How do design graduates and companies come together? The discussion round “Transfer performance. How ideas come out of the design universities’ realm of possibilities into practice” addressed this question on the occasion of the German Design Graduates 2021 in Berlin.

By Jasmin Jouhar.

ndion-Talk “A Matter of Transfer”: Idealism and Industry

A matter of transfer
The participants of the talk “A matter of transfer. How ideas are transferred from the realm of possibilities of design universities into practice”. From left to right: German Design Graduates Emilie Burfeind and Lukas Hartz, Alexandra Sender (German Design Council), Ashana Hohgräve (Brand and Design Consultant, Otto Bock), Jasmin Jouhar (Design Journalist). © Elena Kayser

“You will shape the future,” said Ashana Hohgräve. “My generation gets to watch, promote and provide experience. But you set the direction.” These were the closing words of a thoroughly controversial round of talks on the occasion of the “German Design Graduates 2021” exhibition for young designers – a closing word that was meant as both encouragement and confirmation. The Berlin brand consultant encouraged the design graduates present to pursue their perspectives and topics with vigour. And at the same time confirmed them in their perception that the industry must change in order to become fit for the future. Because that’s what the ndion talk “A Matter of Transfer. How ideas come out of the possibility space of design universities into practice” with the two designers Emilie Burfeind and Lukas Hartz and the consultant Ashana Hohgräve clearly showed: many from the young generation are not interested in simply going through the classic career path in industry. They are full of idealism in the face of the great challenges of our time and want to make their contribution to transforming society and the economy.

“Companies from industry are important partners,” said Lukas Hartz at the talk in the Berlin Museum of Decorative Arts. Partners with whom young designers could realise their projects together. Hartz founded a start-up with other graduates to produce and market a new type of bicycle shoe. In the process, he realised that it is more difficult than expected to bring ideas out of the protected space of the university into the world. Emilie Burfeind had a similar experience with her Master’s thesis “Sneature”, a concept for a completely biodegradable sneaker. In an exchange with experts in sneaker development, she realised how complex the project really is. Ashana Hohgräve knows the situation very well from the other side: the trained designer has been accompanying design processes in companies for many years, for example at the orthosis and prosthesis specialist Ottobock. She has also organised a number of cooperations with students and universities for Ottobock. From her experience, Hohgräve reported at the talk, in-house projects have the greatest chance of realisation. In other words, when students go to a company for their final thesis and implement the project together with the development teams – industry as a learning space for the next generation.

Another topic that moved the panel in the Museum of Decorative Arts: how do young designers and companies find a suitable match when it comes to filling vacancies? An urgent question, for graduates as well as for many companies that are plagued by a lack of skilled workers. Here, too, Ashana Hohgräve relies on joint project work. In this way, one can get to know each other in a relaxed manner in a protected space. She also emphasised how important the fresh perspectives of the younger generation are for companies in general. While long-serving employees have a deep knowledge of products and markets, the unconventional views and visionary concepts of the newcomers help them to think ahead. But because visions can only rarely emerge in the small details of everyday life, Emilie Burfeind vehemently pleaded for the university as a place for experimentation and trying things out, as a place where young people can form their creative personality. Without having to think about the implementation of every project.

One conclusion of the ndion talk that all participants and audience members could agree on: In order to make the quite delicate moment of transition from universities to the professional and corporate world as good and successful as possible, placement platforms are very helpful. This can be a recruiting portal, such as the German Design Council is planning, or a teaching initiative such as the German Design Graduates. The main thing is that the platform creates visibility and brings the various actors together.

About the ndion talk “A matter of trasfer. How ideas move from the possibility space of design colleges into practice”.

On 9 October 2021, the ndion Talk “Transfer Performance. How ideas come out of the possibility space of design universities into practice” took place. The moderators Jasmin Jouhar (design journalist) and Alexandra Sender (German Design Council) discussed with the brand and design consultant Ashana Hohgräve (Otto Bock) as well as two German Design Graduates how young talents make the leap into a successful career in design.

More about the German Design Graduates

This year, the German Design Graduates took place for the third time. The non-commercial initiative for the promotion of young designers honours graduates of German design degree programmes. In this context, the Institute for Design Research and Appliance (IfDRA), which is part of the German Design Council, once again awarded a prize for design research. With this award, the Institute would like to honour submissions that are at the interface of theory and practice and whose combination and integration into the design process produces results that are relevant to the future.

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