The German designer invented contemporary light: what remains of his way of doing lighting design 4 years after his departure?

Where is Ingo Maurer going?

Asking yourself is equivalent to wondering where the light is going. According to Axel Schmid, design director of the German brand recently taken over by Foscarini and for decades right-hand man of the Master who died in 2019, the right direction is towards poetic and informal design.

Axel Schmid is the front man of Ingo Maurer and the mind behind the return of the brand to Milan at the FuoriSalone 2023. A return in great style, with the Floating Reflection installation that animated the Caselli 11-12 of Porta Nuova: a very simple work but with a high aesthetic and emotional impact, in the recognizable sign of the most poetic light designer.

Axel Schmid is also the person - most of all - who can explain what it means to carry on Ingo Maurer's work after Ingo Maurer. As if to say: where does the light go when it loses one of its great magicians?

Ingo Maurer invented contemporary light. How do you continue the work of him?

Axel Schmid: “You have to understand his way of working to understand how we are pursuing his path. Ingo was a great art director as well as a designer. He wasn't a star, he wasn't a centralizer: he loved collaboration and a form of collective and choral creativity.

I worked with him for two decades and over the years the studio has become the home of a large family that includes not only the design team but truly all the people who work here.

He has cultivated an atmosphere of participation, of sharing, of continuous dialogue on every front.

Ingo had a desk, a work table. But little time was spent there: he moved continuously from post to post, activating spontaneous and constructive communication. He didn't put his ideas at the center, he was fascinated by situations, by atmospheres, by new things. The studio is still a lively, creative place, always on the move".

Ingo Maurer's new ones have nothing nostalgic about them…

Axel Schmid: “The products presented in Milan somehow retain the typicality of Ingo Maurer's sign and at the same time are totally contemporary. Our way of working hasn't changed: the transition between before and after Ingo Maurer was long, serene.

We were prepared and able to carry on even after he was gone. Of course there were moments of loss, it wasn't easy, also because when we needed to stay close and continue to work together even more than before to keep the design practices we are used to alive, the pandemic began" .

h2>Did you know, when Ingo Maurer passed away, that the brand would survive?

Axel Schmid: “The path had actually been clear for some time. Ingo Maurer is no longer just a person, he is a brand. After his death we knew that the company would be sold and so it happened with Foscarini.

Maybe there was a moment when we feared not making it from a human and, therefore, creative point of view.

That family atmosphere, that shared and private language needs intellectual nourishment, participatory experiences, daily contact. But in the end we found each other and, as we already knew, we were able to continue his journey and our work.

How do you build a team that can survive a Master?

Axel Schmid: “The company has had limited growth and this is the result of a precise choice. Ingo Maurer knew, just as it is clear to us too, that the sensitivity and inventiveness of which we are bearers can be the result of work done by a few people, around forty in all, most of whom are totally dedicated to design.

I think it is truly unique: the omnipresence of design truly involves everyone and, at the risk of repeating myself, we behave like one family.

We identify with what we do, we are satisfied with it and we derive a sense of accomplishment. We know each other very well, there is a totally informal atmosphere that allows us to have lively discussions, constructive exchanges. We continually move forward, we do not cultivate design habits that crystallize us into an icon, however beautiful and poetic".

The new projects were very moving, exciting and simple. Is it the zeitgeist or a legacy of Ingo Maurer?

Axel Schmid: “It is always dangerous and difficult to talk about a person who is no longer there. We don't like celebration and in any case this is not the way we intend to work.

I can't say that anything has really changed in our design practices, until the future plans of the brand have stabilized.

There was a concrete opening towards the future, the construction of a vision. And we understood that we had to keep running, to move forward and that to do so we had to be concentrated and focused. In preparing our presence in Milan we never thought of a retrospective: it's not really in our comfort zone".

Your team doesn't have a strict hierarchy: isn't it dangerous?

Axel Schmid: “We want to be free to be ourselves as individuals. And this involves problems and weaknesses, but it is our model. I would ask Alice Nitsch, head of communications”!

Alice Nitsch: “I confirm: we feel free to be ourselves, without adhering to the typical corporate formalities. If we feel like a moment of exchange, we stop to chat. Otherwise not and no one is surprised by a momentary unavailability.

Sometimes the atmosphere can get rough, a little direct. But as a close working group who is a team, where we know each other’s professional strengths but also on a personal level, like in a family, we are able to absorb even the less kind parts.

It really is the figure of a small, close-knit company that always looks ahead. It is what allows us to grow as individuals and as professionals within a systemic organization based on exchange and communication".