During a drive through Zell am See, Managing Director Dr. Jan Becker explains to us how to create icons, what makes a brand masculine and why you can now also live in the Porsche Design world.
Mr. Becker, how important is it for you to set aside time?
I probably feel the same way as many others in similar positions. It’s important, but I don’t do it enough. I even block time in my calendar for strategy talks. For example, next week we will be in a strategy meeting with our management for two days. Because if you let the day-to-day things overwhelm you, at some point you risk abandoning the approximate direction in which you actually wanted to go. So the answer is: Yes, I do, and we also do in management.
Do you think you have enough time?
At Porsche Design, the timepieces are obviously an important product.
They are. Watches are among our core products, as are sunglasses and luggage. These are also three product categories that have a history with us. They’ve been around since the beginnings of Porsche Design and for that reason are well-established.
The Porsche Design brand has been around since 1972. How has product design developed since then?
The fundamental design standards embodied by Porsche Design have not changed. It’s about the equal combination of design and functionality. Today, however, the demands are different.
In what way?
We started in 1972 with the black chronograph and expanded to include sunglasses and luggage. Today, however, consumer electronics are also an important product group, for example with computers and smartphones. Implementation of the design poses a particular challenge because today – taking smartphones as an example – the basic design aspects of the individual models are relatively similar. There are not that many possibilities for differentiation.
How do you manage to still set yourself apart from the others?
With a smartphone, for example, it’s incredibly difficult to stand out from the competition using the front of the device. Which is why we work with different materials on the back. We also design the user interface, the menu and the operation, based on Porsche Design standards. Design is increasingly finding its way into the digital world. This is certainly an aspect that has changed over the years.
But something like a user interface is quite technical.
Our designers attend primarily to the creative part of the task. This also goes a bit into the IT, but the actual implementation is then carried out by our partners, with whom we work under license and who receive suggestions or specifications from us.
What sort of lifestyle does the brand convey?
The lifestyle of a connoisseur who doesn’t necessarily want to be in the limelight, but who appreciates things that are well-made and is also willing to spend a bit more. It’s a lifestyle characterized more by understatement. It’s also about attention to detail, to things that may not be that obvious. And, of course, quality is essential, not just in terms of the product, but also in terms of design.
In which segment do you see Porsche Design?
In the premium segment. We aren’t absolute luxury. In that sense, I would like to make an automotive analogy. Porsche is premium, but there certainly are brands that are even more superior, more expensive and more luxurious. That’s how I see it for us as well. Not a mass-produced product, but still deliberately attainable.
Porsche is known for creating icons. What does it take to be an icon and to endure?
Definitely a sense of timelessness and permanence. Something that briefly skyrockets and then disappears from the market is not an icon, in my opinion. Let’s take our sunglasses: the P’8478 model has been around since 1978 and has sold several million times since then. The design hasn’t gone out of style. Another important aspect is originality. A product that represents something special, that’s recognizable and doesn’t sink into mediocrity. A more recent example is the Bounce S. This is an innovative sneaker that has been specially designed due to a special cushioning structure – one that’s never existed before. Another example is our 911 Soundbar. We use a rear silencer from the GT3 and added sound elements. We actually use the rear silencer as a resonator for the sound system. And that brings us back to the subject of functionality.
Your focus is on men’s accessories, hence the question: How masculine can design be and what defines a men’s brand?
And there it is again – excuse me for coming back to the meaning and use of design. Our products are quite reduced and straightforward and our color palettes rather subtle with titanium shades and black. That, combined with functionality, is what makes us so masculine as a brand.
How do Porsche and Porsche Design work together?
They do so at very different levels – for example in product development. We launched the Monobloc Actuator on the market two years ago – the innovative chronograph works with racing mechanisms. We also collaborate closely with the PR, marketing and sales departments. We sometimes create spaces together where we present both Porsche and Porsche Design products. I think that’s the right way to go because Porsche is also thinking about how to present the brand as a lifestyle world that goes beyond the car.
For example, in the form of residential skyscrapers?
That’s right. The Porsche Design Tower Miami is the first project that offers us an entirely different range of possibilities. On the one hand, we can be active in the technical aspects of design and, on the other hand, present the brand. Here, too, we have been able to create an icon, this time in the architectural sense. Inside, we concentrated on designing the public spaces such as the reception area and restaurants. In the apartments themselves, of course, we let the owners have their freedom.
Does someone who lives in the Porsche Design Tower have to drive a Porsche?
Of course not. The Miami building has the special feature of an integrated vehicle elevator. In that respect, the automotive factor plays a certain role, but that’s regardless of the brand.
To what extent do transformations in the automotive world also affect Porsche Design?
Sustainability is a key issue. We don’t claim to be a pioneer in sustainability issues. That would be presumptuous. But we make sure, for example, that our licensed partners can prove they have the necessary certificates – this applies to both ecological and social standards. We check these on a regular basis through external audits carried out by third parties. A second aspect of sustainability, however, is that we have quite a large number of products in our range that are so timeless that they become companions for life. And for us this is also a form of sustainability. We don’t launch something on the market and come up with the next collection two months later; we have numerous products in our range that can be worn for a lifetime.