Philipp Hermes and Dustin Jessen met at Folkwang University of the Arts (UdK) in Essen, Germany. The two industrial designers carried out joint projects even during their degree studies. One of their early successes was receiving the Newcomers’ Award from the German Association of Industrial Designers (VDID) at interzum in 2011. We spoke to the young designers about the future direction of their work, today’s challenges for aspiring designers and the trade fair as a networking opportunity.
Philipp Hermes and Dustin Jessen, you were the winners of the first VDID Newcomers’ Award that was presented at interzum in 2011. How has this affected the development of your own work?
We won the prize with a student project that we did together. At that time, we were relatively inexperienced in working with the public. With hindsight, such a prominent trade fair appearance was a good experience and certainly an important lesson for us. The most attractive thing about prizes like these for young talent is not so much the prize money or the “honour”, but rather the contact with the public and the opportunity to get feedback on your own work and open a dialogue with potential customers.
You were awarded various other young talent prizes before you went independent with your own design studio in Cologne. What do you think the opportunities and challenges are for today’s aspiring designers?
We live in a world that is changing rapidly, but also offers endless possibilities. The Canadian designer Bruce Mau once said, “Now that we can do anything, what will we do?”. We actually ask ourselves this question more and more frequently. At the same time, there is of course the issue of establishing a commercially successful design studio. What were still reliable business concepts for designers a few years ago, are not necessarily going to work today. Therefore, for us, there is also the question of not only being creative in projects, but also being creative with our own business model – ideally, the two go hand in hand.
In your furniture designs, you experiment with the use of materials and construction details. What exciting developments are you seeing, in terms of new materials and manufacturing techniques for furniture design?
Historically, it’s often those developments in materials and manufacturing that have later turned a design into a classic. That’s why we see interacting with the latest technological developments as a catalyst – but new technologies alone are not enough to make a good design. We think that it takes more than that to make a meaningful contribution to the history of furniture design, which is rich in tradition and sometimes awe-inspiring. As a designer, you must confront developments of any kind. For example, we pay a great deal of attention to the issue of usability.
In general, how do you rate trade fairs, such as interzum, as a platform for business and a source of inspiration?
For us as a design studio in Cologne, the trade fair is a valuable opportunity to make new contacts and reconnect with existing ones. Both German and international manufacturers, suppliers and designers regularly come together here – it’s almost like a family reunion. As far as Cologne as a location is concerned, it’s a big plus for us that this get-together is more or less on our doorstep.