Tim Brauns leads a double life. As co-owner of the design agency e27, Berlin, his passion still lies in product design. For this feature, MONOQI sat down with the German designer to chat about his newest design obsession: blurring the lines between design and commercialism.
What’s your latest design obsession?
Well, I’m still inspired by flea markets. I have a collection of over 2,500 objects, all of which are demonstrative of interesting principles through the intelligent use of certain mechanics. I’m also increasingly interested in true sustainability – that is, sustainability that isn’t just a marketing tool. I think that there should be more strategies to extend product cycles through repair, re-use and re-purposing, especially when it comes to service design.
What do you dislike about contemporary design?
Hard to say – it’s a broad term. In any way, nowadays, it’s very hard to create new things. Even brilliant designs won’t necessarily catch on, not least because there’s increased marketing for “successful” products. There are also more designers and design schools. Everyone’s hungry and many of them are good at what they do. In the past, a designer’s challenge was to create a technical realization of content. Today, it’s more about creating useful content and identifying certain needs. The solution doesn’t always have to be a product in the end!
What would you change about the design world to improve it?
“Try to avoid new products,” that’s what my professor Hans (Nick) Roericht said twenty years ago. A good designer is someone who avoids new products and creates alternative solutions.
You’re both entrepreneur and designer. Do you have trouble defining the borders between commercial value and design?
Yes, because a “successful” design often only means that it sells well, even if it’s inconsequential. Many design objects fulfill symbolic functions. I’m annoyed by the incessant citation of retro design classics – people buy Starck juicers just to look like they’re interested in design. I think design should be more polarizing and challenge your taste. But maybe I’m overly romantic and critical because I haven’t designed a bestseller yet. In any case, ambition is a good motivator!
Are e-commerce platforms like MONOQI game changers for designers?
The designer’s role changes all the time. e27 has also had many different functions: a designer can be a producer, a sales person, or whatever. We also have an online shop (www.re-produkte.com) through which we sell our own products. It’s going pretty well. I think online design shops offer consumers a stylistically safe pre-selection. I can imagine that it is a quick and suitable tool for presenting a product to a larger design audience, and that the classic channels of distributions will broaden. It’s important to keep an eye on how the traditional channels of distribution will react. It would be nice to find a solution that could work for both channels.
Interview by sugarhigh for MONOQI.