As design aficionados, we talk about how much we might love this chair or that lamp. We have our favorite retailers and interior designers. But we don’t give much thought to the brains behind some of our favorite pieces, those product designers that are helping to shape our point of view on interior design. Schneid, a Germany based design company has been one of our favorites every time we’ve walked the floor of Maison & Objet. Their pieces feel timeless but also innovative. Owners Julia Mülling and Niklas Jessen are one of those cool, laid back European couples with a tremendous amount of talent. So it was only natural that we’d want to know more about their work! We caught up with them to find out what it’s really like to work as a product designer.
Tell us a little bit about the driving force behind Schneid. What was your intention when you started it?
Schneid is a design studio that focuses on the ecology and fairness towards people and our environment. Accordingly, our projects are driven by the attempt to create lighting and furniture that are sustainable and high-quality with a reason for their existence and the potential of a longer life.
We consider ourselves as a new type of design studio that is able to work more independently by managing the whole manufacturing process of our ideas. Even if it becomes more and more difficult to produce regionally, we try to find high quality manufacturer in our surroundings.
Can you each tell us what you studied before starting your company?
Niklas: I am a trained carpenter and studied architecture after my completed training. During my studies, I found my fascination for the interior design. After several internships and jobs in architectural firms, I decided in 2012 to start my own company.
Julia: I initially studied literature in Paris and Berlin, but I was always also very passionate about art and design. After we first met in 2011 and became a couple, it was a natural progression that I brought my sense of form and my understanding of the visual design into the company.
Was it hard to make a leap from architecture or fine arts into product design? We imagine there would be a big learning curve.
We benefited from Niklas’ technical knowledge from his time as a carpenter and his knowledge of wood. That is why our first products are entirely made of wood. But we also like to experiment with other materials – combine them in an uncommon way or take them out of their actual context to use them as something completely different. That is how we learned about the behavior of different materials and the possibilities that arise from it, which is very important for product design.
Did you work with anyone before starting Schneid?
We worked as employees in different companies and had smaller projects with friends, but we didn‘t have own companies.
How did you decide to partner up?
When we became a couple in 2011, Julia studied in Berlin and helped Niklas with copywriting and building the website for Schneid. Once she moved to Lübeck, we soon realized that we complement each other professionally due to our different backgrounds.
What is most important thing you’ve learned in the process of starting your company?
You have to stay positive and believe in what you do. This is really important, especially in the beginning when you are taking on a lot of risks financially and you aren’t immediately successful.
That’s is really good advice for any start-up! Tell us about the materials you use in your designs. How did you choose them and what was the process in selecting/perfecting them?
One of our favorite materials is wood. In architecture and design it has a a long and rich history, especially in Scandinavian design. It’s also easy to work with because of the fact that it can be quickly regrown, and gives a space a warmth.
You are based in Lübeck, Germany. Tell us a bit about the design scene there?
As Lübeck is not very known for its design scene, there are still a lot of possibilities to establish studios in large spaces without paying huge rents. This advantage has brought some designers from Hamburg to Lübeck (one hour away by car), so that there is a rather small, but very well connected design scene. We’d say that here, designers are influenced by the Scandinavian design, because of the city’s proximity to Copenhagen.
You just moved into your new studio. Tell us how you found it and why you chose it?
Lübeck is a very historical city with a harbor that was very important during the Industrial period, with lots of empty buildings from this era. Our former studio was very little and as our company grew, we had to think about moving out of the center of the city to get something bigger. When we found our present studio, we really liked that it was located in very old industrial area and with lots of historical character (it was built in 1873). We recently restored one part of about 500 m2 of this factory building. So our studio is not only our office, but also workshop, photo studio, showroom and warehouse!
Did you make any of the furniture in it?
The furniture is a mix of old design classics – like the Bertoia Diamond Chair or the Eames Rocking Chair – prototypes and products from our company, and a couple of pieces from our friend Frederik Kurzweg. The clothing rack for example is a prototype, which goes in production very soon.
We have to ask – what designer, past or present, has influenced you the most?
We are mostly influenced by Scandinavian designers, such as Alvar Aalto or Arne Jacobsen. We also love Ettore Sottsass designs for their playful and colorful approach.
Can you share a site or an Instagram account that you get inspiration from?
We love @_sightunseen_ ‘s images!
Finally, what is one of the best and one hardest things about product design?
The best thing is that it’s a fast process so you can see and hold in your hands the results of your own ideas. We love the creation, experimentation and feedback process of designing a product. The hardest part is to find someone who can do a series of production of a piece that you’ve finally decided to run with. It’s a very time consuming process.
To learn more about Julia, Niklas, and Schneid, start the slideshow!