When Reduction Becomes Inspiration

For a few months now, Andreas Diefenbach has been part of the Phoenix Design management team. In an interview with Wirtschaftsforum, he relates which changes his new role in the company entails, and what common denominators exist between Japanese calligraphy and his company.

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  • 1 – Use cases as part of the design process at Phoenix Design

    1 – Use cases as part of the design process at Phoenix Design

    Thinking in Use Cases: That's the way we design a holistic User Experience across all touchpoints focusing on the essentials.

  • 2 – Andreas Diefenbach, Managing Partner of Phoenix Design

    2 – Andreas Diefenbach, Managing Partner of Phoenix Design

    Andreas Diefenbach (*1979) successfully finished his design studies at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen and the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design and has been a member of the Phoenix Design Team for more than 12 years, among other functions as Member of the Management Board. As of 2019, he is Managing Partner of Phoenix Design.

  • 3 – Management of Phoenix Design (2019)

    3 – Management of Phoenix Design (2019)

    Management of Phoenix Design: Andreas Diefenbach, Joon-Mo Lee, Harald Lutz, Yifan Zhang (from left to right).

    PHOENIX founders Andreas Haug and Tom Schönherr handed over the management to the next generation in March 2019.

  • 4 – DELI D20 Printer Family designed by Phoenix Design (2018)

    4 – DELI D20 Printer Family designed by Phoenix Design (2018)

    Reduction to the essentials in Product Design: The D20 printer series for professional use consists of laser and ink jet printers, as well as laser and ink jet multi-function devices (printing, scanning, copying). The affordably-priced devices have a very large ink or toner capacity – cost efficiency and environmental friendliness are combined here. Grouping the most important elements into functional blocks with a graphic look not only supports an intuitive user guidance but also makes for a brand product with a high recognition value. The light colours and the clear design language of the D20 product family are ideal for integrating it into modern working and living environments.

  • 5 – STIEBEL ELTRON MyStiebel App designed by Phoenix Design (2019)

    5 – STIEBEL ELTRON MyStiebel App designed by Phoenix Design (2019)

    Reduction to the essentials in UX/UI Design: The MyStiebel App controls the Stiebel Eltron heat pump for your home. The feel-good climate can be controlled easily, the technological wealth of features has been made unobtrusive on purpose. The heat pump adjusts with just one click to increase comfort and efficiency. More complex settings are depicted neatly and can be operated intuitively, special functionalities promote sustainable behaviour in a playful way. The clear design with its precise wrought details communicates the brand values.

Published as ePaper Wirtschaftsforum (2019): Wenn Reduktion zur Inspiration wird [When Reduction Becomes Inspiration], Wirtschaft im Süden [Economy in the South], P. 16f.
>> read article (German only)

Wirtschaftsforum: Mr Diefenbach, since March 2019 you have been part of the new management team which is to continue the Phoenix Design success story that has been going strong for 32 years now. Which are you primary leverage points?

Andreas Diefenbach: Continuing the Phoenix Design success story is directly linked to the continued development of our partners. We want to continuously inspire them, change them, and make them fit for the future – today, but also tomorrow. “Nomen est omen” – it’s all in our name: the power for change has been a significant part of our DNA since the very beginning. Building on this, we will have to think bigger, taking our two core competencies of design and innovation onto a larger plane and looking at them in a more comprehensively entrepreneurial way. Leadership in design, and particularly in innovation, calls for a new perspective and for a culture of true creativity, for hungry development, for critical reflexion, and for variety full of curiosity in order to transform the human power of imagination, empathy, and the capability of expression to another dimension.

Wirtschaftsforum: If you had to summarize in a few sentences what’s characteristic about the type of design Phoenix does – what would you say?

Andreas Diefenbach: No matter what we create, all our efforts are tailored to real world needs and desires that real people have in their daily lives – whether they are young or old, regardless of where they come from and regardless of their lifestyle. Our motivation is focussed on designing a rational and emotional meaning from which we deduce innovative iconographic products and digital experiences. Personally, I’m always fascinated by Japanese calligraphy and that magical skill to express complex thoughts in a single brushstroke. At Phoenix Design, it’s all about sophisticated reduction and concentration of big amounts of data all the way to a single line that defines the core, the boldness, and the essence of an idea.

Wirtschaftsforum: From Audi to Zeiss – Phoenix creates design for the really big players in the German economy and around the globe. What makes you so popular among your clients – apart from your award-winning design?

Andreas Diefenbach: On the one hand, we are very approachable and obliging, for integrity is essential for long-lasting partnerships. And it’s precisely by reducing complexity that we manage to create value and to make our clients enthusiastic. This simplification often enables our clients to arrive at an inspiring vision which provides orientation in other disciplines as well. On the other hand, our pragmatism and our proximity to product development are decisive factors for our success in realising innovations. In our Prototyping Lab with its 3,300 square feet of space we create models which illustrate our ideas in a way that’s very close to reality to make sure they are to the point in terms of quality and aesthetics.

Wirtschaftsforum: The area of digital competence has developed into the second supporting pillar for Phoenix. Which services around digital transformation do you offer to companies?

Andreas Diefenbach: Our digital competence keeps on growing as a consequence of re-interpreting local analogue products in a global digital world. For us, this is not so much a second supporting pillar as the logical further development of our “end to end” approach. Together with our partners, we investigate the meaning and the opportunities of digital technology for their core business in order to deduce fields of actions that will be relevant in the future, depicting them and realising them. The product itself is unable to not communicate. By deploying sensors and actuators, we increasingly also design knowledge products which are capable of interacting actively and reactively with users, but also among each other and with the environment. This results in a language that we also design.

Wirtschaftsforum: Which topics will be particularly important for Phoenix in 2019 and 2020? Which dates, projects, and innovations may we look forward to?

Andreas Diefenbach: One of the essential roles design has to fulfil in order to be successful consists in permanently questioning the status quo of our partners – and of ourselves! In a world of products which may be substituted one for the other, the product experience has become the USP both for strong brands and for people. As part of our vision of Smart Living, it will be more and more about designing just this “experience” in the years to come. Together with our clients, we will create product experiences which are not just incrementally better by answering real needs; rather, they will be better because they will increasingly re-define the expectations people have towards a product within a smart ecosystem.


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