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Designer Talks: Alfredo Häberli

For product designer Alfredo Häberli, passion has always played a key role in his career. It's why he began organizing exhibitions while still a university student. And it's why, in 1991, he founded his own studio in Zurich. Since then, the world renowned Häberli has added the most prestigious tabletop brands as well as manufacturers such as BMW and Moroso to his roster as he continues to spread his passion for design.

How did you get started in product design?

I was born in Buenos Aires in 1964 and moved as a teenager to Switzerland with my family. There I studied Industrial Design at the Zurich University of Arts (ZHdK). As a student, I organized exhibitions at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich (MfGZ). Then in 1991 I founded my own studio in Zurich.

My clients include internationally renowned companies such as Alias, Camper, Georg Jensen, Iittala, Kvadrat, Moroso and Vitra. For the system-house-builder Baufritz, in Germany I developed a house-ensemble between object and architecture.

For BMW I explored the mobility of the future. My works were shown in 2008 in the monographic view <SurroundThings> in the MfGZ. Many exhibitions and some years later it was also in the museum Paul Klee in Berne.

Was there a defining moment in your career? If so, how did it shape you as a designer?

Back in the nineties, after having my studio for 5 years, I started to work for Alias, Driade and Zanotta in Italy. Later, I worked for Iittala, Offecct and Kvadrat in Scandinavia. I always dreamed of working for these companies one day and it became real.

What is the basis of your design strategy?

I only work for people I like! Also, passion and intuition.

How do you know when to stick it out and when to let go of an idea?

I always ask in the studio: Will we buy it? Does the object have a soul? Does it communicate or say something to me? If yes, then we show it.

It doesn't matter if you want to be a musician, a fashion designer, a formula one driver or a designer. I do believe if you find your passion, the real deep one, you will succeed! To find your soul, to know your inner self well is a hard job.

Is it difficult to strike a balance between your personal design aesthetic and the objective for commercial success?

Over the years, you learn how people think. If everybody is doing big, fat sofas, I do small, slim ones. I don't follow trends.

Outside of design, what things inspire you and influence your work?

I have a passion for art. I love cars and I have a big collection of watches. I love fashion, not as a trend but as an inspiration of colors, cuts, shapes. My inspiration is in the everyday. Observation is the best way of thinking. But I don't think, I contemplate.

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If you were not a designer, is there another career path that intrigues you?

Illustrator/cartoonist.

Is there one person who you admire or consider to be your greatest design inspiration?

There are many. To name a few: Enzo Mari, Achille Castiglioni and Bruno Munari. Not only have I known them for many years, I became friends with these wonderful people. These gentlemen were as humble as possible. They are my role models.

Is there anything else you would like to share regarding your career as a designer?

It doesn't matter if you want to be a musician, a fashion designer, a formula one driver or a designer. I do believe if you find your passion, the real deep one, you will succeed! To find your soul, to know your inner self well is a hard job.

What advice would you give to young designers who are just starting out in a commercial marketplace?

To only work for people they like! Follow your intuition. Work hard and give your time. Over time you will succeed.