Please tell me about your background, how did your design journey begin? (Rea Stark Rajcic, Designer & Co-founder of Piëch Automotive) My design journey began with curiosity about the world and a profound appreciation for aesthetics. After completing my education at the School of Design in Switzerland, I was determined to make a mark in the design world. This led to the inception of my own design studio, where I had the privilege to collaborate with industry giants such as Sony, LG, Canon, and Nespresso. Working with these companies taught me the importance of integrating design with technology to create products that not only meet the functional needs of users but also connect with them on an emotional level.
You’ve been advocating for the importance of design in the corporate world. Why? (RSR) In today’s competitive market, design transcends mere aesthetics; it’s a pivotal business driver and often the main reason people choose one product over another. My advocacy for design in the corporate world stems from a belief that design should be at the core of every company’s strategy, similar to how Steve Jobs integrated design into the DNA of Apple, making it fundamental to the company’s success. Design thinking encourages us to approach problems creatively, leading to innovative solutions that can drive business growth. It’s not just about making products look attractive; it’s about creating meaningful experiences that resonate with users, ultimately setting a brand apart in a crowded marketplace. Last but not least, by doing so, you are fostering a company culture that is enjoyable to work in, attracting the top talent available in the market. This is a point that is frequently overlooked.
“The Zürich city’s commitment to excellence and sustainability mirrors my own design philosophy.”
How does living in Zürich influence your creative process? (RSR) Zürich‘s unique blend of cultural richness and innovative spirit provides a fertile ground for creativity. Living here has imbued my work with a sense of precision and clarity, reflective of Dieter Rams’ principles of good design. The “Swiss Made” stamp for quality is grown over decades. The city’s commitment to excellence and sustainability mirrors my own design philosophy, which emphasises the importance of creating products that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and durable. Zürich’s vibrant arts scene and its leadership in technological advancements continually inspire me to explore new ideas and push the boundaries of what is possible in design. My studio is located next to Google, which gives me a good vibe and inspires me as well.
“My co-founder, Anton Piëch, and I shared a vision of marrying classic design principles with innovative electric vehicle technology.”
How did the idea of starting Piëch Automotive come about? (RSR) The inception of Piëch Automotive was driven by a desire to challenge the automotive industry’s status quo. My co-founder, Anton Piëch, and I shared a vision of marrying classic design principles with innovative electric vehicle technology. Inspired by iconic designers and visionary entrepreneurs, we aimed to create a car that stands the test of time, both in aesthetics and performance. Our goal was to build vehicles that not only advance the frontier of electric mobility but also evoke a deep emotional connection, much like the timeless works of art that continue to inspire generations.
What was the main inspiration and focus? (RSR) Our main inspiration was the convergence of beauty, functionality, and sustainability in automotive design. Very much inspired by the design icons of the 1960ies. We focused on creating electric vehicles that embody the spirit of innovation while adhering to the timeless design principles of simplicity and elegance. The inspiration came from the legendary work of designers like Dieter Rams, whose philosophy of “less but better” deeply resonates with our approach. Our vehicles are designed to be more than just modes of transportation; they are a statement of purpose and a commitment to a sustainable future – without being boring.
“The lack of conventional automotive infrastructure pushed us to be more innovative, leveraging Zürich’s strong technological ecosystem and its culture of precision and quality.”
What is like to start a car company in Zürich, where it is not conventionally famous for automotive manufacturing? (RSR) Starting a car company in Zürich, a city not traditionally known for automotive manufacturing, has been both challenging and rewarding. The lack of conventional automotive infrastructure pushed us to be more innovative, leveraging Zürich’s strong technological ecosystem and its culture of precision and quality. This unique setting allowed us to approach car manufacturing from a fresh perspective, focusing on design and sustainability as our core principles. The experience has been akin to charting new territories, where the richness of Zürich’s innovative culture has been our guiding star.
What is good design for you? (RSR) Good design, for me, is an amalgamation of aesthetics, functionality, and sustainability. It should solve problems in the most efficient and elegant way possible, while also being timeless and emotionally resonant. A good design speaks directly to the user, creating a bond that transcends the mere utility of the product. It’s about achieving that delicate balance where every element serves a purpose, and nothing is superfluous, much like Dieter Rams’ principle of “as little design as possible.” Ultimately, good design is about enriching lives and leaving the world a better place than we found it.
What are you working on these days? (RSR) Lately, my focus has shifted towards investing in companies that embody the principles of design thinking in their core operations. I’m particularly drawn to the luxury sector, including fragrances, leather goods, and jewellery, where design plays a crucial role in defining the brand’s essence and appeal. Additionally, I’m advising major corporations on integrating design thinking into their strategies, aiming to foster innovation and creativity across various industries. My commitment to promoting design as a fundamental business strategy remains unwavering, as I believe that embracing design thinking can lead to transformative outcomes and sustainable success in today’s competitive landscape.