Germany needs "new design language"
- German design prize organiser


Germany needs "new design language," says German design prize organiser

News: German industry needs to move away from the minimalist, Bauhaus-inspired aesthetic and develop a new design language is order to stay competitive, according to the organiser of the country's national design prize.

"German design is very functional, very minimal, but the world is moving," said Joerg Suermann, who earlier this year took over responsibility for the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany. "To be successful in the future we have to think about what will happen in the future, what is necessary for the future."

Suermann said that a new generation of German designers were turning their backs on the rationalist approach pioneered by German schools such as the Bauhaus and the Ulm School of Design, and whose pared-down aesthetic has dominated German industrial design.

"The young generation want to change something," Suermann told Dezeen. "They want to have a new design language. I think it's important to give them the visibility and to show off to the international [community] that we have not only Bauhaus, not only Ulm, that a lot of new things are happening."

Suermann is managing director of DMY Berlin, which this year took over administration of the state-backed design prize from the Frankfurt-based German Design Council, which had organised the award for 42 years. The prize will now be awarded in Berlin as part of a wider move to establish the German capital as the nation's cultural capital.

Under DMY Berlin, the award will shift its emphasis away from the big brands that have dominated in the past and instead celebrate the work of individual designers.

"German design is known in the world because of the big brands - Mercedes and so on," Suermann said. "Normally the big design awards are focusing on the design brands or companies. Our government gives the design award to support the design industry, and I think the designers also need support. If the designer gets an award for his work, then maybe it helps him to find new clients, and this is missing [other] awards. This is is what we want to change."

The winners of the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany will be announced on 25 October.

Top image shows Braun AG Studio 1 radio and record player by Hans Gugelot and Herbert Lindinger, 1956, Ulm.

  • Nick

    AMEN! In a world that’s becoming everyday more complicated, faceted and thoroughly global, I don’t see how minimalism can be seen as the answer or the way to follow. It has been, but not anymore.

    • Streetviper

      Especially this complicated and confusing world could use a dose of minimalism!

    • Herman the German

      Nick, just because the world is actually becoming more and more complicated, I would say the need for rational design is greater than ever. In the 1990s, people got bored of minimalism and designers like Philippe Starck made fun out of everything. Fair enough, but I can't see that being the answer to all the challenges the world has to face in the future. Otherwise I suppose the preference for minimal and non-minimal design is probably as cyclical as many other trends as well.

      • frank

        Minimal design does not have to look like Bauhaus, Rams, Braun or the Ulmer Hocker, it can look organic and natural. Good design is always a result of concentration and reduction, whether straight or curved. Just look at Max Bill, Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Egon Eiermannand or the great Scandinavian designers.

    • xiaoxi

      I can not imagine not having minimal industrial design. People put a name on a style but actually minimalism is not something to erase in design. It is still mandatory.

  • Streetviper

    Dear Mr. Suermann, talking about only big brands, which show Germany’s design to the world, seems not to be aware that especially the mid-sized are the successful ones. Why IS German design popular? Because of the reasons he thinks became obsolete. So it seems German design wants to dig its own grave.. sad.

  • Herman the German

    A fresh breeze is always nice, but is Joerg Suermann actually suggesting to move away from rational design just for the sake of it? Succesful contemporay design, such as the one by Apple, for instance, is quite obviously based on the Bauhaus and the Ulm School of Design so why get rid of it? His argument sounds very familiar to politicians in Germany replacing the German ‘Diplom-Ingenieur’ by a Bachelor and Master degree just because everyone else has it, and now nobody in Germany knows what to so with it.

    • Streetviper

      Exactly. Thank you for your words. The statements of Mr. Suermann ooze blind actionism!

    • ber

      I think what Suerman wants to say is that current German designers are more influenced by design from around the world – not just the gGerman design from the past century.

      A look at Germany’s neighbours often show a more witty, organic, emotional and sometimes deliberately messy design language instead of pure rationalism. And these influences can be seen in the works of younger German designers – which he tries to support with DMY and this statement.

  • mitchell

    Add more what? Unnecessary decoration? Stylistic functions that will be out of date next season? Products that work, are direct and intuitive to use should not be tagged with the styling term ‘minimal’.

  • Concerned Citizen

    One must wonder how Suermann got this job. His approach appears to favor the trendy, rather than the timeless. If the young want to change, let them, but the designs must be vetted before they become a movement. Maybe Suermann prefers the impracticality of the Japanese, which seems to have caught favor on Dezeen.

  • david

    I too agree with the above (except Nick – sorry).

    It makes sense to award younger or less established designers, but if anything I would say the German rationalism needs to get back to the Rams-led era of its prime, not move away from it.

  • I love how regardless of how clearly someone expresses their point the people who leave comments always seem to have avoided listening. Suermann is not suggesting new design for the sake of making new design, quite the opposite: simply, he is no longer willing to focus solely on a design language that was created and most relevant nearly 50 years ago. He is in favor of supporting design that responds to the CURRENT society. He is also saying that there are German designers that aren’t Bauhaus enthusiasts and that they deserve a chance to show their work. I wonder how many people will misunderstand this post.

    • Herman the German

      Bradley, you may be right, but I still get the impression that Suermann wants to set the goldfish free only to leave it dying next to the tank. In other words, I can't believe today's design students in Germany think they have to follow either Bauhaus or HfG anyway. However, given how important these two design schools have been, I think it's only fair to measure new ideas against them. Why not?

  • John M.

    Bauhaus design is timeless. That’s the whole point. When Dieter Rams lists his tenets of good design in the movie Objectified, it sounds less like pining for the past and more like a blueprint for the future.

    We’ve already had a severe reaction against rational modernism. It was called Post Modernism. It led to some incredibly cheesy design that didn’t stand the test of time. Much of it looks downright silly today. If anything, German Rationalism is enjoying a renaissance. Just ask Apple. Jonathan Ive continues to channel the same rationalist simplicity into their products with resounding success.

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Germans are the ones that fail to appreciate the power of their own design legacy, just as it is gaining new appreciation and prominence?

    • buck

      Yes John it would, wouldn’t it? It is actually happening. Have you been to Germany recently? Look around you and all you see is awful art direction, combined with ill communication and bad typography. I am not sure that the German design schools particularly reference their great past, but certainly from what I have seen the landscape is certainly not a modernist one. BTW, I work in Germany frequently but I am not German.

  • Stingo Rarr

    Mr. Suermann sounds like Julian Lennon complaining about his music being constantly compared to the music of his father John. Could be worse from the musical POV, I guess.

    • Wolfheinrich

      Setting high standards. But people are not that stupid so something really good will eventually be recognized for what it is. And music is something that’s much more exposed to trends. Work harder Mr. Lennon!

  • This sounds like a desperate attempt to create attention for something that should be subdued and supportive by nature. Good design is as little design as possible. But indeed, you hardly can run a design event by that, you need something flashy, like a design cat-walk! The reason why these people crave for more outstanding and ‘creative’ designers is that they can flourish-up their design awards and shows: pure selfish way of thinking and not supportive to support design at large (unless you want the cover page!). Design in Germany should do the opposite of what is proposed here and build on its heritage, rather than build on design pop.

  • xiaoxi

    From a Japanese point of view, German design is not known only because of the big brands. German design is always (and still) inspiring all Japanese people, who know about Doitsu. Why can they make refined design? Because of so much effort by their previous designers, experiments and research, based on serious attitude towards to “design” itself. And this is not defined by being German. German people invested so much towards the world of design.

    And there’s still a way to go. And design can move beyond the border of Germany even. Why be stacked by a German logo? Good design is overcoming nationality. When you see it, it’s just good design.

    Just to be in terms of “new” sounds ambiguous. Japanese can make new, Chinese can make new, French can also make new. So what is this very strong back bone of German design? I think it’s time to study German design again.

    And personally, I love German design as it is and I love this photo – very nice and even humanistic – and even you would think I need to keep it longer in my life. That is eternal design or timeless design.

    Tell me again why we need (or deserve) German new design? To sell? Or to be global? Or to keep the No.1 position in design?

    Why not respect old times and what they have and make something out of it?

    Bow for German design.


  • Wolfheinrich

    This Mr. Suermann seems to crave some attention. He is shouting so loud. But I can see contradictions everywhere. Since when does German design need to be saved? Maybe it needs to be saved from people who don’t research what they are talking about. Throwing everything overboard that’s successful. We are talking about industrial design here, I assume, and not art.

  • tobi

    So Apple is winning everything, getting every bit of attention design-wise by creating things with the so-called: “minimalist, Bauhaus-inspired aesthetic” and Germans should move away from it?

    Why should we? This is what made German design famous and why does everyone have to go global and do the same things?

    Doesn’t make any sense to me, to be honest. I dont see Zaha Hadid doing anything but what she does best, creating organic buildings.

    Stick with what you’re good at. ‘The world moves on’ doesn’t mean minimialistic, functional design is out of date.

  • I’m confused. In looking at the German Design Council webpage they clearly state that they are a “service provider for business… and corporations”. Looking at their history page they clearly state that they are a non-profit. In the US that would be considered a conflict of interest. It sounds like Mr Suermann is simply trying to rectify this conflict.

  • rubadub

    Why end a great tradition?

  • rich

    I think there are many, including Mr. Suermann, who regularly confuse “design” (an holistic process) with “styling” or decoration that has to do with marketing, fluctuating taste and planned obsolescence. Remembering George Nelson’s observation that people get tired of things, there is nothing more certain than change; change for change’s sake often lacks integrity as does stagnation.

  • Nick

    I think “minimalism” should not, as any other thing except quality, become something to follow or do just because. I think that every approach to designing something should start from an analysis of the object in what it does but also in what it says. I can see why there’s a trend in designing highly technological objects in a very clear, simple way. But does it have to be the way? Not at all. Every time we reach a standard it’s time to think about overcoming it. I think this is at the core of the design process and of the human mind.

    • Streetviper

      Be careful in using the word “trend”, here today, gone tomorrow. If it is one’s intent to create temporary products – okay. BUT isn´t industrial design about creating items that make life easier? I still cannot see what is wrong with designing “highly technological objects in a very clear, simple way”. That should be the goal in designing something here should’t it? “User friendly” or even “easy to use” rather than unnecessarily complex and difficult to use. It does not HAVE to be that way but nobody will buy the product… It sounds like you are talking more about art than industrial design.

      Since when does German industrial design need to overcome a standard that is approved for decades and cherished for the standard? Think of “made in Germany” and what it implies! It is not at the core of the design process. I hope nobody teaches that seriously.

  • German #design? I try to avoid it as it is cold, unemotional, unnatural, boring. Timeless? I'm living in time, my ancestors lived in time – do you live in time? Death is timeless and Germans' design is sending out exactly this message. The 50s surely needed this design language for expressing their experiences with war and death and for getting back stability by an unchangeable square coffin design. For a living human being there must be more, something sensual, something that expresses life not death. We really need a new design language.

    I'm not talking about more bottons and blurring features. May be the other way round: I'm thinking of something not even minimalistic but invisible, fully integrated in the organic environment.

  • jason

    Forget the New Coke. Keep up the clean lines and minimal design work Germany. We (the world) love you for it.

  • andi_ger

    I do appreciate the fact that individual designers are going to be supported through the Design Prize. But I think demanding a new “design language” just for the sake of it is the wrong way to go. Most of the important “design languages” in the pretty brief history of industrial design developed because of a certain need in the particular time. So now that we have styled anything in abundance, why not design a new “design-language”.