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Successful market launch thanks to the “Kids Design Award” – Episode 5: From draft to market-driven design

A modular furniture system for kids and adults; high-class, modern and child-proof – for this, Bremen-based designer Jannis Ellenberger was honoured with the Kids Design Award 2014. The children’s furniture manufacturer Jörg de Breuyn, headquartered in Cologne, supports the design concept as a sponsor and helps it bloom into marketability. Which challenges do you have to overcome in such a process? Learn about them in our interview with both the designer and the manufacturer.

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The prototypes for Jannis Ellenberger’s modular furniture system are being put to the test

Sometimes, the first draft of a piece of furniture and the actual finished piece are worlds apart. Mr. de Breuyn, how marketable were Jannis Ellenberger’s first designs from your point of view?

Jörg de Breuyn: Jannis Ellenberger is an experienced designer whose drafts were already really advanced – there were even first prototypes. When I discovered them last year at Kind + Jugend, I realised that a system like this is sorely needed. Integrated living is a trend, and the living areas for children and adults are increasingly merging. That’s also why the aesthetic aspect of children’s furniture is being much more focussed on now. In addition, I also see possibilities in non-residential buildings, for example when it comes to outfitting waiting rooms in a doctor’s surgery or lounge areas in hotels.

 

Mr. Ellenberger, what was changed in your design in order to get it ready for series production? And why were those changes necessary?

Jannis Ellenberger: It’s perfectly normal for changes to be made after the development of a prototype, due to reasons related to costs, production or shipping. Mainly, they are about technical details, for example which screws you are utilizing, but also about selecting the material. With the prototype, I used wool felt to cover the textile elements, but that would have made the furniture too expensive, so we chose a premium upholstery fabric instead. You will always encounter these conflicting fields: on the one hand, there are limitations due to market requirements and costs, and on the other hand, there are aesthetic and functional needs.

Jörg de Breuyn: For the sake of marketability, we added further elements. In order for the furniture to be perfectly suited for a children’s room, we supplemented the range with a bed and now offer stools instead of chairs. For non-residential objects, we also offers magazine racks.

 

How much Ellenberger and how much De Breuyn does the furniture embody?

Jörg de Breuyn: Most of it is from Jannis. His idea of the modular system and the general aesthetic approach have not been changed. The proportions and dimensions stayed the same as well …

Jannis Ellenberger: … you could say that I came up with the concept, and Jörg added his expertise and his experience in terms of production and market requirements. Together, we realised the market-driven design.

 

Earlier you talked about the conflicting fields of aesthetic and functional needs and market requirements. Does it mean that you have to compromise even though you might have preferred not to?

Jörg de Breuyn: Design and sales – it’s not always easy to find a compromise here. But of course it’s also about how much the manufacturer interferes with the design concept. It’s a difference if you only change a minor detail or something substantial, such as building the furniture with beech instead of oak feet.

Jannis Ellenberger: Of course there are elements which are simply not up for discussion. But as a designer, you also have to see things from a pragmatic point of view – after all, you want your products to be sold. I see myself as a partner who comes up with tailor-made designs for individual, specific customer needs and who accompanies the entire design process, from the first draft straight through to the marketable product. As a consequence, I hardly ever have to deal with limitations by or problems with manufacturers.

 

Mr. De Breuyn, as a manufacturer, what would you request from designers if you could make a wish?

Jörg de Breuyn: To be a little more pragmatic, just like Jannis. Ultimately, in the interior living industry it’s not all about purity of form, but about functionality and marketability. Let me give you one example: Designers love to create tables and chairs as they best show off their skills. With children’s furniture, though, beds and storage furniture are really important. Those are more difficult to design, but exactly what the market needs.

 

Mr. Ellenberger, based on your experience, what is your recommendation for designers of children’s furniture?

Jannis Ellenberger: First of all, the furniture has to meet the needs of the children. That’s why it’s important to see things and rooms from a childlike perspective. As the furniture is actually bought by their parents, it should also be designed in a way that is pleasing to adults. This is all the more true if the furniture is to be integrated into the parents’ living area. Since kids don’t just sit on furniture, but climb on it, safety and functionality are of utmost importance. In this respect, fabric-covered front and side ends that soften edges and also help to reduce noise make a lot of sense.

 

What do you think? Which requirements do you have when it comes to marketable children’s furniture? What are your customers expecting? We are looking forward to your contributions!

 

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