Red Dot Award: Product Design

Interview with Katrin de Louw

About sustainability, materials and trends in the furniture industry: jury member Katrin de Louw in an interview

In 2018 for the first time, Katrin de Louw assessed the submissions of the Red Dot Award: Product Design as an expert for furniture, materials and surfaces. The interior designer set up her own business in the field of design management for the furniture industry, furniture suppliers and material manufacturers. Since 2006, she initiates and manages the trend and event forum “servicepoint A30”. Five years later, she furthermore took over the responsibility for the materials and surfaces special exhibition “PIAZZA Materials & Nature”. In an interview with Red Dot, the jury member talks about her impression of the evaluation process and explains which trends prevail in the furniture and materials industry.

Red Dot: Which products do you remember most?

De Louw: There are many products that I enjoyed assessing and that had a high degree of innovation. It was a pleasure to see future-oriented objects with a focus on sustainability.

Can you give an example?

I really liked the ecological coffee cup, which is made from old coffee grounds. We are talking about a plastic product that many of us hold far too short in our hands. But here, the coffee cup is not alone: Worldwide, there are many products, whose consumption is harmful for us and our environment. With forward-looking products, like the ecological coffee cup, we are taking a step in the right direction.

What surprised you during the adjudication process?

It was the first time that I was a jury member at Red Dot. This is why the evaluation was especially exciting for me. Although I partly know the colleagues very well, it was interesting to see how we work together. Despite the internationality and the different areas we work in, the essence of our evaluation was always clear. We complemented one another well, argued very clearly and agreed with each other after the discussion.

You are working in the furniture industry. In how far do materials play an important role there?

Right, we are home at the centre of the German furniture industry. Since 20 years, I work for furniture suppliers, for whom we also develop products. The surfaces especially make up their design. The materiality, which is often connected to the surface, is getting more and more important nowadays. Intelligent surfaces, lightweight constructions and ecological materials rank among the current trends. This is why the decision for a material is one of the most important decisions when designing furniture.

You just talked about trends. Which materials are frequently used nowadays?

Especially young designers are open for new technologies and at the same time, have a big heart for sustainable products. In the field of materials, these two factors are being combined with each other and lead to real innovation.

On the one hand, there are furniture stores which rather produce for the big masses. On the other hand, there are designers who focus on the production of individual pieces. Can these designs be compared with each other?

In my opinion, the designs cannot be compared with each other. If a designer produces a single piece, he has more freedom. He can go new, exceptional ways. Nevertheless, the development of a product that appeals to the mass, is an equally big challenge and a great art.

What is the key to a good furniture design?

When designing furniture, the focus should be on the use. Thereby, the product can on the one hand just have an aesthetic use, so that the consumer enjoys the beautiful shape and the optical design. On the other hand, the comfort often plays an important role for furniture, especially in times of the ageing society.

One always says that each trend comes back one day, for example in the fashion industry. Is this also true for furniture?

I would question that. Of course, we repeatedly see that trends are coming back. But they were reinterpreted, refined and placed in a new context. Stability is of big importance here. A designer does not always have to reinvent the world. The sofa, I’ve sat on at my grandpa’s, evokes emotions in me today. I feel comfortable and this is the intent and purpose of a furnishing.

Designers and companies from all over the world still have until 1 February 2019 to hand in their best products to the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2019 to let them be evaluated by Katrin de Louw and her jury colleagues regarding their design quality. During the evaluation process, they do not only attach importance to the aesthetics of the product, but also to its degree of innovation, functionality, longevity, peripherals and self-explanatory nature. The awarded objects set standards in the design industry and show what the future direction might be.