Christian Haas designs products through multiple disciplines from furniture and lighting to porcelain and glassware.
After Paris, the designer moved to Porto in 2015, where he established his studio. His design approach conquered our curiosity and as soon as we got to know his work we knew we had to meet him.
In the interview that follows, Haas sent us behind the scenes of his creative process and how his vision has grown by approaching different cultures.
When did you find out you were one of those people we call creative? And what’s your definition of being creative?
C: I must say I wasn’t a creative when I was a kid or so, I didn’t have a creative background. My parents are from a middle class family so I didn’t grow up in a creative environment. I guess it was only when I was a teenager that I felt my creative side. I didn’t really know where it came from but when I went to high school I found out that I was interested in that and I opened my horizon. I was taking art as one of my main subjects and that’s how I came across with my creative side.
You have worked with several big brands like Villeroy & Boch, Rosenthal and Karakter and your Ropes are part of the Vitra Design Museum’s permanent collection. How does your creative process starts?
C: For me it really depends from project to project and customer to customer because we are working in different fields. We are working for commercial brands and they have a big and strong marketing department and nowadays they know where they see themselves in 5 or 10 years and which direction they would like to grow and what is the vision of the brand. We receive quite precise briefings and usually we work according to the briefing. We also work with galleries and smaller brands that we suggest some designs from analyzing their portfolio, what we really have to do or what we are missing in the portfolio because we are looking for a constant challenge in the work.
In the beginning we have started only with porcelain, but after six or seven years it all gets so exhausting to come up with ideas in the same material. I tried to enlarge our portfolio because the nice part about being a product designer is also to enrich your own portfolio and get to new stuff, explore new textures, new materials, to get in vivid techniques we had no clue about. We also innovate in the process by working closely with the people, the manufacturers and if we change the process here and there sometimes it’s really nice to have an outside view.
How do you think your creative process has evolved over time?
C: First of all I got more relaxed during the design process, so I’m not so anxious. I have been very open minded and sometimes it happens that someone comes and says “I want this and this, are you interested to work in this concept?” and I’m always interested. I always have an interest. I mean, there’s a few things that don’t interest me at all but I always think “This can be a challenge, or this is interesting.” I think it evolved in that sense socially since I’m in Portugal because I have got more space than I had before and a super good team: Ruben and Sónia who work with me since the beginning here in the studio and now we are more like team players.
How impactful is the tool you carry around, on your day-to-day creative process?
C: I have to say I am quite independent, it’s not like “oh my god, I need my pencil and if I don’t have a pencil or if I need this laptop or I need this and that”. I am independent from that. So if I have an idea or want to do something, it doesn’t matter. I could turn the page and I could draw on it. Whatever is around. It’s not very organized or restrictive. I’m more like if I’m in a hotel, and have a sketch book around, I can sketch on it, take a picture and send it to them.
For example now, I am not even traveling with a laptop. We are going to Japan for 2 weeks and I’ll bring only the iPad.
How much freedom do you think being a creative gives you?
C: I feel quite privileged actually to work as a creative. Having the opportunity to work with other materials, clients, new suppliers, and really being able to get into it so I think personally it gives me a lot of freedom. This way I don’t feel like a slave of my work. So this is freedom for me, I love the work that I am doing, it doesn’t feel so much like work and to have the freedom to choose also what we are doing. I can’t imagine being more privileged working on something else.
Do you feel that your approach to different cultures made your vision grow?
C: Definitely, yes! This definitely helped me to grow and it helped my imagination. In general, I’m quite open-minded. I think that now our products, with the time, they don’t get more and more into one direction but we try to keep a certain style or idea, a certain vision, because I think there’s so much to talk about sustainability and it’s important. Our approach is more related to the beauty side of it and the longevity of it. I truly believe that if you buy a lamp that you like and you are very interested that it has a second layer so I think it should interest you for the 10/20 years ideally because you don’t want to replace the lamp if you like it so much, and it’s also a way of acting sustainable.
What are some of your project’s biggest challenges and how do you look for a solution?
C: My challenges come from different sides. Also, there’s no project like the other one, sometimes we do it in a very complex way, what it seems to be like “it will be a long development” and it goes surprisingly fast. Others, there’s like a candle holder and we think “this will be very easy and very fast”, and you get samples and “oh, it’s not it”. So the challenge always comes from an unexpected side. One challenge and that’s something that now we don’t do is design something that we don’t feel so nowadays I say “I don’t understand”, because sometimes you get approached by brands and “we just want to transport emotion” and we ask what the emotions are and we get the answer “emotions in general”. It’s just too vague, you must know what you are standing for.
How do you organize your office space?
C: Our office is pretty spacious, it actually occupies the entire first floor of the building, so we have enough space to work at ease.
We have a proper library/meeting room, in which we are talking right now. Filled with inspiring books and magazines and without computers. The main room is pretty big and has a closed storage for models, first samples from companies we are working for and objects I buy and keep for a certain interest. It is filled with my designs of the past 15 years. Ruben and Sonia are working in this room, most of the time on the computer, but also sketching and building countless small models in paper and foam. My room is connected to the garden and very bright. For me a true luxury to sneak out and have a coffee outside.
In general the Studio works quite interactive. Means we are talking and discussing a lot. It is not my thing to distribute and brief work and then check it days later. We are constantly exchanging thoughts and I believe that makes us quite efficient.