DANIEL WEHRLI — Interview
Recently graduated from ECAL’s Master in product design, we interviewed the Swiss born designer Daniel Wehrli (left). With Philipp Schuler (right), they developed the “.edu collection” for the national Wood Award 2012. Daniel Wehrli told us about his experiences and the process behind the .edu collection.
This interview is part of a series resulting from
our collaboration with the Design Days 2013.
Hello Daniel, how are you?
I am fine thank you.
Can you introduce yourself? Tell us more about you.
I am a Swiss born designer. As long as people tell me regularly, I have a Swiss attitude towards designs. I have been working in Japan and the United States, before graduating this year with a master from ECAL, Lausanne.
What is your experience and approach to design? Where does your interest in design come from?
I consider design as problem solving. I rarely work without a clear brief that describes it. I started to get interested how things are made since I did my first education as a cabinet maker. The better I understood how to make furniture from raw material, the more I got interested in creating than simply producing. That’s how I realised that I have to become a designer.
Today I have to admit that I create while I make things. I love to build models and prototypes by my own.
You have been graduated this year from the ECAL’s product design Master program. Can you tell us more about that experience?
Graduating from ECAL is of course an experience, it was hard work. I spent the last two years focussing on my own interest while combining it with ECAL’s projects.
ECAL’s Master program gives you the opportunity to get an insight into world class manufacturers, especially the first year is characterised by collaborations with external partners.
You learn from their experience and get trained on real briefs rather than to hide in a schoolish environment. It is this kind of work where the result has to be real. I appreciate that, because it is quite close to what I experienced at previous work in design studios. The second year gives you then the freedom of choosing your own topic. Writing your own brief and developing an idea from scratch to a finished product. I enjoyed the way of using a school as a platform to develop my own interests. By the way my final project is not related to woodworking.
What was the idea behind the “.edu collection”?
The collection was developed for the national Wood Award (initiated by VSSM, Verband Schweizerischer Schreinermeister und Möbelfabrikanten and the magazine Hochparterre). This award honored great achievements in woodworking and product design. I always missed a good relationship between designers and cabinet makers, especially when it comes to smaller companies, which is the majority of the VSSM members, there is a lot of misunderstanding in communication. That’s why I asked Phillip Schuler, a designer/cabinetmaker and Jörg Gürber owner of Schreinerei Gürber, to build up a team for an entry.
We developed a series of furniture used as teaching material for courses. The Swiss cabinet making apprentices, they are usually around 16-20 years old, are attending during their training several courses lead by VSSM. Where they learn things like; safety at work, working on different machines and with different techniques: From basic handmade joints to nowadays CNC programming. They practice on pieces of furniture, all quite small scale to reduce material, costs, and space. But few meet aesthetic claims, they are basically made to be built, then they disappear, few where used eventually. Our «.edu collection» aims to change that. Think about that: these young folks are making their first own pieces of furniture, for example a table which they could not even afford if they would have to pay it.
Each piece of our collection is dedicated to a certain level of experience and certain techniques, a real challenge in terms of design. We had to consider guidelines of the current education program at the same time we had a strong formal language in mind. Cabinetmakers in Switzerland often see the value of their work in precise craft not in terms of design. For sure I personally enjoy seeing a perfect wood joint, but it is a detail that belongs to a whole piece and an idea. We aim to show what could be achieved in collaborations with designers. Even though these furniture are manufactured at schools it has to be compared with things on the market. We are glad to continue to work with VSSM. As a side effect it is a great compliment to see the pieces also on the regular furniture market and fairs like design days Geneva.
Is there any designer or movement you appreciate a lot?
I appreciate Willy Guhl. When I met him in the year 2003 I was immediately impressed by his approach and motivation. Then I signed up for the school of design.
Which books are on your bedside table?
My books are spread around the living room. There is a Swedish book; “funkisglas” by Thomas Lindblad and Anna Livén West, which I try to understand even though I do not speak Swedish. And of course there is always some science-fiction as well as some travel literature.
The last word…
Thanks Tiffany and Dennis.
Interview : Dennis Moya & Tiffany Baehler – 09.13
Credits: Daniel Wehrli/ Philipp Schuler