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GOOD DESIGN IS FUNCTIONAL

A well-designed product leaves no traces of the process behind its development. Taking the P’8928 SUNGLASSES as an example, we reveal what needs to happen before a pair of Porsche Design glasses reaches the store. We tell this story in reverse: from the purchase in a store to the very first idea.
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A tough challenge: Redesigning an all-time classic

The right packaging is just as important: A designer at the Porsche Design office in Berlin.
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THE SHOP

The box is heavy and large—you need both hands to hold it. Once you have removed the banderole of thick, rough paper wrapped around the box and opened up the packaging, a gently cushioned case appears. Open the case, and there they are: the new Porsche Design sunglasses, the P’8928. They immediately convey two impressions: robust stability and yet weightlessness. And something else is evident: they are extremely adaptable. The sales associate skillfully grips a curved lever positioned above the bridge between the lenses. Applying gentle force, she flips the lever upward, turns the sunglasses and can then remove the lenses, which were held to the frame by the temples and by four small hooks. The P’8928 Sunglasses have interchangeable lenses—an idea invented by Professor F. A. Porsche in 1978. The resulting P'8478—the original Porsche Design model with this feature - are one of the most iconic sunglasses ever created. Inspired by classic aviator sunglasses, their organic curves and functional yet sporty character were instrumental in defining the style of the 1980s. The P’8478, which were originally marketed as “exclusive sunglasses” due to their elegant appearance, remain one of Porsche Design’s best-selling products to this day. The P’8928 are a contemporary remake of this all-time classic.
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They evoke and honor the original, while setting a tone that is all their own: the P’8928 are more angular and even more masculine. What you cannot see from this cohesive object that leaves no question unanswered is the process that led up to its production. We will tell this story now — step by step, but in reverse. From the finished product — the sunglasses that are available as a 50th anniversary limited edition in black (satin) and natural titanium (satin) in a special box with interchangeable gray polarized and olive silver mirrored lenses and a braided leather eyewear strap — and its production through to the design and the initial idea. It is a long journey, because there are no shortcuts to perfection.

PRODUCTION

Before the finished sunglasses are prepared for delivery at the warehouse in Harsewinkel, they have already been on a long journey. They were manufactured in Japan. As the frame is made of titanium, a metal that is extremely light and resilient, series production requires a lot of specialist machinery, highly specific expertise, and the highest quality standards.
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FINAL STEPS BEFORE MANUFACTURE

The production process itself merely executes what has previously been designed and developed. The final crucial step before manufacture begins is to check the tool samples—the individual parts of the sunglasses that have already been made with the machinery to be used for series production. “If we find something that is not to our liking at this point, we can still modify it based on the tool samples. But this would be a very expensive correction because the models for the machines have already been produced,” says Ben Heirich. He is head of in-house design at Rodenstock and has worked together with Porsche Design for many years. “Checking the tool sample is usually just a formality. Generally, the people we work with are highly professional.” The step prior to this, before the machines begin production, is a very technical one known as engineering, which comprises preparing the plans for production. “Technical drawing is a term that’s easier to understand,” says Heirich. “Of course, we switched from drawing by hand to producing computer-aided 3D images long ago.”
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FINDING THE RIGHT COLORS

Another step that precedes production is color design. This is the last one in which the expertise of Porsche Design comes into play. In this case, it is provided by Daniel Bründl, Senior Designer at Studio F. A. Porsche. He has worked for Porsche Design since 2006. After spending many years at the studio in Zell am See, Austria, Bründl now manages the Berlin office. He studied at the renowned Faculty of Industrial Design at the Technical University of Delft. The 43-year-old, discreetly dressed in dark colors, became fascinated with design at an early age: “My father, who I got my interest in technology from, actually had Grundig’s legendary 1980s Porsche Design radio in his car – the one with the control panel you could remove and take with you. The car radio didn’t work without the control panel. What a perfect anti-theft device, so simple and so compact.” Since then, Bründl has had a passion for perfect design – which he can show to the full in the development and execution of the P’8928. To design the color of the sunglasses, he came to Rodenstock’s headquarters in Munich.

»NOTHING ABOUT THIS PRODUCT NEEDS TO BE DIFFERENT. EVERYTHING FITS TOGETHER. ACHIEVING THIS IS A LONG PROCESS.«

Daniel Bründl, Senior Designer at Studio F. A. Porsche
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Blinds are pulled down to protect the room from the daylight that, due to the reflections of the surroundings, would always come through the window in a slightly different color and above all in different levels of brightness. The light conditions here must be exactly the same at all times, which is why the workspace is lit up by brightly glowing fluorescent tubes on the ceiling. Bründl and Heirich are bent over a table covered in hundreds of temples, frames, and lens samples. A layperson often cannot distinguish between the shades of color and the different surfaces, but Bründl and Heirich can see the differences and nuances. They combine different parts, place them next to each other, muttering all the while. It seems like a hidden science. At the end of this process, they have created the models for the collection. The colors chosen for the P’8928 look so natural that it is hard to imagine any others. Good design is invisible.
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MERCILESS TESTING

One more step is required before manufacture: the product is tested in what the staff like to call the “torture chamber.” This involves subjecting the preliminary product to enormous stresses. For example, a machine opens the temples tens of thousands of times, the frame of the glasses is bent in on itself, and the hinges are overstretched. Then the sunglasses are placed as a whole in a “sweatbox” where high temperatures and artificial sweat are used to simulate extreme corrosive conditions. Porsche Design products must meet the highest standards of robustness and durability.

A CONCEPT BECOMES REALITY

Before a preliminary product can be tested, a prototype must be made. This is the point where two worlds meet—the world of ideas and the world of production. The unique part about this step is that everything must be done by hand. We enter the inner sanctum of production at Rodenstock: the prototype workshop.
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The atmosphere can be described as “somewhere between a craft business and a laboratory.” A radio in the corner is playing a classical music station. Wolfgang Knoblach and Ronald Begemann are sitting on ergonomically designed stools. Prototype construction is their domain. Both radiate the authority of experienced craftsmen, combined with the calm of a Zen master. Their job is to use a technical drawing they have received from Rodenstock in-house designer Ben Heirich to produce an object that is partly made of materials that are different from the finished glasses, but is otherwise identical to them. The designers have the utmost respect for the prototype engineers. “They’re a bit like magicians,” says Daniel Bründl. “We design, but they create.

The process looks roughly like this: First, the so-called mold disc is milled. This is a five-millimeter-thick disc made of blue plastic, which renders the basic shape of the lenses. This operation takes place in the digitally controlled CNC milling machine. Then the craftsmen take over.
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DANIEL BRÜNDL

“THE PROTOTYPE ENGINEERS ARE LIKE MAGICIANS. WE DESIGN, BUT THEY CREATE.”

Knoblach and Begemann have known each other for decades. The two have the air of an old married couple, communicate mainly in abbreviations, and lovingly tease each other. They work together like a well-oiled machine.
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Once the mold disc is milled, it’s time for the “winding.” From a vast amount of wire kept in rolls in a huge cabinet, they select the one that exactly resembles the material from which the frame of the future glasses will be made. “Then we wind the wire around the mold disc by hand,” explains Knoblach – and the resulting object immediately has a shape that looks like a lens. The second mold is produced in exactly the same way. The pair then sets about soldering, sanding, and bending. The bridge is fitted, followed by the hooks that hold the lenses, and the temple for holding everything together.

Next, Knoblach needs to use the pantograph. This is a mechanical device from the 1950s that enables molds to be milled to smaller scales—in this case the words “Porsche Design,” which are to be engraved into the temples of the glasses. To do this, Knoblach places a template with the lettering magnified ten times into a bracket. He then runs a needle over the template—and the pantograph engraves a tiny version of the letters into the previously milled temples made of titanium. Knoblach checks everything with a watchmaker’s loupe, his hand guiding the instrument as steadily and precisely as a surgeon would a scalpel. Precision down to tenths of a millimeter is required. Everyone else in the room maintains a reverential silence. “If you mill too deep, you’ve obviously lost the material. Then you have to start again from scratch,” he says.

»THE LONG JOURNEY TO PERFECTION: THOUSANDS OF OPTIONS NARROWED DOWN TO A FEW.«

Daniel Bründl
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At the end of the process, the individual parts—which are in fact one of a kind—are assembled. And suddenly an idea has become reality; a drawing has come to life.

AN IDEA TAKES SHAPE

Before the prototype is produced, it must of course be designed. The relevant departments at Rodenstock and Porsche Design work hand in hand during this process. Heirich describes how it unfolded: “The idea comes from Porsche Design, in this case from Daniel. I’m talking about the basic shape and look of the glasses. This is sent to us primarily as a 3D rendering. This quickly lets us know what we’re aiming for. Our job is then to convert this idea into a manufacturable product, by precisely determining the strengths of the materials down to the nanometer, for example.”
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And Bründl adds: “When we decided to make a new edition of the P’8478, I was immediately thrilled. Is there a more famous model of sunglasses? They are an all-time classic.” But that is precisely what made working on the new edition so difficult. “The original is perfect. There’s nothing at all left to improve,” says Bründl. “What gives me particular joy is that the object embodies the spirit of F. A. Porsche. It’s an expression of his personality. It annoyed him that he needed different sunglasses for his favorite activities—driving, skiing, hunting, and sailing—because of the stark contrasts in light conditions. So he reflected on this and invented sunglasses with interchangeable lenses. You can only admire such ingenuity,” says Bründl. Despite the perfection achieved by the original model, there was one aspect he was able to work on for the new edition. “The original is so well loved and well known that it can still sit alongside a new edition. This time, we opted for a slightly harder shape. The curves of the P’8478 give the glasses a certain softness, which is why they are very popular with women. They are unisex glasses, but the majority of their wearers are female. Our plan was therefore to design a version for men that is a bit more angular, more masculine.” Conceiving an idea like that is easy. The real art is in developing it.
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“A project like this takes up all your time for several months. You end up dreaming about it.” says Bründl. Like F. A. Porsche in his day, Bründl prefers to work on paper in the initial phase of a project. The first designs are crude. Different angles are tried out, and the shape of the lenses slowly emerges. “You’re constantly recombining shapes. Many days I left the office and thought to myself: I haven’t got it yet. I need to look at that again.” But after a while, Bründl hit upon a shape. It was then he knew: that was the one. Was he proud? “Proud is a bit too strong. But I was happy. No other fashion item captures the attention as quickly, as directly, or as unconsciously as a pair of glasses, because a person’s face is the first thing we look at. Their glasses take up all of our focus. So we shouldn’t compromise on what model we wear. It’s a pleasure and an honor to design something like this.” A design that became a product, which is now sitting in a case, wrapped up in a box, waiting to accompany its wearer through life.