By Catherine Belbin

One of Europe's most in-demand industrial designers, Sebastian Herkner will share his unique vision for the design scene during Downtown Design 2021, the region's leading design fair.

As one of the hottest names in the industry today, German-born Herkner will create a ripple of excitement in the Downtown Design tent, where he will share his experience during the Forum talks and hold smaller, more intimate meetings with Trade Connect guests.

Designer Sebastian Herkner

Herkner, who was named 'Designer of the Year 2019’ by Maison et Objet has been scooping up iF and Red Dot awards and other prestigious accolades for well over a decade. His designs are sought by stalwart furniture manufacturers such as Cappellini, Dedon, Rolf Benz, Thonet, Zanotta, Moroso, Gan, Pedrali, Agape, Stellar Works, Wittmann, Pulpo and Ligne Roset.

With responsible design at the core of his work ethic, 40-year-old Herkner uses sustainable and quality materials to create investment-quality timeless designs, some of which are tipped to achieve iconic status.

Downtown Design Editor Catherine Belbin chats with Herkner as he contemplates his first journey to the region...

What intrigues you most about the Middle East design scene, and what do you look forward to experiencing when you visit Dubai as a guest designer/speaker during Downtown Design 2021?

I am a very curious person, which is related to my creativity. I love to discover foreign cultures, spirits, colour combinations etc... This is the way I find inspiration for new designs. I have never been to the Middle East, so I look forward to visiting you and connecting with the local scene.

You have designed numerous products and interiors relatively quickly, many of which have won prestigious awards. Which one means the most to you?

That’s difficult to answer because I put a lot of effort, energy and emotion into each design. One of the most iconic is the 'Bell' table for ClassiCon, but there’s also the '118' chair for prestigious brand Thonet or the 'Pipe' chair for Moroso, amongst others.

I believe in sustainable products balancing between crafts and technology, tradition and innovation in a very responsible way

Bell Tables by Sebastian Herkner for ClassiCon

What's your starting point for a new project, whether it's an interior or product?

Design is communication on all levels. It is always a conversation with the brand art director or the owner of the house. I need to understand and feel the approach and needs. On the other hand, I need to visit them, see behind the scenes, and meet craftsmen and people relevant to the production. Afterwards, I start sketching, and discussions will follow with my team. It is a long process with one strong idea and the aim to develop something unique.

Who or what had the most significant impact on your career?

My family background and my education, and my internship at Stella McCartney. Nowadays, [it’s] all the inspiring visits of workshops around the globe, watching artisans blowing glass in Murano, weaving rugs in Colombia and working with lacquering in Japan. Those moments are unique and open new horizons of creativity.

You're quoted as saying that design should be like a companion - timeless and enduring. How challenging is it to achieve this, time after time?

Yes, definitively. Products should be smart, functional, beautiful and – very importantly – also long-lasting. There is too much ‘fast design’ around. We need to act responsibly and be thoughtful with materials and resources. If you buy a product, you should consider it an investment like a car or apartment, cherish it, re-use it and pass it on if you don't want it anymore.

Sebastian Herkner's Mbrace outdoor chair for Dedon

What's your 'go-to' place for inspiration?

Be active, also travel to unknown places, open your eyes, listen to nature. Finding inspiration is not the problem; it is your intuition to use it and transfer it in a certain way.

Lastly, what projects are you currently working on?

We are working on several new projects with long-time partners like Dedon or Cappellini and some editions for smaller brands. You know the most important thing is having fun in your profession, which we have for sure.