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Making Talents: Jonna Breitenhuber


Fresh young talent is the elixir of life, so to speak, for an industry to which attractive design is so essential. But how does one actually become an up-and-coming designer? And what drives young talent on? In this series, TOP FAIR presents up-and-coming designers from various product segments and asks them about their careers and projects. All the designers interviewed presented their designs and products at Ambiente 2020 in the context of the Talents special exhibition.

We kick off the series with the Berlin-based product and process designer Jonna Breitenhuber, who was born in 1992. After graduating from high school, Jonna decided to devote a year to preliminary studies in art and design at the Werkbund Werkstatt, Nuremberg. She then studied industrial design at the OTH Regensburg and completed her master’s degree in product design at the Berlin University of the Arts in 2019. Even as a student, she was already working as a freelance product, graphic and packaging designer. For the concept SOAPBOTTLE, which she developed for her master’s thesis, she won the Green Concept Award 2019 and the Federal Prize Ecodesign 2019, as well as being nominated for the German Sustainability Award 2020.

: Is there such a thing as an individual design philosophy? What makes for good design in your view?
To my mind, products are well designed when, over and above the aesthetic appeal of their formal language, they exhibit a surprising degree of functionality, are innovative, have something special about them, display wit or solve a specific problem. I like simple and clear designs that are reduced to the essential and free from undue frills. Good design, in my opinion, is self-explanatory and makes for a fun user experience. Also, I feel it is important that thought be given from the very inception of the design process to questions such as how and from which materials a product can be produced in the most environmentally friendly way possible and what will happen to it when it breaks or is no longer needed – when consideration is given, in other words, to matters such as recycling, circular economy, sharing concepts and the like.

: Do you have any design models, in the sense of people or individual designs that you regard as particularly successful?
In the field of packaging design, to give one example, I find the products of the Swedish design studio “tomorrow machine” very inspiring, as they combine aesthetic qualities with intelligent and innovative ideas. I also like the clear formal language of Dieter Rahms and the Bauhaus icons.

: Do you have a favourite among your own designs – one, for instance, that turned out particularly well or that met some particularly challenging requirement?
I particularly like the projects that I developed for my finals. ALL*PACKA is a backpack that can be converted into a two-wheel trolley or sack truck in just a few easy steps. I designed it for my bachelor’s thesis. ALLPACKA takes the rucksack as its starting point but puts it in a new context. Rather than a functional outdoor product, the ALLPACKA is intended for use in the urban life of a mobile society. Like its antecedents, ALLPACKA derives its functionality from a frame. What distinguishes it from a conventional Kraxe, however, is its compactness. With its height adjustability and wheels, the backpack can be transformed into a sack truck. SOAPBOTTLE is a project I developed as part of my master’s thesis. It is a packaging item made from soap that can therefore be used as hand soap or detergent as soon as the liquid it contains is used up. So while the contents are being used, the soap packaging too is slowly dissolving from the outside. The leftovers can be reused as hand soap or processed into detergent or cleaning agents. SOAPBOTTLE is made from natural raw materials and is biodegradable, so waste is completely eliminated.These were both very intensive projects in which I had the opportunity to integrate a great deal of research, experiments and feedback from fellow students and professors into the design process. In the case of SOAPBOTTLE, for example, I particularly enjoyed pondering how a soap bottle that becomes slippery when it comes into contact with water could be made as user-friendly as possible.

: How do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
When I start work on a new project, I begin by considering a concrete problem and try to come up with a design that solves it. In the case of SOAPBOTTLE, for instance, the problem lay in our reliance upon plastics; I was seeking to come up with a plastic-free packaging for the body care sector. In the case of the ALLPACKA project, the task I set myself was to design a product that would facilitate the spontaneous transport even of large and heavy objects in everyday life.

: Which tools do you prefer to use when working on your designs (e.g. pencils or digital technology)? And which materials do you use most often or most enjoy working with?
Most of the time, I begin with an analogue sketch and work digitally with 3D software and vector or image editing programs later.In the design process, I find it valuable to create rough mock-ups and various pre-prototypes that allow me to try out, modify and improve functions or characteristics quickly. I like to work with “classic” materials, such as wood, metal and ceramics; but I also find it very interesting to experiment with new materials and find ways of exploiting the peculiar characteristics of each.

: What projects are you working on currently?
At the moment, I’m working on the SOAPBOTTLE project I mentioned earlier and which I presented this year at the Talents special exhibition at the Ambiente trade fair. Since I received so much positive feedback and enquiries from all over the world, I decided finally to develop the concept further to a marketable product. Currently I’m building a team around the project and working on marketing and product development.

Jonna Breitenhuber / Instagram

Website of project Soapbottle

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