An Interview with Sebastian Herkner, the Designer of the Year 2019 ⇒ Currently, the head-designer of his studio in Offenbach, a small town near Frankfurt, Sebastian Herkner is the new sounding name in the world of product design. In the midst of celebrating his distinction as Designer of the Year 2019, the designer sat down with us at his wonderful stand at Maison et Objet 2019.
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At 37 years-old, Sebastian describes himself as a really privileged person since he enjoys what he’s doing and can do anything with his passion. “I’m a privileged person in general, I can travel the world.” For the designer, travelling is one of the most important things one can do, because it allows you to understand cultures. “Discovering all senses of a culture is really amazing and that’s also a really huge influence on my work,” discloses Herkner.
Becoming a designer wasn’t exactly his childhood dream. Since a young age, he was always a creative person, but he never had the idea of becoming a product designer, since it was never a topic of discussion at school or in the media. “There’s was fashion, art, culture and painting, but never product design.” It was through a purchase on a flea market that Herkner learned what was product design. The designer was determined to use his skills to create products, so he started right in his home town of Offenbach, where he’s still based. After graduating, he opened his own studio.
With a five-person team, the studio does everything from furniture to lighting, accessories and mirrors. It has even spread to tiles and sunglasses now. The designer enjoys diversity and looks at it as a challenge, always focusing on high-quality products and good materials.
“Our generation is quite privileged thanks to technology, we can access lots of information and we can travel more. But we have a digital life and an analogue life. On the one hand, we have the digital where everything is transparent, and on the other hand, at home, we want to have the quality, like leather, glass, marble. That’s why there has to be a resource for reality, which is important and also part of my design approach.”
The designer prides himself on his high-quality products and the work he has done with craftsmen, claiming that he wants “to create companions for our lives”. Herkner also has a really sustainable approach to design and that’s why he focuses on creating long-lasting products, as he further explains, “We don’t have the money or the time to produce more waste. We have to take really good care of our resources. Marble is somehow ending one day. It’s really important that designers think responsibly.”
When it comes to types of projects, the designer can’t choose, stating that he enjoys the variety. When working with a new company, his design process is really about getting to know the company itself, its work methods, their DNA. “At the workshops, I really get a lot of inspiration because I see what they are doing.” For Herkner, every project needs to start with dialogue and observation, a collaboration between him and the client, requiring the need for a compromise on both ends. The designer’s style is always evolving, but one thing remains the same is quality while mixing traditional crafts with new technology.
“Dialogue is very important in my work but it’s also a very important message for our generation, to talk to each other, to be curious and open-minded.”
The designer sees the influence of traditional craftsmanship in today’s design as a paradox between the digital world and the analogue world, connecting it to the importance of having quality products. He associates that with the European culture, claiming that the continent has a culture of quality and craftsmanship, as he concludes, “if you think about the watches from Switzerland, the chocolate from Belgium, the fashion from France, shoes and porcelain from Portugal… This is our European culture and we have to really take care of it. It’s our identity.”
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