“Every day brings exciting tasks” – an interview with the item Design department

25. May 2016 item Redaktion

Usually, the first thing anyone notices about our products is their striking look. But what exactly is the story behind this unmistakeable image? How do product developers and designers work together? And what is a designer’s ordinary working day like?

The following interview with our design team offers a detailed insight into all this and more.

Design is very important at item. Why is that?

Today, design is becoming increasingly important as a way of standing out from the competition – even in an industrial context. It’s not just about the individual product, but about the overall image of the item brand – it’s corporate identity, if you like. This identity runs through every part of the company, from the company architecture, print media and website to trade fair stands, the company fleet, work clothing and even promotional gifts. Every aspect of the company speaks the same, very clear design language. Design and innovation have always been high on the agenda throughout the company’s history. Indeed, the owners’ affinity with design has played a key role since the very start.

How does this focus on design manifest itself in the products?

All our products have to meet stringent design requirements in terms of both form and function. That includes, for example, their ergonomics, look, feel, material and colour. The design and product development process starts with identifying customer requirements, ergonomic demands and the relevant commercial and technical circumstances. Based on that, the designers work with the engineers to develop, check and optimise concepts.

We maintain close, interdepartmental cooperation that generates synergies. This helps us run an efficient product development process and produce a wide range of products every year that boast outstanding technical and design credentials. What’s more, we are very proud that item products are regular recipients of prestigious design awards. For customers, these awards are proof of design quality.

Are ideas turned down very often because of design?

Over the years, the design team has developed a design language that is applied to all new products. Since design is an integral part of the entire development process, ideas are rarely turned down. Feasibility and cost-effectiveness are always a real priority in product development.

How important is design to new products? What kind of weighting does it have?

There are no half measures. Particularly when it comes to the new products, it is extremely important to pursue a standardised design guideline. And, of course, design is also a commercial factor. Ultimately – whether you’re operating in the consumer sector or in an industrial context – it is people who decide whether or not to buy something. A well designed, easily understandable product has a much better chance on the market.

So, can a product be “over-designed”? What would be the down-sides?

Design covers a lot of factors. A good product will account for all those factors and strike a balance between them. If there isn’t this balance, then it simply isn’t a good product. In that kind of context, “over-designed” can mean a lack of balance between form and function, for example. That’s particularly bad in an industrial concept, where a product’s form has to enhance its usefulness. That is why our design approach is very subtle, pragmatic and accessible. That’s the difference between design and art!

What’s a typical working day in the Design department like?

As designers, we work with the engineers on a whole range of projects in various stages of development, so our working day can vary a lot. Some projects are just being launched, so we’ll be carrying out wide-ranging market analyses for those. Others will be in the concept phase and we’ll be sketching out the first concepts by hand on paper. When the ideas start to take shape, we’ll use a CAD program to develop them on the computer. Further down the line, we’ll create the actual prototypes, which are produced using a rapid prototyping process or as milled parts.

The prototypes are the basis for ongoing discussions, functional testing and ergonomics checks. Twice a year, there’s also a photoshoot for our new product catalogues, which is also organised and supported by designers. There’s a lot to do. Every day brings exciting tasks.