The Porsche Design Studio is one of Europe’s best known and most reputable design houses, headquartered in Zell am See, Austria. In 2011, they formed a global partnership with whisky brand, JOHNNIE WALKER® creating the BLUE LABEL™ Limited Edition Collection, a series of stunning and exclusive pieces which bring to the world of luxury an experience of whisky appreciation never seen before. We caught up with their Managing Director, Roland Heiler, for an exclusive interview.
LM: The collaboration between the Porsche Design Studio and JOHNNIE WALKER® is now in its second year. Why did you choose to work with this particular brand and which core philosophies do you share?
RH: Both companies share a deeply rooted passion for excellence in quality and craftsmanship. Johnnie Walker Blue Label’s desire to merge the traditional world of high end whiskies with the contemporary and innovative approach of Porsche Design made the two companies a perfect match.
LM: How long did it take to bring the individual pieces available in the Collection from concept to production and what were the key considerations when creating these?
RH: The first step was the design of the iconic Private Bar. This is the halo product which is reflected in the design of all other pieces of the collection. Every primary design element was determined on the Private Bar first and then applied to the collection. All in all, the entire design and engineering process from the initial sketch to the final products took more than one and a half years.
LM: Is this the first such collaboration you have undertaken, and what other luxury associations have you been engaged with to date?
RH: The magnitude and complexity of this project is one of a kind. However, we created another extremely challenging design for Veuve Cliquot a few years ago. It was named ‘Vertical Limit’, and was a very exclusive refrigeration unit for twelve vintage magnum champagne bottles. Each bottle had its own compartment and the entire unit was made from stainless steel. Only fifteen pieces were produced. Currently we are finalising the design for a 135 ft Luxury Yacht for Royal Falcon Fleet in Singapore. This boat will be launched in summer 2013.
LM: The Porsche Design Studio is synonymous with the name of one of the world’s most loved sportscar brands. How much involvement do you have in the design of a new model or do you operate autonomously from Porsche in Stuttgart?
RH: The sportscar design is the responsibility of our colleagues in the R&D centre of Porsche in Weissach, Germany. Typically our Studio is not involved in car work. Very occasionally, we work on special projects together.
LM: Your expertise has also allowed you to become involved in other exciting projects such as the creation of furniture, and trains. What sets you apart from other design studios, what are the key criteria when selecting materials, and what are your common features or genes when at the drawing board stage?
RH: Porsche Design represents a particular way of thinking which goes back to the beliefs and convictions of our founder, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche. To question every convention, and not to take things for granted is a core element of this philosophy. As he did, we believe design should be honest, and design should be in harmony with an object’s function. This principle can be applied to a wide range of products, no matter how big or small, how complex or simple. The secret of lasting design is: as little design as possible.
LM: Looking forward, what is next for the Porsche Design Studio? From the studies which you have undertaken to date, will we see any innovations or technology carried over from these in future products?
RH: Innovation is part of our DNA. Apart from new accessories in the pipeline, we are currently working on the design of a residential tower in Miami, Florida (USA), featuring very luxurious apartments. The concept of a special car elevator allows the residents to take their car up to their apartment.
LM: Which have been your most successful innovations or product lines?
RH: In 1972 it was the Chronograph 1, the first black watch, 1978 the first sunglasses with exchangeable lenses, and 1980 the first Titanium watch. More recently, the Porsche Design smartphone P’9981 from BlackBerry and the Bounce S running shoe were both innovative and very successful.
LM: On a more personal note Roland, what are the highlights of your career to date?
RH: There were many wonderful moments in the course of my professional life which, for the most part, took place at Porsche. Today, I consider the chance to follow F. A. Porsche as Managing Director of the studio he founded in 1972 as a great honour. But on a project level, I am also happy to have been involved in the development of the Porsche Carrera GT show car during my time in Huntington Beach, California.
LM: What do you think are the key skills required to pursue a career in design, and what tips can you give to people wishing to follow in your footsteps?
RH: I learned over time, that talent is necessary of course, but dedication, passion and diligence are at least equally important. When we interview young designers who apply to work for us, we look at their sketch work more than their elaborate renderings and we like to see authentic personalities rather than skilled self- marketers.
LM: Which designers do you look up to for inspiration? Who do you think has made the largest impact in your sector during the last decades?
RH: I have an affinity for what is probably known as “German design”. I guess it is the logic and the functional aspect that appeals to me. In this context, I value the work of designers such as Dieter Rams and Jonathan Ive. However, for me personally, F.A. Porsche was definitely the most influential designer. During my early years as a car designer at Porsche, his 911 carried the DNA for everything else we worked on. Today at Porsche Design, our work is still based on his design principles – and it will be in the future.
LM: Thank you for your time Roland, and you have given readers a great insight into the Porsche Design Studio.
View the film on the JOHNNIE WALKER® BLUE LABEL™ Limited Edition Collection design by Porsche Design Studio Global YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/jwbluelabelofficial and follow the story at http://www.facebook.com/JohnnieWalker and at www.johnniewalker.com
For more information on Porsche Design, visit www.porsche-design.com