Following the completion of my formal education, I worked as a freelance artist on an autodidactic basis. Immediately after my subsequent studies at the Vienna Academy of Applied Arts, I attended Stellenbosch University in South Africa on a post-graduate scholarship. During my time as a student, I had already travelled through many countries outside Europe in a somewhat adventurous manner and therefore had no special fears with regard to contacts with exotic cultures.
I had dedicated my college diploma to the topic of Spectacles and Object Images and therefore it was logical to continue to concern myself with this topic in the course of my postgraduate studies. The focus of this discourse related to the functional, ergonomic and socio-cultural factors relating to spectacles for African ethnic groups. In 1975, I was awarded a lectureship at what was then the College of Art and Industrial Design in Linz and in 1976 was appointed as an assistant lecturer. From then on I concerned myself intensively with the topic of design.
I received one of my first large commissions, the redesign of VOEST road rollers, thanks to my then superior and friend, Helmut Gsöllpointner. Up to this point in time (1976) the procedure relating to capital goods design projects was dominated by the so-called technical-functional prerequisites determined by engineers and basically, the involvement of a designer was an unusual occurrence. The main priority was the problem-free provision of all the required technical features. In such cases, all that was awaited from the designer was the beautification of the external appearance of the equipment in the sense of American, marketing-oriented STYLING.
In the spring of 1979, following articles about the VOEST road roller in all the most important specialist publications, the fire-fighting technology company, Rosenbauer, commissioned me to work on a completely new concept for its airport rescue and fire-fighting vehicles (ARFFs). The ROTE HAHN the worlds largest fire industry fair, which is held in Hanover every five years, was eighteen months away and with the so-called SIMBA project, Rosenbauers new CEO, Julian Wagner wanted to set a new benchmark, irrespective of the costs. In line with our proven model, we started work by determining the ACTUAL situation and defining in value analysis terms every function according to its priority and in accordance with its practical, main and ancillary technical purposes, aesthetic and symbolic functions.
In spite of the radical and unusual nature of its design language, the SIMBA quickly became the worlds biggest selling ARFF. Another important milestone was the design project for extruders, downstream extrusion equipment and injection moulding machines for the American company, Cincinnati Milacron, in 1981/82. Our experience with increasingly perfect basic research procedures and functional analyses up to project realisation was naturally highly beneficial and during this assignment, we also tried to remain true to our basic principles and not only improve relevant technical functions such as ergonomics and service-friendliness, but also to express the hidden, technical quality through the external image. At the beginning of the 1980s, one project followed another and my achievements were rewarded with a professorship in 1983. I worked on various projects for the fire industry specialist, Rosenbauer, for over 30 years and I am delighted that in the course of time, this company, which originally was one of many players, has now become the global number ONE in its market.
In addition, other Austrian companies such as the worlds most important producer of injection moulding machines, Engel in Schwertberg and Fronius in Wels, which manufactures the worlds best welding equipment, and many more besides, have understood that in the course of the design process, not only are purely technical or ergonomic functions improved, but also cost reductions can frequently be achieved. A plethora of other functions can also been fulfilled, which take effect via aesthetic, semantic and symbolic channels. Moreover, GOOD DESIGN does not merely enhance the corporate image and product quality. It also furnishes the user with an increased sense of self-esteem and communicates greater identification with the work in hand and the place of employment.
Kristian Fenzl, 2000, Design Fenzl, Wissenstransfer