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: Only as a teenager. I was never drawing or sketching much when I was a kid. I also have to admit that I have no great talent in drawing.
But I have a big imagination. My phantasy is quite limitless and shortly before finishing my high school I came up with the idea to use this quality in a creative way. Design was getting a topic in the late 90ies, so I decided to apply for studies in Industrial design in Munich and got accepted.
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: Since we are working in different design fields, it really depends on the project and customer. Often we are developing concepts for commercial brands. They usually have a powerful marketing department that creates the brands vision for the next 5 to 10 years. So the idea in which direction their company would like to evolve is quite clear. We receive precise briefings and usually we work according to the briefing.
But we also collaborate with galleries and smaller brands. In this case we suggest designs that we are feeling a lack of in their portfolio.
In the beginning I started designing only in porcelain, but after six or seven years it gets quite difficult to come up with ideas in the same material over and over again. I tried to enlarge the range since the nice part about being a product designer is also to enrich the own portfolio. Getting to know new techniques, exploring new textures and new materials is exciting.
Also working closely with the producers and manufacturers normally enriches the final product. It is good to get an external point of view.
How do you think your creative process has evolved over time?
First of all I got more relaxed during the design process, I’m not so anxious anymore. I am generally 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 usually I’m interested. There is only a few things that don’t catch my attention, normally I like to get challenged.
I think the design process evolved in that sense after I moved to Portugal. I have more space here in Porto than I had before and a super good team, Ruben and Sónia, who work with me since the beginning. We are a real team now.
How impactful is the tool you carry around, on your day-to-day creative process?
C: I’m not really attached to any tools. I don’t need a special pencil or sketchbook and without them I’m lost. If I have an idea or want to express something, I use what is close to me to bring my idea to paper or in shape. Whatever is around.
In this matter I’m very relaxed. On my travels I can sketch on random papers, take a picture of the idea and send it to my team.
I am usually not even traveling with a laptop, I just bring the iPad.
How much freedom do you think being a creative gives you?
C: I feel quite privileged working as a creative in various design fields. Having the opportunity to work with different clients, materials and new suppliers is requiring but also liberating.
I’m not a slave of my work. I love my job, it doesn’t feel much like an effort and after all this years in design I have luckily the freedom to choose what we are working on.
Actually I can’t imagine being more privileged working in any other profession.
Do you feel that your approach to different cultures made your vision grow?
C: Definitely, yes! I’m traveling with eyes wide open and I absorb inspirations like a sponge. That helps me to expand my imagination.
With the time our style got more refined, we try to stick to a certain language that makes the pieces recognizable as our designs even if they have completely different functions. Our approach is quite often related to the beauty of the piece and therefore its longevity.
A product shouldn’t be too obvious. Ideally it reveals its beauty over the years. If the client feels a growing affection towards it, he will keep it and take care of it. That’s a way of sustainability.
What are some of your project’s biggest challenges and how do you look for a solution?
C: Since we work in so many design fields all projects have their own difficulties.
The main challenge is always to find a convincing, new and long-lasting solution for the task that is given to us or that we give ourselves. All three of us have a quite high standard when it comes to a product.
Challenges are also unpredictable, there is no project like the other. Sometimes the briefings are complex and we expect a long development and in the end it goes surprisingly fast. Sometimes it is the other way around and a simple candleholder turns out be an endless long development due to problems in production.
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 random objects I acquire 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 individually and then check it days later. We are constantly exchanging thoughts and I believe that makes us quite efficient.