By 'defining function in human terms' the German designer KONSTANTIN GRCIC (1965-) has developed a design language that combines formal rigour with subtle humour in the design products and furniture for manufacturers such as Authentics, Flos, Krups and Magis.
When Groupe SEB, the French kitchen appliances manufacturer, selected individual designers to define the image of each of its brands, it chose the German designer Konstantin Grcic for Krups because it believed that he shared the “precise, professional and structured” qualities of the marque. Grcic approaches each new project with analytical rigour to produce a formally disciplined design solution, which is often enlivened by humour and always grounded in the way that people will respond to – and use – the finished product.
Born in Munich in 1965, Konstantin Grcic studied carpentry and cabinet-making at Parnham College in Dorset before enrolling on the masters’ course in furniture design at the Royal College of Art in London. After graduating in 1990 he worked for a year in Jasper Morrison’s studio before returning to Munich to open his own practice. Grcic has since designed furniture and products for companies including Authentics, Cappellini, Flos, Iittala, Lamy, Magis, Moroso and Muji, as well as Krups.
For the first ten years of his career he worked within a rationalist design language, but has since experimented with computer design software to create more fluid forms. For the One series of furniture designed in 2003 Grcic decided to create a deliberately “strange” form in die-cast aluminium, a new material both for him and the manufacturer Magis. He constructed Chair_One “like a football – a collection of small, flat planes assembled at angles to create a three-dimensional form”.
When he was asked by Groupe SEB to design a new range of appliances for its Krups brand, Grcic concluded that, rather than adopting a radical approach to the design of practical everyday products, like a coffee machine and a sandwich maker, he should concentrate on refining and redefining them. “We approach a product like a piece of architecture,” he observes, “where volume and shape are strongly determined by the arrangement of the inner technical components, user ergonomics and specific features.”
Briefed by Groupe SEB to develop a coherent design language for all Krups products, Grcic has identified what he calls a series of “formal codes” for the brand. He describes these codes as “simple, legible elements, which when put together form a coherent unit that ensures consistency.” These codes are defined by his interpretation of Krups’ characteristics. “Krups is historically a German brand and we try to pick up on that tradition of functionality, quality, sturdiness, longevity and refusal to compromise,” says Grcic.
The codes dictate the choice of materials for Krups products. “The materials must be honest, such as high quality plastics rather than fake metal,” says Grcic. “If we want metal, we should use the real thing.” Similarly the codes define the colours to be used, and whether edges should be sharp or rounded. “However, these codes are not too rigid,” says Grcic, “and will evolve into a more refined and confident, even self-assured design language.”
Having identified a core set of codes, Grcic and his team embarked on the design of individual products. He describes the development process as:
Marketing and technical briefing.
Producing the initial design proposal as a sketch.
Evaluating the first design as a cardboard model and on computer, then making technical revisions.
Producing a foam model.
Refining the model to make a mock-up product.
Finalising the details of design and construction.
Constructing the mould from which the product will be made.
Producing off-tool samples of the product.
Finalising the details of texture, graphics and packaging.
10.Launching the product.
Throughout the process, Grcic develops his ideas in different media: on the computer, sketches and three-dimensionally in the form of models, starting with simple cardboard models of the product. These are, he says, “an essential tool in the initial design phase”. Grcic uses the cardboard models as a form of three-dimensional sketching to check the volume and proportions of his design by moving back and forth between the model and his computer. “It helps me to understand the complexity of the design,” he says, “and often leads to alternative solutions which would not be discovered on the computer alone.”
As the process continues and he has decided upon the design coordinates of the product, Grcic builds a more accurate foam model in order to finesse the details of the product. “Foam models are important for the refinement of the product by working out details such as the radius of each edge,” he says. “Eventually, when they have been painted, they simulate the final product.”
Visit Konstantin Grcic's website konstantin-grcic.com
1965 Born in Munich, Germany
1985 Moves the the UK to study cabinet making at the John Makepeace School for Craftsmanship in Wood at Parnham College, Dorset
1988 Enrols on the masters’ course in industrial design at the Royal College of Art, London
1990 Works in Jasper Morrison’s design studio in London
1991 Returns to Germany to open his own studio in Munich
1992 Designs products for the Progetto Ogetto collection of objects commissioned for Cappellini by Jasper Morrison and James Irvine
1995 Produces a series of metal stands and tables for SCP.
1996 Begins a collaboration with Authentics, the German home products manufacturer, for which he designs a series of plastic products
1998 Completes the design of the MAYDAY-map for Flos
1999 Designs a collection of porcelain objects for Nymphenburg and glassware for Iittala
2000 Develops the Hertz halogen light for Flos
2003 Designs the One series of die-cast aluminium furniture for Magis
2004 Unveils the first of his kitchen appliances for Krups as the start of a long term project for that brand
2005 Phaidon Press publishes a monograph on Konstantin Grcic
2005 Exhibited in The European Design Show 28 May 2005 – 4 September at the Design Museum. Exhibition tours.
2007 25/25 - Celebrating 25 Years of Design at the Design Museum 29 March - 22 June.