Role model

08 January 2019

This month our Role Model is Christian Schluender, vice president of global design at Huemen. Launched by audio product design experts Harman in 2018, Huemen is a design agency powered by more than 250 designers creating products for consumer brands like JBL, Harman Kardon and AKG. We speak to Schluender about his Bauhaus inspiration and his belief in the importance of working abroad for young designers

What inspired you to become a designer?
I grew up with a constant curiosity about design from a young age. I was always sketching and drawing something. It was more of a natural pursuit for the passion then any one inspiration. I was always very inspired by the Bauhaus design movement and its early twentieth-century connection of functional beauty into the world of early mass manufacturing, as well as the works of Dieter Rams, specifically his fundamental ‘good design’ principles.

What was your first job after you finished studying, and what impact has it had on the rest of your career?
My first job was as an industrial designer at Teague. The impact came from many parts of that job. A focus on a relentless work ethic to own and drive your design through the entire process was a massive impact that I continue to carry with me today. I also saw the raw power of design; the impact meaningful design has on users and the people we design for.

Lastly, I was greatly impacted by the power of an amazing team that truly collaborates. You can do anything with an amazing team that shares values, talent and purpose.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in getting to where you are today?
The biggest challenge I have faced is more of an application of process and purpose for the commercial realisation of design without sacrifice. Design cannot live in a vacuum, there will always be forces of manufacturing, materials, market, etcetera. As a designer, you want to push those elements through your work. They do push back, and facing them head on to insure your design stays true and meaningful without compromise is a challenge I look forward to facing for the rest of my career.

What has been your career high point or most memorable work moment to date?
I have been so fortunate to have had quite a few memorable moments in my career. But, the one that still tops the list is a moment from my early career at Teague when I first saw a vehicle I worked on out in the market being used as designed. That was a very
impactful moment that still feeds my love of my design career. I think these are the magical moments for every designer.

In terms of your career, who has been your role model?
I spent a large portion of my career at Frog Design working beside the founder, Hartmut Esslinger. His leadership of design as a holistic connection between humans and the world around us was not only leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else’s, but he has always been so generous with his time to share with people and foster the future of design. He is a great role model on the power and impact of design when it is done with relentless passion for the user.

What design tools are you most reliant on day-to-day in your work?
This is an easy one for me: the tool I am most reliant on is sketching. For me, this is where designers solve problems, truly create and express solutions and seamlessly communicate with one another. Sketching is not just a tool, it is a designer’s native tongue.

With the advantage of hindsight, what career advice would you give to your younger self?
Firstly, work abroad, as early as possible in your career. I have had the great opportunity to work with people and in places around the globe in the last 15 years. This diversity and exposure has given me experience that only comes by spending meaningful time in a variety of cultures. My advice to my younger self would be to start that exposure much earlier.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to ask for help! This one is huge; it took me some time to grow to be comfortable asking people for advice and help. I would advise myself to get comfortable with that much sooner. The support of others has been so beneficial and rewarding.

What are you excited about in the future of your industry?
Design is one of a few professions where we get to create and shape the future, and how humans will experience it. The competitive advantage which meaningful design gives the industry will continue to foster so much more great design. This cycle will allow designers to create an ever-amazing future at new speed and richer impact. That’s very exciting to me!

If you were hosting a dinner party in which you could invite three figures from any time, who would you invite and why?
Robin Williams, Buckminster Fuller and Pablo Picasso. All three lived amazing lives as creatives who massively shaped and ignited their worlds in so many ways and across diverse mediums. I would just love to hear about their learnings, the moments that shaped them, and get their advice, as well as just listening to them share their stories. The chemistry of that conversation would be amazing!


Huemen is the premier agency to design and deliver meaningful experiences that give brands a competitive advantage and long lasting relevance. For more information visit huemendesign.com

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