The Slow Design of Mark Braun

Hexagon, produced by Mühle

It’s all about character and identity, not to mention functionality. The work of Mark Braun– German designer with sky blue eyes- could be described as such. His collaborations range throughout many industry sectors and the projects he has designed and created have been produced for companies such as Authentics, Covo, E15, Lobmeyr, La Redoute, and Nomos Glashütte, Thonet, and Bonacina, just to name a few. Men’s grooming products, furniture, glass objects, lamps and watches: there aren’t much that Mark hasn’t designed, and for that reason he has also been the winner of several awards, including the Design Plus, Interior Innovation Award and the German Design Award, in addition to having the honour and occasion to exhibit in famous international galleries the likes of the Saatchi Gallery in London. The magic happens in Berlin, where Mark opened his studio in 2006 in a space resembling a creative hub, with huge windows and common spaces. He is defined as a “slow designer” because often he accepts challenges that require him to start from scratch and to discover new creative worlds. We met up with Mark during Salone del Mobile in Bonacina’s showroom in Milan, for whom he created a new collection of bamboo lamps that are both Asian and yet equally European in style.

How did you become a designer, where did you start?
My background is in carpentry. I would say I started by making models of my own work. The first was a tableware set for a German company, a great success. Then from there I began to branch out into other products, which I enjoy so much, from lighting to furniture and even watches. It’s important to be open to change, that is for sure.

The world of product design is very competitive, what do you think of it?
Yes, that is true, there are many challenges. On one hand it is true, there is a lot of competition, but the older I get, the further I move from that, because I have become so much more conscious of my choices, my taste, and the design I want to create. The important thing for me is to stay curious: if you can manage to be curious, you have everything you need to stay ahead, the client trusts you, and you can work at your best.

How was the watch design project with Nomos Glashütte born?
From my drinking glasses. One of their managers was in a restaurant one night and drank from one of my glasses- he liked it, and thought I worked well with glass- so contacted me. They asked me what type of watch I would buy and to create a prototype. Not being a watch designer I made a few errors initially, but fortunately they liked the overall character of my watch. It was a success story that happened by chance.

What is style, for you?
I believe in some part that it is linked to education, but in general I think that having style means feeling good about oneself, enjoying what you have without going overboard. It’s about making rational decisions, because people with style don’t do anything without thought. You have to know who you are and what works for you.

What do you think about style in Milan?
My first memory of Milan reminds me of my uncle. He has always supported me, and when I signed up for design school, he bought me a ticket to Milan, telling me that I wouldn’t know anything about design until I came to Milan during Salone del Mobile. Just an airline ticket, not a hotel room: obviously there were no hotel rooms available. I was 25 years old and I just wandered around the city, meeting so many wonderful people by chance that I stayed out all night. Today, for me Milan is mainly a city where I work and I find it beautiful because it has it’s own style that hasn’t changed much over the years. The Lambrate neighbourhood is very interesting, it has a strong industrial vibe, a bit abandoned- it’s where you find avant garde style, but I think Brera is the neighbourhood where you find quality.

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