Tell us a little about the Dauphin heritage, and how the company has evolved since 1968?
In the last 50 years, we evolved into a multinational group with some 740 employees around the world. The Dauphin holding company has sales and production companies in Germany and abroad as well as numerous offices, agencies, and licensees in 81 countries.
Today, our brands cover the entire office furniture sector: Dauphin manufactures highly ergonomic office chairs, Bosse provides cutting-edge room-in-room-solutions, tubular steel furniture, and office desks, Züco covers the luxury seating and lounge range, and Trendoffice is a modern brand that meets the requirements of co-working spaces and young businesses.
I’ve been told you are an avid collector of classic cars – what is it about them that speaks to you, and what parallels do you see between the Dauphin product and your collection?
I restored my first car when I was 18. My father helped me get the old model, which was the only one I could afford, into working order. Since then, I like working with the mechanics and I am a fan of their beautiful designs. When we started the collection, my wife Elke and I had the vision of creating an exhibition that shows the evolution of some famous designs and brands, and I am proud to say that we managed to do that. The exhibition is open to the public, by the way. I think the connection to our products is exactly that: the combination of technology and design is essential when you want to create a great chair. Just look at our X-code range: It does not only look great, it is also highly ergonomic and can be adapted to its user’s individual needs.
Dauphin has been a pioneer in ergonomic seating since the company’s inception, how do you feel the role of ergonomics in the workplace has changed over the years?
When my wife and I first started our business, ergonomics was not even thought of. We were quite the trailblazers in the development of chairs that help maintain the health of users. By now, this idea is firmly established in any business and even at home. But evolution never stops and by now we have acquired a more holistic idea of ergonomics. We know that people who feel at home in their office are happier, healthier, more loyal to their employer, and perform better. Businesses are keen to provide such an environment in order to improve their overall performance.
Plus, digitalisation and globalisation change the way we work in a quite dramatic manner. Teamwork, creativity, flexibility, agility – offices have to enable all the new ways of working, which is why we combine the solutions of our individual brands to form “officescapes” that are tailored to the individual need of the business.
How do you feel Dauphin are different from other workplace seating manufacturers?
I believe that the strong focus on ergonomics, which we set early on, is still at the core of our business. It means that we always put the user of our solutions front and centre. This is of course key to the excellent mechanics we use but also influences our designs and product development. For us, it is about the continuous improvement of work environments and we believe that we can help businesses perform better through this.
Your product is highly tailored to the individual – how do you test your product for different body types?
There are of course the industry norms and standards of several countries that cover a broad spectrum of body types. The Netherlands, for example, developed a set of guidelines that accommodate very tall as well as quite petite people, as their population is extremely diverse. We use these guidelines for nearly all our development projects to ensure that as many people as possible can use our standard sizes. In addition to that, we test every new development with real people, to make sure that they work in real life. In over five decades of experience, we have built quite an impressive collection of patterns in our upholstery workshops that we use for special cases.
Dauphin developed the first synchronised mechanism for office chairs, an innovation, which changed workplaces forever. How does Dauphin continue to innovate and invent in an increasingly competitive space?
The basis of innovation is always to listen to our customers. We aim to understand their particular needs and how the changing work culture impacts their work environments. Then we develop solutions that either solve a certain issue, like the synchronised mechanism did, or we support customers in getting creative themselves. Take our new “Bosse Human Space Cube” range. They are extremely flexible: Customers use them as meeting rooms, creative rooms, for breaks, as a quiet office, a telephone booth, or all of those. We developed the technology and design options that support all those uses – and many more.
Tell me about the company’s design process – where do your ideas and innovation begin, and how do they develop into the product we know and love?
Just like innovation, design starts with listening to our customers and an analysis of their requirements. We always look at what our customers require. For the new “Dauphin Reefs”, Designer Jessica Engelhardt’s goal was to make workers comfortable in open spaces. That is how she got the idea of creating islands of cosiness. From there, it was not a huge leap to imagining islands with different functions. The final lounge range is modular, has power connections, and acoustic walls that also help create visual protection.
Dauphin products have won several design awards, such as the Red Dot Design Award, German Design Award and more – how does it feel to be recognised for design excellence?
We are of course very happy that high-ranking design specialists recognise our designers’ work. Particularly our versatile, minimalist designs, such as “Dauphin Fiore”, seem to go well with them. My wife used to insist on the highest design standards and I am proud that our team honours her by keeping them as high as ever.
Do you have any insights on the Australian market, or feel we differ at all from the rest of the world as customers/end users of your product?
The Australian market has a strong focus on design and innovation and its work culture is driven by collaborative approaches. There is a very progressive attitude and businesses want to try new things. Most offices in Australia are open-plan and support this communicative, collaborative culture. Flat hierarchies, mobile work, and the importance of creativity are also reasons for an increased interest in products with a softer, more residential flair that encourages exchange.