Usha Müller , 16 August 2021

Stadler Form X ECAL: Interview Martin Stadler

In a collaboration with Stadler Form, students from ECAL gave free rein to their creativity and invented the fan of the future. In this interview with CEO and founder Martin Stadler, read about how he experienced the collaboration with the young creatives.

The title of the task was «Create the fan of the future». The aim: to design a compact, mobile, and fully functioning fan for personal use. After being given a number of guidelines and constraints, the undergraduates studying for a degree in Industrial Design got started on the project for Stadler Form. Read about the unique ideas and innovative devices that came out of this project in «Stadler Form meets ECAL: Fan of the future».

1. How did you come up with the idea of collaborating with ECAL?

I kept reading interesting things about ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne and decided on the university because of its reputation. I found the idea of a collaboration particularly promising because it is a great, convincing design school that has been the source of good innovative ideas time and time again.

2. What was the idea and the aim of this collaboration?

It was about coming up with ideas by thinking «out of the box». That made us, as a company, open our eyes and find inspiration. If you keep following the same path for a long time, your view can become «distorted» over time. This time we wanted to take a new approach and look at things from a different angle.

3. What made you choose the fan as the device for the collaboration?

Choosing the fan as the subject for the project was a decision that we agreed on with ECAL. For the simple reason that a fan is not overly technical: it only requires enough technology to enable creativity to be expressed as effectively as possible. Had we chosen an air dehumidifier, for example, the design would have been defined to a large extent by technical requirements.

4. What was the main challenge?

All the students came up with ideas that were imaginative and cool. They took the fan, questioned its existence as an appliance and reinvented it. The designs completely won me over but the technical challenges in respect of functional efficiency were always there. Another downer was that all the prototypes were to have been exhibited at the IFA trade fair and now they can only be presented virtually.

5. What was the biggest surprise?

The incredible wealth of ideas that a single class can come up with – the range was enormous. One student decided that a fan ought to not just circulate the air but also distribute moisture in order to have an optimal cooling effect. He achieved that using clay and plants. Then there was another student who created a folding fan.

6. And were there any disappointments at all?

No, there were no disappointments. But there was a small degree of uncertainty as to whether or not we would be able to choose and produce one device in the end.

7. What did you find most interesting about the collaboration?

Definitely how different all the students were from each other and the different approaches that they took to the project. Some of the students focused on the design while others were very practically oriented or technically adept and some of the group approached the task of creation based on their own needs.

8. What did you learn from the project?

It was fascinating to work with so many different people from such a wide range of backgrounds. That young students can be so incredibly creative and that all their different approaches led to the desired goal. That was inspiring.

9. What were you able to pass on to the students? Or teach them?

I think that we were able to show how we, as Stadler Form, realise a project. We were able to give them an understanding of perspective and challenges from the point of view of the company – in many cases the customer. The project also showed them to some extent which ideas were great but not really fit for purpose and which products could have real promise for the market. And, of course, they got an introduction to the world of mobile fans.

10. Which of the ideas did you find especially innovative? And which particularly amused you?

All the fans were unique in their own way. Personally, I really liked Lucy’s project because she took such a playful approach to the task. She created a fan for children with washable blades that children could paint – an absolute first for the market in this form. And I found the bicycle fan particularly amusing – very easy to attach to the wheel, suitable for any exercise bike and inexpensive.

11. What was it about the winning project that made it your personal favourite?

What I particularly liked about the project chosen was that the fan was really minimalistic yet fully functional at the same time. It is currently still a secret, but the announcement of this product is certainly something to look forward to.

The student whose project has been chosen for production has just started his internship at Stadler Form in Zug. This will give him an insight into the stages of the product development process on the one hand and enable him to gain some experience of the real world of business on the other hand. We will keep you posted regarding his experiences and the winning project from «Fan of the future».

Thank you very much to all the Industrial Design undergraduates from ECAL who put their creativity, talent, and time into this project. Also, special thanks go to supervising lecturer Christian Spiess and Head of Bachelor Industrial Design, Stéphane Halmaï-Voisard.

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