interview with product and interior designer torsten neeland
image courtesy of jonathan griggs




following his studies in industrial design at hamburg’s college of fine art, torsten neeland set up his self-named studio for industrial and interior design in london, in 1997. it is the relationship between the user and the object that really interests him and has influenced his work to range from private interior design, retail outlets, exhibition spaces, set creating and product design. his projects such as the ‘design award of the federal republic of germany’ 2004 winning ‘stav’ cutlery set, reflect simplicity which he believes is a result of a complex process.


designboom (db): what originally made you want to become a designer?


torsten neeland (tn): since I was a child I always had the desire to create spaces and to dismantle objects. the passion for product design came at a later stage.

TN serving tray ‘bald’ for magazin
image courtesy of torsten neeland




db: who/what has been the biggest influence on your work to date?


tn: the influences on my work are numerous and it is impossible for me to name one person or an instance. most of the time projects are developed in a team. each project is influenced by the knowledge and skills of the people in the team. I would compare it to a puzzle that turns into a picture. 


the people that I am working closely with or who are near to me have a stronger influence on each project than a famous designer that others might be familiar with. gen toidé for example, the man responsible for special events at yohji yamamoto, had a big influence on the last yohji yamamoto projects in paris and london. he proposed and pushed for a photo-shoot that took place in paris as a result of a collaboration.

TN serving tray/notebook stand ‘bald’ for magazin
image courtesy of torsten neeland




db: overall, what would you say is your strongest skill?


tn: creating spaces with a strong focus on lighting design and timeless objects.


db: how would you describe your approach to design?


tn: my design approach is clear and direct. I believe that simplicity is very often part of a complex process. it is about timelessness. we are working for the design industry and we are dealing with limitations. I like to share the love of restraint, a subtle beauty based on simplicity and austerity.


I like purely designed objects that address the anti-throwaway, anti-fashionable products that have evolved due to our increasingly transient lifestyles. for example ‘urban normad 1 & 2’ are clothes hanging rails which can partly be easily dismantled by hand, without the use of tools and screws. this is convenient for transportation and for space-saving. this is a small, yet important practical detail that can be overlooked in everyday life.


it is about getting the best possible results within parameters. only art is limitless.

TN clothes hanging rail ‘urban nomad 1’/ Y’s yohji yamamoto
image courtesy of heiko prigge




db: what do you consider to be the most interesting developments in your field at present and why?


tn: 3D printing is probably one of the most interesting recent developments because it opens up new possibilities and the designer becomes a 21st century digital craftsman.


db: what are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?


tn: manufacturing technologies, interesting materials and photography have always fascinated me.


for the ‘urban nomads’ show with Y’s yohji yamamoto we have been looking to redefine the idea of a picture frame by using a direct to media UV printing technology that allows us to print images directly onto materials such as glass. the result is visible on both sides of the glass sheet similar to a transparency.


for the german brand MAGAZIN® we developed a serving tray that could also function as a notebook stand. the product is made out of press molded cork – a technology that is mainly used for cork soles to be manufactured on an industrial scale.


furthermore I always have been very passionate about photography including as an art form, fashion, still life and portrait photography. on a rare occasion yohji yamamoto proposed that we work together on a photo shoot that combined the Y’s yohji yamamoto collection with torsten neeland products. the images have been used to promote the new Y’s line as well as to promote our products for shows at yohji yamamoto stores.

TN clothes hanging rail ‘urban nomad 2’/Y’s yohji yamamoto
image courtesy of heiko prigge




db: what projects do you enjoy the most?


tn: projects that involve a creative direction.


db: is it hard to switch between interior and product design projects? and what helps you focus on specific briefs?


tn: I have been working on both disciplines for many years and I am very used to switching between interior and product design. most of the time, in both areas, it is about finding out what the limitations are. it does not happen very often but if a client has a very specific brief, then it makes our work easier.

TN cutlery set ‘stav’ for auerhahn
image courtesy of torsten neeland




db: how do you create a personality with the simplicity of your designs and is this the most difficult aspect to establish?


tn: it appears to be a very natural design process for me to pare objects and spaces down without forgetting about warmth and soul. all objects have a personality in a quiet and subtle way. I like tactile and sensuous surfaces such as cork, pulp, oiled and stained wood or brushed stainless steel. materials that age beautifully and those that add to the character of an object, help the objects speak for themselves.

TN coat hanger ‘UN3’ for corklook by multicork solutions
image courtesy of jens weyers




db: what are your thoughts on specialization vs generalization?


tn: both specialization as well as generalization or interdisciplinary thinking has its place within the design industry. today, the area of design has become so broad that in certain areas, for example car design, eyewear or shoe design you will need have to have a specialist knowledge. it is not only about the design process but also very much about the contacts that you have within the industry.


I have always been interested in multi-disciplinary thinking because I am naturally interested in different disciplines and most importantly it relates to a more collaborative approach. for the last couple of years, british universities have encouraged interdisciplinary thinking – which I welcome very much – because job descriptions for designers today have become more and more complex. a more comprehensive understanding of different disciplines allow us to get better results within the world of product or interior design. it helps us to think out of the usual box and to create a fresh approach towards things.

TN apartment in berlin
image courtesy of torsten neeland




db: what advice would you give to emerging designers and students who are entering the industrial design industry?


tn: always try to remain curious and never lose the sparkle. product design or industrial design is not only about individual authorship.

TN magazin pop up london shop in collaboration with bar alto/design merketo
image by jonathan griggs




db: what are you passionate about besides your work?


tn: I love cooking. the type of food I cook depends on each season. at the moment I love to prepare a variety of warm salads. if the ingredients are good a superb meal can be simple to prepare.


db: what’s your personal motto?


tn: I like to take myself not too seriously.

TN yohji yamamoto shop with clothes hanging rail ‘urban nomad 1’ and coat hangers
image courtesy of oscar lindquist