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Interview with Sebastian Herkner – Designer of the Year 2019

Sebastian Herkner in an interview - designer of the year 2019

When Maison & Objet’s invitation to the presentation of the “Designer of the Year 2019” came up, my first thought was – that must be a German designer. For sure. And so I joked with my colleague about it: “Hey, that can only be Sebastian Herkner, who would have the potential for it…”

And it indeed was Sebastian Herkner who introduced us to his designs, travels and ideas for the Maison & Objet in Munich on November 12th.

At the event, we first learned more about the theme of the January trade fair: “Excuse my French“. For Germans, it sounds like the excuse for bad French, but it’s actually the colloquial expression in English immediately following a blunt phraseology.

Sebastian Herkner and Christine Hiller at the Maison & Objet 2019 event "Designer of the Year 2019".

Sebastian Herkner and Christine Hiller at the Maison & Objet event “Designer of the Year 2019”.

For the fair, however, it is a newly-discovered curiosity for France – a serious international confrontation with French savoir-vivre, French designers and French history. In an entertaining presentation, they also talked about the special areas and interesting shows of the upcoming Maison & Objet 2019.

If you’ve missed our articles about the special exhibitions and trend topics from international furniture fairs in 2018, you can check them out in the journal.

Then Sebastian Herkner presented himself and his work in an interview.

He was very honored with the nomination of Maison & Objet, which he says he regularly visits. Since 2006, the native of Bad Mergentheim has his atelier in Offenbach am Main, Germany and works there with his team on various projects. In a small presentation Sebastian Herkner presented some of his older and recently published designs in a slide show.

The garden furniture design "Dune" for the company "Gloster" from Lüneburg, Germany. (Source: sebastianherkner.com)

The garden furniture design “Dune” for Gloster from Lüneburg, Germany – a new product series by Sebastian Herkner.

Including designs for Dedon, Thonet, Pulpo, ClassiCon, Schoenbuch, Rugcompany or Linteloo. And if you look at the designs in detail, you will naturally notice how boldly Sebastian Herkner deals with colors, how he unexpectedly combines materials and tries out various production and manufacturing processes.


Sebastian Herkner's designs are unique. On the left the "Oda" lamp for Pulpo and on the right Circo, Caribe and others for Ames. (Source: sebastianherkner.com)

Sebastian Herkner’s designs are unique. On the left the “Oda” lamp for Pulpo and on the right Circo, Caribe and others for Ames.

In the interview he tells us that he draws many of his inspirations from travel. His hashtag of choice is “travelingdesigner” on Instagram. There he publishes pictures of his impressive travels and great settings with his products.

When he finds a material, a process or a product that arouses his curiosity, it will be thoroughly studied. He is particularly interested in the artisanal production method, but also in the possibilities of how the material could change in order to become something new. Two to three years ago, Ana Maria Calderón Kayser – founder of Ames GmbH, came to him. She asked him to think about how to revive Colombian handicrafts in designs.

Sebastian accepted the invitation to Colombia and visited various family businesses there, weaving rugs, stringing chairs or working with black pottery. The idea to support these small businesses and thus the fair trade, convinced Sebastian Herkner. And so unique products, such as the carpet series “Nudo” or the ceramic series “Barro” black ceramic were created. The involvement of small workshops and the involvement of local workers is an integral part of the production of the designs. This underscores the awareness of social responsibility and of course sustainability for the designer of the year 2019.

The "Barro" ceramic pots by Sebastian Herkner - designer of the year 2019. (Source: sebastianherkner.com)

The preservation or revival of ancient craftsmanship is of paramount importance, as it is an integral part of our cultural heritage.
Sebastian HerknerProduct Designer

The same goes for the “Bell” table in 2009, it was the traditional glassblowing that fascinated him and with which he wanted to test the limits and possibilities of the material. It took him three years to sell the extraordinary table design (at the top brass and below colored glass) to a company. Before ClassiCon, nobody had much confidence in a table with a glass base and a metal tabletop. And since then, this design sells very successfully.

Among other things with the "Bell" table Sebastian Herkner gained international attention. (Source: sebastianherkner.com)

The designer of the year 2019 often uses a combination of different production methods and technologies in his products. Keypoints in his design process include: material value, color, sustainability, preservation of traditional manufacturing processes and thus participation of small family businesses and factories.

“The craftsman is my most important sparring partner.”

In his collaboration with Thonet, it was important to him to consider the classic manufacturing process of the long-established company in the design as well. The reinterpretation of the classic bentwood chair “Stuhl 118” is a combination of traditional bentwood chair and modern CNC technology. The design shows that Sebastian Herkner has the right feeling for his designs, stands up for it and has the courage to represent it in the same way in front of the customer.


Sebastian Herkner with the "118" chair design for Thonet. (Source: Philipp Thonet, sebastianherkner.com)

When it came to color, Thonet, he says, was not very enthusiastic at first – because it was going to be paint blue. Later, they dared and trusted him. With success: other colors have already been defined in which the chair will be available. We find it very authentic how Sebastian Herkner approaches his designs. He is a role model for young designers: to regard the inspirational and manufacturing process as part of the design – not just the end product itself.

Sometimes, as a designer, you just have to stand firm and stick to it ... and the customer or company must have a vision and be confident.
Sebastian HerknerProduct Designer

We congratulate Sebastian Herkner on the title “Designer of the Year 2019” again and look forward to his presentation and new products, which he will present at Maison & Objet 2019. In addition, he told us that he will expand the product family of the Thonet chair “118”, a new lamp will introduced at Pulpo, a new carpet for The Rug Company, with the Danish company Andtradition comes a new design and also from Colombia come new ideas. There will also be a new chair composition for Dedon and a composition for Wittmann.

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