The corporeality of things
The name Ballfinger dates back to 2004. Together with a small selection of design studios in North Rhine-Westphalia, the Designzentrum NRW participated for the second time in the international trade show 100%design in London. In those days, this trade show still took place in the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in the district of Kensington, and even then – in the eighth year of its existence, it had already achieved a worldwide reputation for shaping trends in interior and product design. This is where the Düsseldorf industrial designer Roland Schneider first presented the design of the „Ballfinger desk lamp” anglepoise. This cable-free lamp took up the concept of the great classics: „anglepoise task light“ by George Carwardine (1933) and „artemide tizio“ by Richard Sapper (1971), and extended it by using ball joints and cardanic suspension around the third spatial axis. Prior to this, it had only been possible to adjust positionable desk lamps along two axes, and this completely new approach met with so much interest that the design was put into production a year later without any changes. As a result, a whole family of lamps unfolded for a wide range of uses, which in the following eight years were successfully marketed in a total of 16 countries. The Ballfinger series was primarily used by planners and architects, who combined them not only with famous modern classic fittings, such as by Marcel Breuer, Eileen Grey and Le Corbusier, but also with contemporary designs, including by Konstantin Grcic and Hadi Teherani. With their timeless form, sophisticated geometry and pinpoint proportional relationships, the original design of the Ballfinger series is regarded today as one of the most beautiful desk lamps.
In addition to orders for industry, the Roland Schneider Studio is also working on freelance projects. For example, in 2010 the mechanical „Triplex“ wristwatch emerged. With a size of 42 mm, it was the first men’s watch, whose format went beyond function as a pure stylistic device. Its size and shape could be rationally explained: its casing was not simply merely quadratic but also divided into three segments, acting as a folding clasp. The austere and radical form thereby enforced was a provocation: as it did not correspond to the familiar image, it was not initially popular. A year later, therefore, the Triplex 2 Chronograph was created. This watch was more sporting, now possessed rounded edges and was powered by the reliable ETA Valjoux 7750 movement. The third design in the series followed in 2013. Although the T 33 also came with the multi-piece casing concept, it was again modelled on the classical layout, while bearing the clasp on the wristband. Whereas it was still possible to produce the lamps using traditional technologies in large quantities, the design of the Triplex demanded a maximum degree of precision as well as the cutting manufacture from solid material. By this means, the watches have been produced in laborious processes and comparably small editions. It is a similar situation with the T 33; its innovative design entailed the development of new forming technologies. This involved cutting the casing components from flat material, and using complicated work steps rigidly adhered to, to create (and finish) the casing in a three-dimensional form. Ballfinger is thus not only involved in design and construction, but also looks outside the box and integrates the future production into the design process at an early stage – thereby developing flexible and modular production systems that can be easily transferred to other applications.
In 2013, the decision was taken to also produce audio components and power units in the future. In an age when everything tonal and visual already fits into a telephone and vinyl is making a comeback, the development of record players and tape recorders began. Here particular attention was paid to magnetic tape technology: it not only presents the highest demands on precision, design and manufacturability, but has also made a major contribution to the development of today’s music culture. Until the advent of digital technology in the early 1990s, professional tape machines were the most important working devices used to produce music. As the sole storage medium for music and speech, this technology thus invariably represented the starting point for all other sound storage media such as records and compact disks. Although digital technology initially changed everything, it was, however, unable to replace the hitherto unbroken aura of the great tape machines. Today, in fact, magnetic tape technology is more in demand than ever before in many areas of music: its sound characteristics cannot be ignored and it increasingly represents a useful complement to digital recording.
Furthermore – with regard to technical possibilities that exist today and will exist in the future: it is to be expected that people will always prefer the corporeality of things to the continuing reduction possible through technical progress for a long time to come. After all, as much as new technologies are invariably convenient and enticing in the beginning: we do, though, still want to be able to decide and choose between an arbitrary user interface and real substance. The indications in this regard are unmistakable: thus, for example, the printed book will always remain on our shelves – despite all its shortcomings. The vinyl record as a haptic storage medium is enjoying a resurgence in popularity – initially without the purported involvement of the industry.