MOHD interviews: Sebastian Herkner, design and craftsmanship

7 April 2021

Sebastian Herkner

He is a down-to-earth, determined but generous designer. He knows how to listen to companies and that’s why they love him

In 2006 he founded his studio in Offenbach, the city – not far from Frankfurt – where he had studied industrial design. In 2009 he made his debut at the Salone Satellite and already in 2019 he received the Designer of the Year award at Maison et Objet. Today, at the age of forty, he is the designer who most of all balances success and concreteness, staying with his feet on the ground and well-focused on his work, despite being sought after by the most prestigious companies. To cite just a couple of recent examples, Sebastian Herkner has just presented the Kontur lamp for Vibia, an aluminum extension of its Mbrace collection for Dedon, the Let armchair for Fritz Hansen and the Litos sofa for Cappellini. Among his most successful projects there is also the Bell series of tables and coffee tables for Classicon, but in his curriculum there are collaborations, for example, also with Zanotta, Pulpo, Gloster and Ligne Roset. He can allow himself the luxury of choosing the companies to collaborate with and this is one of the most interesting results for him, as he explained to us in this interview.

Can you share the Bell Table concept for ClassiCon with us?

In 2009 I was invited to participate in the Salone Satellite it was a great opportunity for me and I had a couple of months to carry out my projects. One of the things I had designed was the Bell Table and my idea was to turn the materials upside down. At that time, the choice of materials was very much driven by technology and I, on the other hand, wanted to focus on craftsmanship and traditional processing techniques. Here in Offenbach there was a great tradition of leather processing, everyone worked in this sector but now it has completely disappeared and the city has lost its identity. Craftsmanship holds together the identity of a city and each city has its own characteristic production and for this reason I consider it very important. And in the Bell Table I searched for the craftsmanship of glass, but giving it a new position, in the lower part of the table and no longer in the top.

Bell table by ClassiCon
Bell Table for Classicon

The Kontur lamp has two different suspension versions, the cylindrical one and the open one: can you tell us more about it?

You can create different effects with the light by putting it in dialogue with the lampshade. People can create different atmospheres and different characters. That’s why I wanted to give two shapes to the suspension to also give the possibility to those who are choosing the lamp to find the most suitable solution. In general, I like to work considering the product family and therefore declining the same idea in multiple solutions.

Kontur by Vibia
Kontur lamp for Vibia

You work a lot with the design of outdoor furniture. Do you think this field will evolve further?

Certainly. I believe that in a certain sense the outdoors is the new indoor and the pandemic has made us understand that the possibility of living an outdoor space is a privilege, you can also work outdoors, you can really live there. So it is a matter of designing many different types of furniture and also identifying the most suitable materials, which naturally have different characteristics from those used for indoor. People want comfort, they want quality, they want upholstered sofas, just like for indoor and therefore we need to carry out specific research in this direction.

Mbrace by Dedon
Mbrace for Dedon

In 2019 you received the Designer of the year award at Maison & Objet. What does it mean for you and what has marked the transition from being a rookie to becoming an established designer?

I try to focus on the future and the prize has passed. In general, at the beginning there is curiosity and enthusiasm but everything is more difficult. At the beginning no one knew me and now they look for me, I can choose who to work with. And of course rewards like this help you connect with people. And it was an exciting time. I think in general it is a privilege to work as a designer, to travel the world, to meet exceptional people, exceptional craftsmen. Visit the world and be inspired by it.

Cielo by Ames
Cielo for Ames

I think it is very difficult for the new generations of designers who, due to the pandemic, have not had opportunities to present their work because there have been no situations like the Salone satellite or the platform for young designers at the Cologne fair. It is probably a “lost generation” because companies must be brave to call a new designer and in times like these there is less room for courage.

Cover picture by Gaby Gester

Vibia Kontur Wall Lamp
Dedon Mbrace Chair
Dedon Mbrace Table
ClassiCon Bell Coffee Table
Fritz Hansen Let SH200
Fritz Hansen Stub Side Table
Ames Cielo Lounge Chair
Ames Barro 1 Pot
Ames Barro Tray

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