Interview with pure
Design that’s emotionally touching. Tom Schönherr has been a decisive force in making modern German design what it is today, and thanks to ground-breaking designs, he has been a powerful driver for making mass production compatible with customisation. In his interview with pure magazine, the Phoenix Design co-founder speaks about individual needs, Chinese predilections, and more – read all about it in the pure 03/2017 edition.
Henry Ford, who invented assembly line production, is quoted with the line that customers could get his cars in any colour so long as it was black. For a long time, one could really have the impression as if mass production and individual needs were incompatible. But these days, we can witness not only a new way of theoretical thinking, but quite practical possibilities to customise mass products taking into account quite specific individual needs. What has brought about this change?
Tom Schönherr: In the times when our goods were still produced by hand, each was really unique, something you could identify with. Mass production allows for cheaper manufacturing – but at the same time, this counteracts people’s desire for being unique and special. But this individual desire for uniqueness has remained the same throughout time, and it is particularly pronounced in our Western culture.
Will this trend become even more pronounced?
Tom Schönherr: We are only at the beginning of a decisive development. 3D printing is just opening up completely new possibilities; the manufacturers of athletic shoes are the vanguard here by knitting individual patterns. But even there, we’re only at the beginning, since in the future, not only the colour or the pattern of a shoe will be customised, but the entire shape will be affected as well.
Is the importance of design exaggerated? Design – along with the brand – is decisive for making a purchasing decision – and the brand in turn is decisively characterised by design?
Tom Schönherr: Once technical differences are only marginal, design and emotions are the decisive factors. Many products can no longer be evaluated in any depth; differences are no longer relevant, which again makes design even more important.