"On the importance of material in design": A speech by Professor Dr Peter Zec

On 19 March 2015 the Kunststoff-Forum NordWest was held in the Red Dot Design Museum Essen under the motto "Design as a factor of success". Professor Dr Peter Zec, founder and CEO of Red Dot, opened the event with a lecture "On the importance of material in design". Using numerous historical and contemporary examples, the design expert illustrated the fundamental interdependence between design and material: On the one hand innovative design requires specific materials, on the other hand novel materials enable a particular language of form.

Marcel Breuer's first all-tubular steel chair would not have been produced without the technique of Mannesmann: The company developed a method to produce seamless steel tubes and had the necessary know-how to ensure that the items for the "B3, Wassily" could be made. The same applies to the stool “Plopp” by Hay Design, as Professor Zec clarified. For this model, two ultra-thin steel plates are trimmed and fused at the edges. Only the air, pumped inside under high pressure, gives the stool its final form: a piece of furniture that looks as light as blow-up plastic toys, reminding one of an artwork by Jeff Koons due to the metallic gloss.

The high value of materials and production methods are further strengthened, since these can be transferred from one to another industry. Examples are polyester fibres, typical for the bedding industry, from which lampshades can be produced. As a representative for the sports and fitness industry, the expert named Nike: The sportswear manufacturer has developed a method which allows to weave the upper in one piece.

Finally, the Red Dot founder stressed: Material and technology are the driving force for innovation in design. These examples make clear that a product is often perceived on a communication level, but the basis for its aesthetic or use is constituted on a level of innovation, which includes aspects such as material, design and technology.

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