Over the past seven years, HARMAN and its design agency of record, Huemen, have consistently amassed product design accolades across brands like JBL, Harman Kardon, Mark Levinson, and Infinity, taking home more than 350 awards for over 280 products. These incredible achievements are fruits of a steadfast commitment to delivering intelligent, innovative, customer-centric designs that effortlessly combine beauty, purpose, performance, and superior sound quality.
With a continuous drive to set the bar ever higher, HARMAN and Huemen have just been honored with a record 33 Red Dot Design Awards. One of the most sought-after industry recognitions for the highest level of quality design, the Red Dot Award is an international competition intended to recognize excellence in the areas of product design, communication design, and future design concept development. Dedicated juries of experts choose the winners according to criteria such as degree of innovation, esthetic quality, differentiation, functionality, and emotional content.
This degree of excellence is due to the rare and remarkable talent, devotion, and passion of the designers and engineers who strive day in and day out to outperform themselves in creating breakthrough products for HARMAN. What makes the Huemen team so extraordinary? What is its design philosophy and where is it headed next? Christian Schluender, Vice President and General Manager of Global Design at Huemen, shares his perspective:
Q: Congratulations to the Huemen team for bringing home 25 iF World Design and 33 Red Dot Design awards! Can you explain the significance of earning these awards and the opportunities they present?
A: Thank you! Ultimately, as a design agency, these accolades allow us to show our peers, clients, and prospective clients what we are capable of in the design world. They also help us take a step back and examine our purpose – are we designing the tenor of the future? Are we helping define the future of design? These awards are driven by actual designers, so to receive this recognition from our peers is very significant and helps us confirm that we are truly doing meaningful work in our space.
It’s very rewarding to be recognized in a highly creative industry like design. Before we started working from home, our teams were celebrating these major wins in the office. As a team, we have great leadership across the board on the client and design side, so to be able to deliver on our concepts and then receive this level of recognition – is one of the most rewarding parts of being a designer!
Q: JBL’s QuantumENGINE was among the innovations that received an iF World Design Award. Can you describe the design process and any challenges that were involved in the development of this PC-based app for gaming headphones?
A: Huemen is in the business of designing experiences, more than anything else. If I can take that 40,000 foot view, the JBL QuantumENGINE was HARMAN’s truest delivery of an experience through a PC app, a phone app, and a piece of hardware. This was an amazing opportunity for us to create an end-to-end world class experience. However, we had our own share of challenges. The gaming industry is a new venture for HARMAN, and our insights team conducted an incredible amount of research that impacted how we design the JBL Quantum series. With these headphones, we had an opportunity to take the lead in a completely different way. The entire suite – including the JBL QuantumENGINE – delivers gamers with the ability to identify special locations by sound. For example, if there is someone running toward you from behind and to the left, a traditional pair of headphones will keep that sound fixed as the wearer turns to respond to the noise. Now, the sound responds as the wearer responds, thanks to special tracking technologies. By working closely with our engineering team in Shenzhen, we were able to make sure this feature was fully functional.
We created user personas – a process not uncommon in design and engineering. However, we were able to take this to the next level with HARMAN and in the full culture of gaming, to develop full characters with different personalities, and we leveraged those personas and characters throughout the design process. This helped define the machine response back to the players, and helped us create meaningful design specifically for gamers, from color to set up, adaptions, customizable aspects, controls, and more. It truly demonstrates how our teams at Huemen are capable of designing a best-in-class product, integrate cutting-edge software, and expertly tailor it for a superior experience.
Q: Looking at the combination of our latest iF World Design awards, Red Dot Design, EISA, and CES Innovation awards, it is clear that together, HARMAN and Huemen are a powerful force in breakthrough design and great sound quality. In your experience, what advantages does Huemen have as a true internal/external design agency?
A: As part of HARMAN, we have a deeper understanding of the products and solutions than any other external agency, and so we are better able to serve the needs of our client. There are multiple brands within the HARMAN family, each with its own unique feel, look and identity – we have worked with HARMAN to document and define these brands and create detailed guidelines, from product design to the packaging design and from the in-store communications to the out-of-box-experience when you open the product for the first time, we truly understand how to design a product that will seamlessly fit into, and amplify, the customers’ life to the fullest.
We aim to bring this deep understanding to all of our clients and work with their engineering and software teams through every phase of design, from discovery to development and then delivery. We know how to speak their language – many of our own team members are engineers and software experts themselves!
Q: Remote work has become increasingly important in today’s times. As you and your own team work from home right now, how do you think will it impact your process of designing a cutting-edge product?
A: By its very nature, design is a collaborative discipline – it has never truly been beneficial to design in isolation. Design agencies are also physically laid out to encourage collaboration and creativity, with collaboration spaces, endless white boards, physical and digital models, and more to ensure teams can bounce ideas off each other. This type of collaboration is more difficult when our teams are not physically in the office – but it’s not impossible. With six studios located across the globe, we’re already used to working with each other virtually.
Now, we’re relying on constant virtual communications as well as new software tools to facilitate brainstorming sessions and replicate our in-person meetings. As we navigate the current situation, the passion of our designers and their drive to bring about the best results for their clients is what really helps us move forward. Designers solve problems – it’s in their DNA. Combined with their passion for their clients and their work, our teams are able to create incredible work, regardless of the separation. When we eventually return to our studios, the skills that our team members learned while working remotely will ultimately help us provide better design for our clients.
Q: As we look to the year ahead, what is next for Huemen?
A: A few months ago, this would have been a very straightforward answer! We have very ambitious goals to lead and develop our capabilities – to drive greater impact through the power of design. We plan on advancing and strengthening our core expertise in the industries and markets we support and lead. This focus will not change as we continue to move forward. We started by looking for ways to bring our disciplines closer together in a way that was more inclusive and connected. Additionally, we were looking forward to scaling in new areas like mobility, gaming and the JBL QuantumENGINE. We remain focused on integrating our design disciplines better than any other agency can and bringing experiences to life for the greatest brands. We have adapted our specific plans and process to deliver this, and to accommodate for the new reality. Our clients always expect top performance – and that’s what we’re delivering. Our teams are committed to providing the timely, beautiful, and uncompromised design that our clients need, and that is what we remain focused on now and in the future. Our ambitions and impact have not changed.
To explore our award-winning products and learn more about Huemen’s collaborative and personalized approach to design, visit: https://www.huemendesign.com/