A conversation with Axel Schmid, Product Designer for Ingo Maurer

»Bad light makes you unhappy«, is an oft-quoted statement by Ingo Maurer. He devoted his entire life to vigorously countering this unhappiness with a spectacular array of luminaires and lighting installations as his legacy. When the acclaimed designer passed away in the fall of 2019, the city of Munich and the entire design world mourned the loss of one of their proverbial brightest spirits. His work has since been continued by a committed, no less innovative and detail-loving design team.

Born on Reichenau Island in Lake Constance, Ingo Maurer maintained close ties with the city of Munich for decades. Here is where he studied commercial art and, following several years in the USA, he came back to set up his company headquarters in Schwabing, where he worked up until his death. As an autodidact with a strong graphic arts background, he acquired comprehensive expertise in the field of industrial design – and he did so from the 1960s onwards with great success: as early as 1969, he was included in the MoMA design collection with his much celebrated »Bulb« luminaire, thus laying the foundations for his career as an internationally distinguished lighting designer.

Products with a singular haptic and visual appeal

From today's perspective, his luminaires have not lost a single bit of their finesse and experimental spirit. The intuitive approach to the design process bears testimony to a flair for technical clous. He particularly enjoyed turning to unorthodox materials such as paper, porcelain, plastic or even gold. But how does this creative trailblazer spirit shape today's designs? The accomplished product designer Axel Schmid, who has worked alongside Ingo Maurer since 1998, is captivated by the impact light can have on our senses and on space. He describes the collaboration of the current team as follows: »The values and design principles emerge from the company's work approach and the perspective of the people involved. There is no set of values we abide by, nor is there an ›Ingo Maurer design‹ we thrust upon our creations.«

»The way we create lighting objects is responsible for their haptic and visual appeal. We always try to find the right individual solution for each new assignment.«

Axel Schmid, Product Designer for Ingo Maurer

The mesmerising complexity of light

Another distinctive feature of the collaboration is having design development and production under the same roof. »This allows us to involve production early on in the development process and to coordinate our design activities to perfection,« says Axel Schmid. »However, it's quite a challenge to go through all the steps right up to the finished product on our own, so to speak, as a company.« What challenges him most as a designer, he says, is the material itself: you can't touch light, actually you can't even really look at it, »and yet it has a tremendous visual impact. I find this complexity very appealing.« When asked about his favourite luminaire from the Ingo Maurer product portfolio, Axel Schmid mentions the »Max Mover« model, a filigree luminaire made of ultra-pure aluminium and fibreglass, whose telescope can be almost doubled in length and can also be adjusted in height by means of nylon ropes. This comes as no surprise, as it is a perfect example of elegance and lightness. »It shows its distinctiveness in a very natural way, without much fuss,« the product designer explains.

The products he and his design team are developing are regularly on display in work shows, as is the case during mcbw. Under the enticing yet somewhat reverential title »How to make light«, the exhibition pays homage to Ingo Maurer's work, granting an insight into the production processes which let there be light on many levels. In the showroom, visitors can take an exclusive look at the roughly 100 models the company has produced from 1966 to this day. With his designs, Axel Schmid, who speaks at events about the tangible components of light, takes Ingo Maurer's inspired thinking into the future.

More information on Ingo Maurer via
More informationen on Axel Schmid via

The conversation with Axel Schmid was conducted by Sonja Pham for the online MAGAZINE of mcbw 2022.