Bodo Sperlein

Interview: Bodo Sperlein on art, the design process and the making of Loewe's bild 9 TV

Bodo Sperlein

You’re no stranger to a challenge having worked with a number of iconic international brands. What is it about Loewe that captured your attention as a brand? Is there anything in particular about their history, their design philosophy etc.?

As Loewe were responsible for the first electronic film transmission in 1923, to me this is on a par with the first moon landing. It’s always great to work with established brands that present a challenge. As brand and creative director for Loewe, uniting the legacy of the brand and navigating a new direction is crucial. Loewe have a plethora of products so enhancing their portfolio in a way that unites their history as a brand with products that offer a different perspective and an opportunity to reach a new audience was key. 
 

How does your own design philosophy align with Loewe’s history?

An interest in historical design and brand history is important when working with a brand that encapsulates all of these ingredients like Loewe do. 

Designing a collection of home entertainment products was an exciting challenge as it’s not something I’d done before. As a designer it’s important to communicate the story of the product in question, to establish a deeper understanding between consumer and product. I find it interesting how you can introduce people to new materials through everyday objects, you can spark people’s interest in the design and production process through an object that some may take for granted as part of their daily routine. I like to challenge the perception of a certain product, give it a new meaning and elevate its stature. 

Why do you think good design is important in particular when designing home entertainment pieces?

The objective is to encourage people to appreciate home technology products again. To me good design sparks people’s appreciation of how a product enhances their life. It’s very important to convey how remarkable materials are, specifically those that are natural to our planet, and that the product communicates the time and attention to detail that has gone into designing and producing it. 

Both bild 9 + Klang 9 bring a unique sculptural identity to home entertainment informed by Bauhaus architecture and the refinement of Art Deco. How and to what extent have other creative fields influenced this design?

Pictorial lines found in Constructivism and perspective sculpture have influenced the design of bild 9. Much like a good piece of jewellery, where the fitting is enhanced by the setting, the screen of bild 9 is elevated by the frame. Specific attention to the framing of the sleek black screen is incredibly important: the material, the finish, the width of the frame, the distance between the frame and the screen, these are all significant aspects to consider. 

 

 

 

Most products can take some years to be developed from concept to realisation, bild 9 was realised and developed rapidly, what do you think it was that drove the development of this range to be in production in less than 18 months?

I’m used to a lengthy design and production process having worked extensively with ceramics. If you try to understand the process of the medium you’re designing for early on within the process, you can try to overcome design hurdles and generate solutions rapidly.

The textural and colour finishes of the frames enhance the perspective lines of the design, was there any particular reason why you chose the specific finishes and colours? 

There’s a traditional quality in teaming an extremely sleek and high tech medium with a patinated metal. We live in an exciting time where the boundaries of materials and processes are pushed, where new materials are being discovered like graphene, celebrated for its thinness and flexibility, to me it is the unison of the classical with contemporary that brings the best outcome a design can offer. The frame has been designed to be a sculptural statement within its own right, reinforcing the advanced technology of the screen.

A number of brands are returning to manufacturing in Europe. How do you think this will affect how people purchase their home entertainment products?

I think people are purchasing more consciously now, there’s a deterioration of this throw away culture and people will stop just buying products and simply throwing them away when they’re perfectly fine. 
Europe remains known for its quality of craftsmanship and good design, hopefully we can maintain this and continue to produce products that are far more long lasting. 

In a time where people tend to watch television on catch-up often on their laptops or tablets, how do you see the functions of television progressing?

These are all intelligent pieces of design and as a mobility device enhance modern living greatly. There’s a strong trend for using these tablets for screening but a television offers more of a ritual for home entertainment with family and friends. Whether this is watching live shows or concerts, your favourite film or catching up with any programs you’ve missed. Televisions can and are beginning to take on roles that the tablet offer, being linked to the internet allows for homemade videos or images to be shared globally with friends and family.

As you’re a German designer working in Britain, how do you perceive Brexit affecting your design process or who you work with?

I don’t really see it as affecting either things. Being based in London it can feel quite London-centric but the European and cultural influx in London is very important, I don’t really see this subsiding. I studied here, I’ve built my business here, it may well be trickier in the future to gain European individuals as part of the team but it’s something I deem as a necessity for a successful approach, having a variety of cultural aspects is very important to any business.


Bild 9 accommodates for a wide variety of interiors from a minimal modern environment to more of a traditional home. Was this something that you had in mind during the design process of bild 9?

I would agree bild 9 suits a variety of interiors, the range allows the television to become a feature in the home once again, from a traditional interior to a super minimal space. My aim is to design objects that look good when in use and not in use. bild 9 has a contemporary appeal without being too fashionable which is something that’s very important when designing products that aim to have a longevity. Gender neutrality gets bandied around a lot today but it’s long been a significant consideration when designing, I try to avoid designing specifically for men or women. 

How do you start off the design process? Is there anything unusual or usual that occurred during the design process?

Having never designed for technology and home entertainment before, I swiftly learnt about the considerations of cable management, circuit boards, the backpack and weight of the panel has an effect on the stability of the overall design. Until now I had never heard of a baby-topple test! This all of course informed the design of bild 9. 
Researching and identifying with the brand is very important, this is something we do early on when approaching a new design and brand. A successful product for any brand is one which is strongly related to the brand but is the signature of the designer.

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Were there a lot of models? Hand drawings… 3D printing? How important is it to communicate a 3D version of your ideas throughout the design process?

It’s essential to communicate your ideas in 3D. We hand sketch, create visualisations and then 3D print but a 3D 1:1 model has to be made to fully realise the magnitude and impact of what is being designed. Loewe have a model workshop with a dedicated team which is very important, the scale isn’t always as evident when presented in a 3D render especially if you’re presenting ideas to people who don’t have a thorough understanding of scale. Plus people are engaged more with something that’s tangible and as close as possible to the real thing. 

What is it about bild 9 that makes it innovative?

The aim was to produce a design that brings the television back in the centre stage of the 21st century home, to steer away from a utilitarian presence televisions so often have. Bild 9 aims to be more of an elegant object for the home. 

I think people are purchasing more consciously now, there’s a deterioration of this throw away culture
 


What challenges have you faced designing for technology? 

Technology is ever evolving so the process is fast paced, these products often take 2 years to come to market so within that time span there’s constant developments. 
Working with components such as the panels already places constraint that need to be considered when designing because they are preexisting components so this has an affect on the overall design. This is a challenging aspect of designing for technology and one to be truly embraced.
 

How do you think people currently interact with their televisions? What do you think of the future of tv? 

The way we interact today with our televisions is very different to the past, people have become their own editors which is liberating, we are in control of what we can watch and be more selective. We no longer have to necessarily wait until the following week for the next program. Television remains an important aspect of our daily routine, Antiques Roadshow is part of my Sunday evening ritual whilst I fix dinner, it’s a comforting part of our lives. You can be sat in a waiting room or in the airport and there will be television screens on. There will always be a desire for people to keep up to date with current affairs, music, film, art and news, and televisions will remain a significant means of communicating all of this whilst embracing future technologies. Radios are over one hundred years old yet we still listen to broadcasts and with the development of DAB this has only enhanced its presence in our lives. Television design will continue to accommodate technological advances as they develop.