People: 2019 Designer of the Year

In Paris, Sebastian Herkner has been chosen as 2019 Designer of the Year. A graduate of Offenbach University of Art and Design, Herkner still lives and works in Offenbach. Why? A visit to his studio.

Not much has changed since those days, some ten years ago. Herkner receives the visitor to his studio in Offenbach’s Geleitstrasse in a relaxed, friendly, unpretentious way – and talks about his projects as if nothing had changed. However, it most certainly has – at the time there was a design for the Bell Table standing underneath the window looking out over the courtyard while today the same coffee table is a best seller. At the time, Herkner had just completed his studies at Offenbach’s University of And Design and today he is probably the most sought-after German product designer. At the Paris trade fair Maison & Objet (photo) he was recently elected 2019 Designer of the Year. Only one German has achieved this before him – Karl Lagerfeld.

Since setting up his own studio Herkner’s career has unerringly headed in one direction only – upwards. He designs furniture and luminaires for reputed manufacturers such as Dedon, Rosenthal, Moroso and Capellini. His work has been the recipient of numerous awards – amongst others, the IF Award, the Iconic Award and the Elle Deco International Design Award. He has won the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany, has been guest of honour at imm cologne and is now Designer of the Year. His great strength is the way he marries traditional craftwork with new technologies. Thus, as he explains, he sometimes creates designs on the 3-D printer which are then manually produced in little workshops.

He is currently promoting a sustainable project in Columbia. Three or four years ago he was asked by Ana Maria Calderón Kayser, the founder of the design label Ames, to start thinking about how the craft skills of Colombian workshops could be used to produce design objects. Herkner travelled to South America, visited small enterprises which weave carpets or cover chairs. This has now resulted in a whole series of products – from ceramics to carpets to furniture. Herkner‘s  latest work is already available from the design shops. To mark the anniversary of the Bauhaus in 2019 he has reinterpreted the “Frankfurt Chair” for Thonet. Herkner likes to call it the “Offenbach Chair”.

Indeed even this is part of the difference – whilst other superstars of the German creative scene like to surround themselves with the flair of such cosmopolitan cities as Paris, London, New York or at least Berlin, Herkner is still sitting in his studio in Offenbach, enjoying the advantages of FrankfurtRheinMain – urbanity, internationality and connectivity. And he has no problems with identifying with the location – “I appreciate Offenbach’s interculturality, the economic strength of Frankfurt and the proximity of the airport. After all, I spend half the year on the road. And for the rest there is always the Internet.”

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