and creativity of our employees, we always find what we are looking for.

SD: What consequences do you expect from the current price explosion on the raw material markets?

RK: In our industry, this explosion has already happened. Prices for some woods have already risen extremely in the past year, textiles even up to 80 percent. After a heavy year, I expect the trend to catch up again. But yes, the price trend has already affected us. Nevertheless, we have more price stability than those who import entirely from China, since a high proportion of the value added is in Austria. 60 to 70 percent of the product range is produced in our own workshops in the Grüne Erde-Welt in Upper Austria and in the joinery in Carinthia. This gives us more price stability than those who import entirely from China.

Grüne Erde-Welt
Grüne Erde-Welt
Mattress production
Mattress production

SD: Where is the remaining 30 percent of your production manufactured?

RK: We employ a total of around 130 people in our production facilities. We also have long-term partnerships for special manufacturing methods. To give two examples: Our Grüne Erde furniture fabrics made from 100 % virgin sheep’s wool were created in three years of pioneering work together with the Gebrüder Mehler cloth factory and are woven in the Bavarian Upper Palatinate. The Akri carpet shown at the Vienna Design Week, is woven by hand on old looms in Hungary, the design is by Natalie Pichler from Linz. We like to cooperate with specialists, and the collaboration with the designer takes place here in Almtal. Colleagues from the partner company, furniture designers and other specialists sit at the table.

SD: Sustainable growth plays a key role in your company, and not just metaphorically. How do you deal with it?

RK: We are very concerned about this topic. We deliberately target only the German-speaking market, because this way we can guarantee manageable transport routes. We currently achieve 60 % sales in Germany, 35 % in Austria and 5 % in Switzerland. If we want to become nearly as strong in Germany as we are in Austria, the volume would be 5 – 6 times that. This is not easy, but we are working in this direction. But we are not aiming for excessive growth. Our concept did not develop from a marketing idea, but from the desire to live differently and do business differently.

We don’t want to spend our lives manufacturing products that we know are harmful to people and nature. On the contrary, we wanted to create jobs for ourselves and our employees that enable us to live a life in which we feel we are doing something meaningful under beneficial conditions while enjoying our work. Our growth target is five to ten percent per year. At the moment we are at seven. At this size, we have qualified employees and can shape development in such a way that the processes work and quality is maintained.

»Asensio«, Thomas Feichtner
»Asensio«, Thomas Feichtner

SD: You come from the mail order business and sell your range exclusively directly. You now operate seven stores in Austria and seven in Germany. In 2018, the Grüne Erde-Welt was opened on an area of 25 hectares. How is it proving to be?

RK: We built the Grüne Erde-Welt to create a place where we can show how our products are created and what they are made of. And where we also want to make our roots in the Almtal valley better known. We soon realized that we could bring in and inspire many people who only knew us from afar. Then, in the meantime, the pandemic threw a spanner in the works.

In the meantime, however, visitor interest has increased again. Here in the Grüne Erde-Welt we can pass on our philosophy. We also see our program of events as an educational mission. It covers almost everything that has to do with architecture, design, crafts and nature. Some of our guided tours and events have nothing to do with our products at all, but relate purely to the nature and habitats that surround the building. We want to make these topics tangible, even if this has nothing to do directly with furniture and mattresses. Ecology is not a marketing tool for us. It’s not about printing a CO2-neutral label somewhere, but about a comprehensive view of life and work in connection with nature. This includes nutrition as well as the question of what our operating sites look like, how we people want to work, and what habitats we provide for our animals and plants.

SD: How is your current growth in area of operating and distribution facilities consistent with your values?

RK: All of these developments are built on our values: Our headquarters are located in the center of Scharnstein. Last year, we acquired a 60,000 m² site on the nearby site of an old scythe forge from the turn of the century, directly on the Alm, where we are planning a Grüne Erde-Campus for our employees. Since we need many specialists, some of whom commute in from far away, we would like to use the realization of the campus as an opportunity to combine living, leisure and work. We are taking our time with the development and have planned the project for 10 to 15 years.

Photos: Grüne Erde

Grüne Erde GmbH
Hauptstraße 9
4644 Scharnstein


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.

Photos: 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.

Photos: Bernhard Schramm, EVVA

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