Why Luxury Brands Will Fail Without A Clear Design Philosophy

Why Luxury Brands Will Fail Without A Clear Design Philosophy

Managing Director of Porsche Design Studio says without a clear product framework there is a great danger of becoming arbitrary and exchangeable.

Plus Aziz
  • 6 april 2012

Roland Heiler leads Porsche Design Studio in their collaborations with brands like Johnnie Walker and Research in Motion by applying the design principles established by Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche. In this interview Roland discusses the role of “design driven innovation” for both luxury and mainstream brand experiences.

Tell us about some of the milestones in your career that you feel particularly proud of.

The most recent one would be the “Best of the Best 2012′ Red Dot award for the Porsche Design P1140 RawTec Blazer. Not only has it been more than a decade since a clothing item has received this prestigeous award, it also confirms that we are on the right path with our fashion collection. This recognition will be a nice addition to our collection of more than 140 national and international design awards.  In my earlier life as a designer I was working for the car design studio of Porsche. During that time the responsibility for the Carrera GT showcar design program was definitely one of the highlights.

Some might see the work your studio is doing and think of you as an agency servicing brands. Why are you doing this? What do you do better than others?

Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche founded the Porsche Design Studio and the Porsche Design luxury brand in 1972. So we do have a 40 year tradition not only in creating iconc luxury items for our own brand but we also have a heritage in partnering with internationally renowned companies and in supporting them with our specific design approach. However, in every single case we thoroughly assess the brand fit of such collaborations. Johnnie Walker Blue Label and the Porsche Design Studio have partnered to create a range of exclusive gifts to celebrate the perfect serve,  the pinnacle of Blended Scotch Whisky from the House of Johnnie Walker. This partnership brings together two brands with a vision for craft, heritage and modernity.

We both share a singular commitment to excellence.  We are both rooted in heritage.  We are both creating works of rare quality today.  And we are both iconic luxury brands sought after by men the world over to celebrate their own achievements with a statement of genuine style and substance. No Private Bar has ever been designed like this before and its ground-breaking design represents the latest remarkable achievement from the Porsche Design Studio.  Only 50 will ever be made, meaning that to own one is to join an exclusive group of people that will be able to enjoy this stunning piece for years to come.

What’s your perspective on the role and importance of design in luxury and premium products?

A luxury product without design is difficult to imagine. Luxury or even premium means superiority in every respect, it means best in class. If the design is not right, that level cannot be achieved. However, design can give a luxury product different characters. It can add to the opulent appearance or it can create a minimalistic look. As you glance across the different luxury brands you will  find all shades of design expressions.

Some make more of a show-off statement, which, by the way is less en vogue nowadays, others are more stealthy and display their qualities only if you look closer. After having gone through the recent financial crises many people still want to enjoy luxury products but at the same time they don’t have the desire to show-off their wealth as much. That is why luxury brands today need to focus on fulfilling core values. It’s all about quality and an improved life. Today companies have to concentrate on offering a certain lifestyle which people can buy into. People care more about where materials come from and about quality and design as well as their individual style.

The economy has changed people’s expectations of design. How would you describe its effects on your field?

For Porsche Design not much has changed at all as our brand always had a very special approach to luxury. Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, designer of the 911 and founder of Porsche Design, has always been mindful rather than conspicuous. Look at our very first product: the Chronograph 1.

It was the first completely black watch on the market, at a time when watches were made from gold or silver by definition. A revolution! But the black colour was not chosen to provoke, rather for a particular reason: For F. A. Porsche a watch was not jewellery but an instrument of precision with uncompromised functional quality. Inspired by the non-reflective black dashboard of a race car with high contrast instruments he decided to design the watch in the same manner: only the time information was of importance, everything else was black. So, simplicity, functionality and intelligence – it was there right from the beginning.

Is good and smart design becoming an expectation among consumers across the board? In some ways, the product and retail design of companies like Starbucks and Apple has pushed the bar up for other companies, so do you believe that the expectation has now moved to mass market?

You picked two great examples of companies who really made a very successful effort in understanding the desires of their customers. This is not to be mistaken with the concept of asking your customer what you should do next – they will not be able to give you that answer. Customer driven innovation has been replaced by design driven innovation. As a result, its all about knowing your customer but also about being highly creative in order to be successful.  This principle goes for niche markets as well as for the mass market.

In addition, it is important to know why you do what you are doing. Without a design philosophy there is a great danger of becoming arbitrary and exchangeable. Character and style are the result of a certain mindset.

Thanks to the clear design philosophy of our founder the Porsche Design Studio and the Porsche Design luxury brand have a characteristic and definied profile since 1972.

Thanks Roland!

Porsche Studio Design


Lyft Gives Free Rides To Those Who Have Had Too Much To Drink

Augmented & Virtual Reality Today

Outdoor Camp Presented In 360° VR By X Games Gold Medalist

The video features campers riding BMX trails, zip lining through the woods, and performing big-air jumps

Travel Today

Boeing Wants Passengers To Control Their In-Flight Experience Through Their Phones

The airline manufacturer is embracing automation through a new generation of mobile travel apps


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Augmented / Virtual Reality Today

VR Surgery Videos Offer Interactive Medical Education

Dutch startup MDLinking hopes to globalize communication between students and medical care professionals with virtual reality content

Culture Today

Use Twitter To Learn A New Language

tDict is an app that uses the social media platform to help you search for words in local dialects

Related Expert

Mario Schlosser

Health Insurance, Data, Technology

Mobile Today

This Startup Wants To Digitize The Loose Coins In Your Pocket

CoinOut is a new app that lets you save your extra change from cash transactions as electronic funds

Advertising Today

McDonald’s Is Accepting Trash As Currency In Exchange For Burgers

An initiative in Stockholm is trying to keep streets clean while satisfying hunger

Culture Today

Google Is Using Virtual Paper Airplanes To Bring People Closer Together

The tech giant released an app that lets people throw their good wishes out into the world on the International Day of Peace


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Today

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Advertising Today

Get Paid For Traveling In San Francisco After Rush Hour

BART Perks rewards commuters who take early or late trains by giving them extra points to trade for money

Culture Today

Artist Designs Covers For Books That Don’t Exist

Published by the fictional 'Specious Books,' the subversive works facilitate a conversation regarding the artistic integrity of graphic designers

Work Today

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist

Food Today

Bringing Food Innovation To America’s Crowded Milk Market

a2 Milk's Blake Waltrip, Chief Executive of the USA region, discusses how the distributor plans on bringing the popular drink for the dairy-sensitive to the States


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Augmented / Virtual Reality Today

NBC Is Planning To Stream The Presidential Debates In Virtual Reality

Partnering with AltspaceVR, the broadcaster offers another way for Americans to engage with the election season

Travel Today

What Happens When An Entire Airport Terminal Rebrands Itself?

JFK's Terminal 4 underwent a dramatic design facelift to guide and delight travelers

Home september 23, 2016

Watch This Fire Pit Dance Along To Your Favorite Song

Music City Fire is a system that is designed to flicker in time to ambient music

No search results found.