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Designer Talks: Kilian Schindler

German-based product designer Kilian Schindler is the talent behind renowned French company Tolix and the ONO collection by Thomas at Rosenthal GmbH. Concept Kitchen, Schindler's most recent collaboration with Naber GmbH has gained praise and recognition for its refreshingly designed modular kitchen system.

His product development approach is based on extensive research and taking in to account the needs of the consumer. Read on below for more insight on his creative process.

Do you have a greatest career moment? If so, what was it?

Actually I had 3 greatest career moments so far, each one being a simple phone call. The first was Mr. Naber who asked me to develop a radical modular kitchen system. It was really exciting because he was the first person who believed in my potential as a designer. The second phone call was done by Chantal Andriot (CEO of TOLIX). She trusted in my strategic competence as a creative director for a brand full of heritage. And last, but not least, was Robert Suk, Head of the Creative Center of Rosenthal. He's an enthusiastic concept genius who asked me to design the new range of tableware for Thomas, with a pretty challenging aim: creating a self-evident best-seller for everyday life. Simple, modest, clever though with personality.

Once an idea is convincing to me I'm looking to transmit my enthusiasm to my clients and propose ways to seduce even their clients. As I did with Rosenthal. Since the beginning of the project we, Robert Suk (Product Development) and Andreas Gerecke (Marketing Director) and I worked together as a team, parallel and intensively on two levels: the product development and the marketing strategy. This was the best way to be able to propose a holistic project to a demanding market/audience for Thomas.

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What was your most challenging career moment?

For a project for the brand TOLIX, I invited 8 different designers, including Konstantin Grcic, Forma Fantasma, Sebastian Herkner, and Bethan Laura Wood among them, to honor the signature "chaise A" bistro chair produced for the first time 80 years ago. To coordinate 8 masterminds was a great, challenging experience. The project is called: Face to face with an icon!

What is the basis of your design strategy?

Observation and holistic/integral product development. My design process always starts with a profound research of objective facts and emotional perception. Good guidelines in this process are the brand's image, the potential target group needs, and smart production solutions. Once an idea is convincing to me I'm looking to transmit my enthusiasm to my clients (i.e., Rosenthal) and propose ways to seduce even their clients.

What do you consider to be your design expertise?

I like to attend/accompany ideas from their birth until they can walk/assert themselves independently. I love concepts, strategies, shapes and visuals.

Where do you seek inspiration to kick-start your creative process?

This might sound cliché, but I do get inspiration from a column in an intellectual newspaper as well as from a stupid blockbuster film.

I like to attend/accompany ideas from their birth until they can walk/assert themselves independently. I love concepts, strategies shapes and visuals.

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

You have to feel it. To get this feeling is much easier when you have well thought out and structured your goals /aims. In the case of ONO, the collaboration with Robert Suk was fundamentally helpful. He has a striking instinct, and a very clear vision on the brand identity of Thomas.

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

I'm really focused on the brand's need. Of course I'm not a creative prostitute but I think designers should respect the rules of the game when they want to play with the industry. Usually it's much more fun when you have open-minded teammates like the Rosenthal guys. Every meeting was like a practice where we could discuss on equal terms the strategy to design a winning product like ONO.

How would you define your personal design aesthetic?

I'm rather eclectic and love the mix and match principle of original/independent characters. Of course as a German I'm pretty influenced by the stringent style of Bauhaus but at the same time I do appreciate very much the emotional quality of Ettore Sottsass's work or paintings from Nathalie du Pasquier or the archaic elegance of the work of Forma Fantasma.

Do you have any rules regarding design?

Try to balance modesty and ambition for commercial sake. It's like ballet: At first you have to do a huge research, then you have to find a convincing choreography/concept, then you have to exercise to present something striking with a very personal, emotional, seductive interpretation/touch. The audience should never see the effort behind it!

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

Chef! I like cooking and gathering people around a table. I love high-quality ingredients and to arrange them in a simple yet smart way. There are so many different possibilities and facets in the cuisine.

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

Enjoy your work! Consider it always as a project and not as ordinary work, but do work hard on projects. Stay focused on the briefings challenge and don't look too much at right and left. But do look/think further than your clients expect you to do. And, never put your creative ego above the potential of the company you are working for. Be modest but aim high!