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When the problem becomes the solution: Interview with Rudolph Schelling Webermann

About everyday life as a founder and product designer and the design of the Mood pendant lamp for Yunic

RSW Design 4to3

A mixture of methodology and magic - Sven Rudolph, Carsten Schelling and Ralph Webermann are the founders of Rudolph Schelling Webermann and have made the special to their specialization. They met in the stairwell of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Hanover on the day of the entrance examination for product design studies. They founded their office in 2005 under the name Ding3000 directly out of the university and have made a name for themselves as an award-winning product design and innovation agency.

Thank you very much for your time! Tell us, how did you find your way to product design?

S: I started drawing sneakers as a kid in elementary school and was interested in designing products. I came to product design rather uneducated and then had to realize that it's not purely about design, but that you actually have a lot more possibilities in this degree. You can invent products and solve problems. That was a revelation for me.

C: I also designed a lot of things myself early on. I went to Waldorf school, so I had a lot of creative lessons already. After school I went abroad and worked at a pottery in Canada. The workshop leader there had studied product design in Japan and thought that this course of study would be something for me. So in the end, one thing led to another. It was like a push from outside that got me going in that direction.

Portrait RSW Design

C & S: Ralf is a trained master carpenter and at some point realized that he was missing the design aspect in this rather purely manual training. So he was very interested in studying product design.

What does everyday life look like as the founder and managing director of RSW?

S: Our tasks are diverse and vary from project to project. Whether it's small projects like designing key chains or big jobs like designing an entire store concept: it's always exciting, which is why we enjoy going to work every day. The pure work or daily routine is usually similar, unless we are on the road at trade fairs or meet customers. Otherwise, we work a relatively normal 40-hour week and try not to do night shifts (laughs).

Your agency is located in Hannover. Why Hanover?

C: All three of us are not originally from Hanover, but came here to study at the university and we just liked it here. The three of us wanted to start our own business right after that. So it came as a great surprise that there was a support program for startups that were founded out of Hannover University of Applied Sciences and Arts. This support helped us a lot, especially at the beginning.

Office RSW Design

S: Hannover is totally green, you don't need a car to get anywhere quickly. I like the people here because they are very down to earth. Here you don't have to be someone or represent someone, you can just be who you are.

Your core competence is designing and creating consumer goods. What do you mean by that?

S: There is a term in product design called "low-complexity consumer goods." You can think of this as anything you can design as a single person or as a small team.

S & C: We play product design as a team, we are team players. With us, sometimes at the end you can't even tell who ultimately had the original idea. We are always discussing things and developing them further together.

You are convinced that successful products must satisfy real user needs. What does a design process look like for you?

S: Most of the time, the process starts with finding problems. In principle, that's already a big key to a successful product: that you identify one of these problems and solve it convincingly.

C: These are, for example, the whisk for Norman Copenhagen or the charge box for Konstantin Slawinski. We take a holistic view of the product's use and benefit, and from that we develop a solution that really makes sense for the user. As in this case: a whisk that can be folded and a Charge Box .

In collaboration with designer Christian Stapelbroek, you designed the Mood pendant light for Yunic. What was the inspiration for the design?

S: There have been smart lighting controls for a number of years, and many work via the light switch. We felt that these often tend to complicate or have a purely decorative purpose, or are not an advance in terms of handling. Christian Stapelboroek is a designer from Hanover with whom we always enjoy working. The Mood pendant light was a great challenge, because we could approach the project together without any specifications.

C: We wanted to create a design that is independent of apps, can be operated by anyone and will still work in 50 years. The golden dimmer, which can change both light brightness and light color by simply turning it, is not only beautiful to look at, but offers true added value. Whether for dinner, work or crafts with the kids: Different usage scenarios require different light and that becomes possible with the Mood pendant lamp.

What feature do you particularly like about the Mood pendant light?

S: It's the interaction that I enjoy. You feel like operating this dimmer. The action itself becomes something joyful.

C: What I like is the contrast between simple design and high functionality. That it adds so much value even though it's a pretty plain product.

What do you appreciate about working with Connox?

S+C: We often have customers who are based abroad and with whom you can't just sit down for a quick coffee and talk about a product. The best ideas come from direct dialog and that is possible with Connox.

S+C: You also know that the products are presented in a great setting and are among many other good products. Connox is an agile company, product development is moving forward because people are there who are motivated. That is fun. You realize that you are working with people who have a drive and want to achieve something.

You are also lecturers in the Sustainable Entrepreneurship course at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts. What is that about?

S: The course is about helping business students develop ideas and business models that have a sustainability connection. It's a lot of fun and a completely new approach for the students. Not only building a financially successful business, but also addressing sustainability factors as a high priority.

How do you put "sustainability" into practice within your work?

S: We now know what makes a product sustainable and what does not. Therefore, we only want to put products into this world that make the world better, not worse. Of course, this is always something that is not completely in your own hands, because you work for manufacturers for the most part. But we would like to be even stricter in the future.

Office RSW Design

C: We have a certain cradle-to-cradle claim. Our products should be recyclable or even already consist of recycled materials. Already in the consultation meetings, we nudge the companies to think about sustainable issues as well. We also attach great importance to quality and durability. The products we design are products that, in the best case, people will keep for a lifetime and perhaps even pass on to their children.

What do you wish for the future of the industry?

S: Sometimes I wish we designers were perceived more as part of the whole. In principle, we provide the heart with the products we design. That's where a familial idea would be kind of nice. That even though we are external designers, we are seen as an integral part of the whole process and are involved at an earlier stage.

We thank you very much for these exciting insights!

Article from the 2022-09-06, of Bianca Schulz

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