Newcomer Finalist 2018, Julian Sommer

Julian Sommer studied industrial design at the University of Wuppertal from 2011-2016 and graduated with a BA degree. In 2014 he participated in a four-month University of Cincinnati exchange program, and then gained additional experience as an intern at HUGE Design in San Francisco. Since 2017, he has been an industrial designer at NOTO Design in Cologne. His bachelor’s thesis explored the relationship between the classical natural sciences and digital technology.  

Apart from being a finalist for the 2018 German Design Award, he has won a number of other design accolades, including the following: 2016 Red Dot Design Award; 2017 VDID Newcomer Award; Core 77 Design Award Student runner-up.     


A few questions to Julian Sommer:

You’re a finalist for the 2018 German Design Awards. What does this distinction mean for you and your work?

I’ve always found it difficult to wrap my mind around what designing actually is, and there’ve been times when I’ve felt despair as a designer. I’m always very critical of my own work – which is why the GDA means so very much to me. It shows me that I’m on the right path.   

What does good design mean to you in the 21st century?

It seems to me that nowadays good design shouldn’t limit its focus to function and aesthetics These two criteria are of course very important, particularly for me in my capacity as a classic product designer. But I think designers need to start engaging more than they now do with the farther-reaching aspects of sustainability. This means adding value to product designs that will justify their existence on a flooded market.  

Your current reference project, Skop, is a digital manual microscope that builds a bridge to the consumer sector. How did this project come about? 

There was a time when a microscope counted as one of the most exciting items a young discoverer could own. But the microscope has been eclipsed by tablets and smartphones. My bachelor’s thesis centred around ways to enhance microscopes through digitalisation and automation, so as to create a 21st-century mass-market microscope. I hope that studying my thesis will inspire readers to go out into nature and discover the world in a new, modern way.

Your submission materials contain four other projects, including a bedside-table light bulb as a second reference project. Why do you feel the GE Smart Bulb is significant? 

I’m particularly fond of this project, because unlike most of my other work, it’s a relatively simple product whose main feature is its aesthetic design. The goal of the project was to introduce a new GE light bulb. This resulted in a sculptural silhouette that still evokes the iconic figure of a light bulb.