At MMID, every designer works within one of the following five Fields of Expertise: Functionality and Systems, Producibility and Assembly, Electronics and Software, Look and Feel, and User eXperience. In this series of interviews, we speak with MMID designers of each of those Fields of Expertise to give a small peek into our work and culture. For this week’s peek, we interviewed Alex Knippel, one of our Producibility & Assembly designers at our office in Essen.
Hi Alex, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and how your journey at MMID began?
My journey at MMID as a Producibility and Assembly designer started 4 years ago. Fun fact, before my whole technical career started, I worked as a car salesman. I liked my job, but my interest was mainly in the technical parts. This interest developed more and more until I decided to study Industrial Design Engineering in Venlo. The study was a great match since it was technical driven, but also creative and alive.
There were two phases that had my specific interest: the creative pre-development phase in which we researched the best possible solutions for the given challenge, and the technical part in which we tried to make the solution producible. Thinking outside the box and coming up with creative solutions and challenges made me want to explore more, so I did an internship at MMID in 2017. After my graduation, I wanted to go back to MMID, both because of the wide variety of projects and the great connection I felt with colleagues.
What do you say when someone asks you what kind of work you do?
I tell them that I help clients solve complex technical challenges smartly and innovatively, by asking the right questions and showing possible solutions. I am a technical driven developer, and although I do not typically design a product’s aesthetics, I do have a sense of what good design should look and function like. More specifically, I mostly enjoy CAD engineering plastic parts, because of their wide variety of properties. Although the possible environmental risks of plastic parts must always be considered, plastic products can be of great value for the client and the end-user and even for the total amount of materials used, when designed thoughtfully. It feels good to take such a material and transform it into a high-end product with a beautiful finish, in which functionality, look and feel & durability are combined. Although integrating a lot of properties can make the part alive, doing so can be very complex. As a designer, I constantly monitor the requirements and figure out how we could make the features producible. Figuring all that out feels like a puzzle, it’s exciting!
What does your workday typically look like?
As a routine, I start my day by checking my emails to check if there is anything that needs my specific focus. Then I normally have a daily meeting with my cluster team, to align on what everyone will be doing throughout the day. Because our teams are divided over various locations, the daily meeting is important to stay connected and aligned and to offer and ask for support. After the daily meeting, I start with project work, arrange meetings with clients, and report the progress of currently running projects.
What do I like most? That would be the moment when you hold the model or product for the first time in your hands after several months of development and can finally really see all the details. Even better is when you hand over the product to your client and see how they like the results, that is one of the best feelings in our job.
Can you tell us something about a project or breakthrough you are proud of?
One of the projects I am most proud of was for a company that produces safety switches. I was involved from early in the development until the production started. Guiding the client and team from the concept phase onwards was challenging and complex, but resulted in an excellent outcome. Next to the development, I also supported the certification process, which needs to be passed before launching the product to the market. During this process, I learned how important it is to include certification-related requirements in earlier stages of the development process. With the feedback of the production line, I was able to assess if our “design for assembly process” worked out as anticipated.
What do you do next to MMID?
My dearest hobbies reflect my two main interests as a designer: technology and creativity. As a heritage from working in the car industry, for example, cars are still a hobby for me. I also have a passion for restoring old racing bikes. I like to clean them, replace worn out parts, and restore parts where necessary. As for creativity, I am very much into street photography. Capturing a moment in time that will never happen again in the exact same way, sparks a philosophical interest in me.
If you would describe MMID in 3 words, what would they be?
Collaborative, Innovative and Fast.
Why those three words?
Collaborative because we are very strong in working in teams, you cannot do this job as one person alone. If you have a good working team, you deliver good content. This lightens up clients, who see our value of working together towards excellent results.
Innovative comes from our ability to think outside the box. Due to the wide variety of projects and experiences in our teams, we can think of innovative solutions to bring value to the product and the consumer.
Fast is how our development-oriented process called LUCID enables us to work. LUCID is the acronym for LEAN USER CENTERED INTEGRAL DEVELOPMENT. It gives us the possibility to plan and act in an efficient way without ever losing focus on the main requirements. Therefore, regardless of the topic of the project, together we will make it work!