Associate Creative Director of frog design- Europe, Ralph Christian Bremenkamp started at frog design in 2007. After working as an Art-Director at Pixelpark Berlin and as a designer for Ross Lovegrove in London he founded his own design studio in Berlin (2002), which worked on various projects for Chinese and European clients in product and exhibition design. In 2006, he also collaborated with Dominic Schindler Creations ltd. as freelance design lead. A year after, in 2007, he joined frog design, Europe.
1. How do you define yourself as a designer?
I believe that all facets of my personality directly influence my work as well as every single experience i make in my life partly shapes my personality. And I haven’t given up yet on my dream to make the world a little better through design...
2. What does design mean for you? A profession or a lifestyle?
It is beyond both. Yes, it is my profession- and it has to do with lifestyle- but just as one of many aspects of it. For me design mainly is problem solving. That can be an aesthetical problem as well as a functional, societal, environmental or economical problem. But it goes even further because you try to solve problems that no one ever spotted on. You try to enable customers to do things they didn’t even know they wanted to do - to inspire desires for something that didn’t even exist before. That’s where for me the fascination in design really lies in.
3. What was first project about when you started at Frog Design?
To create design visions on consumer electronics for 2032 published in T3 magazine.
4. And what was the main challenge?
It was a fun thing to do- we didn’t take this too serious though but used the opportunity to also share a slightly critical view on the future. The main challenge probably was in finding the right balance of creating thrilling images and a story that makes the viewer start thinking about it further.
5.Which five keywords would you use to describe Frog Design?
Innovative, international, professional, ethical and young-at-heart.
6. Could you tell us briefly your most remarkable experience that you had at Frog Design so far?
First thing comes in my mind is a presentation in front of the CEO of a fortune 500 company last week whose name i unfortunately cannot mention here. But in general the most remarkable experiences always happen in the smaller scale- within the team- every day.
7. There is a common belief as Italy is the homeland of design. Do you think that there is such a geographical differentiation over the design world? If yes, where would you place Frog Design?
I don’t share this common belief as I would rather say Italy is the homeland of styling. I’m not downgrading it- but there’s obviously more than that. Frog as a truly international firm with employees from over 40 different countries probably stands for a very global view on design. This is important because we are designing for international markets and global clients- we still see slight differences in consumer habits and certain preferences of markets in different cultures and meet that by our on site market researches and if possible staffing local design teams. So if I would need to place frog geographically I’d say it would sit right in the orbit.
8. Frog Design is one of the foremost global design firms that has been collaborating with numberless companies with a huge variety of industries all over the world. What is the challenge of Frog Design?
Probably the same challenges any design firm in the world is facing right now- but I’d rather like to think of it as opportunities as our clients really begin to understand that now investing in innovation has become more important than ever. So it is all about doing smart products- intelligent solutions that match the consumers’ needs where our work can really help our clients.
9. When designing, do you have challenge to shape the future or do you want to find the shape of the future?
Well I believe there is definitely no such thing as a shape of the future. Design drivers can be consumer insights, tendencies in cultural sociology, technology or fashion. Awareness of those is crucial in order to create relevant future proof designs.
10. Form follows function?
Might have been true a long time ago- certainly today we know form also follows a lot of other things- most significantly form follows meaning.
11. We know that Frog Design highly values interdisciplinary team work. Members of the design teams might be from various professions related to the design task, but who are the indispensable members of a core project team?
Within frog a project team always consists of at least one project manager to keep an eye on budget and timeline and the creative lead as main client contacts. Strategists and design analysts enhance the creative team. The creative team is truly interdisciplinary and depending on the project consists of product designers, digital media designers, mechanical engineers and software engineers. We have also several team members that work throughout different design disciplines.
12. Do you have any specific method to enhance the creativity within interdisciplinary design work?
Well – of course it is very important that every single team member gets his opportunity to contribute in his very own personal way – based on his very personal background. I mean-that’s what interdisciplinary work is all about, right?
13. Is there any planned work chart or specific method in your team while working on a project?
We do have certain processes that we follow or use as a guideline on our projects. In general frog works after a very simple 3 step methodology: Research becomes insight/ Insights become ideas/ Ideas become reality. This is all about understanding the market opportunities and the user needs- turning these into innovative design concepts and refining these into prototypes, manufacturing data or material for user testing.
14. Do you collaborate with your clients, potential users/consumers in the process? Where do you position them?
In every project we use several opportunities to collaberate with our clients. As said above, research is always of very high importance- and we certainly use the research phase also to collect information from the clients’ stakeholders and decisionmakers. Before we actually design we create a creative brief that is reviewed by our client in order to really be sure we match their needs. We have created various processes like for instance ‘frogThink’ that we use to ‘harvest’ all relevant information from client side and make it influence our creative work.
15. How do you define the successful design? Is it related to the selling rates?
No, not at all. Selling rates have much more to do with marketing. Of course our clients always measure our work by numbers. The good thing is: a big idea is always profitable. I always ask myself some very simple questions: Is it new? İf it is new- is it unique? İf it is unique- is it right? If it is right – is it relevant? ...and so on. Last but not least – i need to get exited by the design.
16. What do you think has changed in design world in the last decades?
The demands on product design have in fact changed dramatically. Ten years ago it was still quite common that design was brought into the development literally in the last minute- mostly after marketing and engineering was already set. Today most companies have realized, that design can have a far bigger impact. It is not enough anymore to make products look different- as diversity in today’s market landscape is already covered. Smart solutions, intelligent engineering, innovative manufacturing, consumer related product placement, sustainable use of materials- paired with a contemporary and compelling styling – these are the ingredients designers are facing today and that are critical for a successful product launch.
17. What should the priorities of design education be?
I’d say things haven’t changed to the better since every student starts with 3d modeling and rendering their early concepts from day 1. We see that most young designers are missing a general understanding for what design actually does- fine arts, free writing, music- even poetry can help to free up and learn how to explore and express themselves in creativity. Most young designers try to copy styles that are already out there and focus on how close they can make their idea look like an ipod- and I am seriously sick of all the geometric rounded boxes out there. Design can do so much more than this- and I see that the universities have trouble communicating this so we as creative firm find exciting young talents to hire.
18. In that sense, does Frog Design conduct any projects in collaboration with design universities?
We do collaberate with several international universities on a regular basis for years- right now we’re setting up a collaborative project with a university in Australia again.
19. What are your advices for novice designers?
Throw away all your fancy design magazines and lock away your computer for at least two years. You’ll learn your tools soon enough. Most young designers today seem to not understand that a great design has absolutely nothing to do with render quality. Learn sketching! Try out different media- don’t focus on copic markers- they tend to let every design look the same. Do not design for the media you use- I see a lot of designs that just look like they do because they were easier to model that way. Educate yourself about colors, materials and finishes - about semantics- and about manufacturing techniques. Travel the world, communicate, have fun! And –the most important- learn to take and give constructive feedback. It will help you more than anything else. Hope to see you soon at frog!
...culture that inspires you?
I have seen some of the most inspiring design on handcrafted pieces in thailand. When living our urban nomad lives in europes metropolises we always forget that people on the other side of the world- that have a totally different background- create work that is so refreshingly different from we would have done.
...country that you want to live?
Germany is pretty alright for now.
...cuisine that you like most?
...drink that you prefer?
I have a particular weakness for vodka.
...painter that had influence on you most?
Probably the sculptures of Barbara Hepworth
...writer that you like most?
Dan Simmons for giving his fancy full scope.
...kind of book that you prefer?
I almost only read Science Fiction novels- right now ‘The Sirens of Titan’ by Kurt Vonnegut.
...movie you like most?
‘Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind’. Jim Carrey simply blew me away!
...director you like most?
Tim Burton. Guillermo del Toro. And many others.
...style of music you listen to?
Very broad range from classical to pretty rough. At this very moment
‘The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’ by Queens of the Stone Age.
...your own design you like most?
A multimedia handset we just did. Can’t talk about it though.
...design you like most?
My Gretsch Duo Jet. Designed 50 years ago it still can not be made any better even with today’s technology.
...designer that you respect most?
Ross Lovegrove, Massimiliano Fuksas, George Nelson, Francois Roche, Santiago Callatrava... and many many more....
This interview was made by Koray Ozsoy and Ayhan Ensici in November 2008. Designophy ©