Interview: Aekae – Idea Driven Design

Aekae by Florian Kalotay

Left: Fabrice Aeberhard, right: Christian Kaegi. Photo Florian Kalotay.

The work by Aekae (Aeberhard/Kaegi) goes beyond the fulfillment of a functional commercial brief. Ideas are translated to unexpected products and spaces surrounding a project. The idea-driven Switzerland based design studio founded by Fabrice Aeberhard and Christian Kaegi offer a distinctive, well made design.

Name: Christian Kaegi
Place of residence: Zürich, Switzerland
Profession: Industrial Designer
Food: Seasonal and Fresh
Transportation: Bicycle

Name: Fabrice Aeberhard
Place of residence: Zürich, Switzerland
Profession: Industrial Designer
Food: Always open for new tastes
Transportation: Car

Your design seem to exist in the space between candid and swiss modernist design. How much direction do you give your design?
Our design is the consequence of our mindset which has a lot in common with swiss modernism. The mindset is what we apply to each project, not a formula of shapes.

Do you believe in longterm thinking and quality design? And do you work with re-use of materials?
We like to keep the big picture in mind, and basically the longer a product lasts, the better for the environment. Quality design involves visual simplicity, quality materials, as well as quality manufacturing. We like to work with re-used materials if it makes sense within a project, but not as a general rule.

What do you look for in a design or subject?
The essence, the soul. When it all comes together. Sculptural quality and simplicity. Extremes and opposites. Stories. Nice details.

What filmmakers, photographers, designers, musicians, etc. inspire your work or your style?
Our work is firstly inspired by the dialogue between us, and the manufacturer, or the client. secondly we get inspiration from the project itself, the circumstances, the space etc.

CODE X Power Catamaran

CODE X Power Catamaran

Is your inspiring work “CODE X Power Catamaran” a study or a client work? Can you tell us some more details on the project?
CODE X was actually built and finished in 2008, and was designed for a client to showcase the Silicon Fire technology, an alternative energy source which reduces CO2 emissions significantly. This project marked the beginning of Aekae, and was obviously quite an exceptional way to get started.


QWSTION, Weekender - Herringbone.

QWSTION, Backpack

QWSTION, Backpack - Black.

QWSTION, Backpack

QWSTION, Backpack - Unfolding.

QWSTION, Backpack

QWSTION, Backpack - Detail.

Talking about your other client work “QWSTION”; did you provide the corporate design and the product design as well? Can you tell us some more details on the project?
QWSTION is a quite a special project for us, as we were involved from the beginning, and were able to define the entire creative side of the brand. We worked with Matthias Graf on the corporate identity, and worked closely with our manufacturers to develop the collection after designing all the products and details. The collection is growing, and recently our efforts have been recognized by SWISS International Airlines who is now flying with Amenity Kits by QWSTION in their business class. Our first design, the Backpack, has made it’s way into the permanent collection of the Museum of Design in Zurich.

What major changes have you seen, through time, in design in regards to ethics and to what do you attribute this?
We’ll try to put the complex situation of today into a few sentences: Looking back at the history of design, social aspects have been an important topic before, this is nothing new. It was usually related to the general state of the economy, and in years of rapid growth ethics were replaced by hedonism.

The difference today is, that globalized capitalism seems to have reached it’s limits. Populations are growing while resources are limited. The goal of corporations has been to maximize profit, often through cutting jobs; now they need to start to think about how they can create new jobs at fair conditions, with a sustainable use of resources. Or, drastically said, there will be no one left to buy their products. More than ever, designers nowadays need to consider the big picture in order to make a good product.

What advice would you give to young designers with respect to maintaining artistic integrity within the commercial spectrum?
Have principles and follow them. Be able to say “No”.

For a period of time the computer was fab in graphic design. However, there seems to be a return to pen and paper. What do you feel has brought about this shift?
For a couple of years computers offered new possibilities of expression. These have been exploited so far, that it got very difficult to achieve a unique style. pen and paper are definitely more personal and characteristic. Artisanry in general is coming back to receiving the appreciation it deserves. In respect to the statement above: it is never the most efficient way, but it involves rewarding jobs.

What future changes do you have in mind for your work? And how do you want it to affect others?
We would like to spend more time experimenting. Unfortunately not many clients are willing to pay us for experimenting, although this is what ultimately leads to new design solutions and inspiring projects that affect others. ❚

Aekae - Sire

Aekae - Sire Eyewear.

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"Z am Park" interior design and branding.

Aekae "DIGITEC" interior and furniture design

Aekae "DIGITEC" interior and furniture design.