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Committed to meaningful design: Q&A with Huemen’s Christian Schluender

Design has always been central to HARMAN, from our audio products to our automotive OEM partnerships, enterprise solutions and beyond

Design has always been central to HARMAN, from our audio products to our automotive OEM partnerships, enterprise solutions and beyond. To further our commitment to delivering groundbreaking technologies that feature state-of-the-art design, HARMAN launched Huemen, a design agency powered by over 250 highly skilled designers and motivated by a human-focused mindset. We recently spoke with Christian Schluender, Vice President and General Manager of Global Design at HARMAN, to learn more about Huemen and HARMAN’s design philosophy.

Q: Design has always been at the heart of HARMAN, and now Huemen is taking this unparalleled design heritage and bringing it to market. Can you talk about the value that extending our experience in meaningful design across industries will bring to clients, both new and old?

A: Design is an extremely large part of HARMAN’s heritage, but I find that the audio heritage – the sound quality that is associated with our microphones, amps, and speakers – is what people connect to first. Then design and aesthetics come into the equation. At Huemen, we don’t approach design in silos; our mission is to develop robust experiences that go beyond industry or business unit. It’s all about creating experience-centric products. How do we do it? By designing with empathy for the consumer and by leveraging our deep understanding of technology.

Huemen is very well positioned to connect people to the world around them through experience-based design due to our empathy based approach. We insist on putting our designers in the customers’ shoes to understand their experiences honestly and with purpose, and ultimately to design with a relevant, first-person point of view. Our strategic approach is one that has been many years in the making. We’ve established personalities for our brands that end users get to love and understand over the years. Just look at how different JBL is from Harman Kardon, and how different they both are from AKG – we’re building these personas so that our customers can build a connection and create memories with them – honest experiences. We’re able to implement these personas into our designs thanks to HARMAN’s mission of leading innovation in technology and materials.

The process of establishing these brand connections is based on meaningful design. The concept of meaningful design involves developing something that is not only aesthetically beautiful and functional, but delivers relevance to enhance the user’s life. A pleasing appearance is a prerequisite, but creating a product that is also relevant in the day-to-day lives of our customers – that is meaningful design.

Q: Can you elaborate on the concept of meaningful design? What value does best-in-class design capability offer to clients in disparate industries? How will Huemen draw upon the design resources and experience found here at HARMAN, and deliver that same value to others?

A: It can be said that designers often design for other designers. Such a process will surely produce a beautiful piece, but the end result may not fully serve its intended purpose. Meaningful design is the opposite – it’s the combination of beautiful aesthetic, user-friendly interface, and added value to one’s day to day life. It is about relevance.

HARMAN is uniquely positioned to create experiences that link your entire day in a connected and customized design ecosystem, one that encompasses everything from how you wake up with music in the morning to getting breakfast from your connected fridge and getting picked up for work in an autonomous vehicle tailored to meet your music and temperature preferences. One of the biggest advantages for Huemen is the ability to draw from the wealth of experience and knowledge and then build upon it to reach customers across many industries. Our portfolio is incredibly broad; from tech to beauty, fashion, hospitality and more – it’s all converging.

Our value proposition has already been proven internally at HARMAN by establishing, refining, and implementing designs that create long-term relationships with customers. We can support two main design roadmaps, or what I like to call design moments and design movements. It’s a very unique offering. Here’s what I mean; our OEM partners are developing vehicles that have 8-year production cycles and up to 10-year sales lifetimes. Our in-car digital cockpit user interface and HMI solutions have to deliver beautiful experiences and remain relevant for these long timeframes as well – it’s a design movement. Many consumer electronics companies, on the other hand, build customer relationships and create brands that rely on customers upgrading their devices every year or couple of years – these are design moments. We help customers navigate both the near-term fad ‘moments’ as well as the longer-term ‘movements’ thanks to our extensive product design experience and our respect for the specific requirements of our clients’ brands.

Q: Part of the value of design as you’ve described it above includes an aspect of ‘design driving business success.’ When thinking about design for tech, designing with empathy, or design from a holistic perspective, how does design drive business success? And how is Huemen uniquely positioned to help drive that particular type of success?

A: Huemen is uniquely positioned because we’ve stitched together world-class talent with proven design chops. While we’re well positioned in both talent and design, we’re also blessed from a portfolio perspective. In my opinion, business success derived from design is closely related to meaningful design, or designing with intent. It only happens when the design of a product contributes to making your life better, more efficient, and fixes a pain point or inconvenience you experienced. When you deliver a product that was specifically created to be meaningful, you build trust and loyalty with consumers. You can create a social impact that lets an effective word of mouth strategy to drive business success. As mentioned before, beautiful design is simply a prerequisite these days. What’s truly vital is excellence in UX/UI, connectivity, functionality, and convenience.

As for how Huemen helps drive business success, think about it this way: there are a plethora of products in the world. How many do you reach for every day? Take, for example, a portable charger. It’s an incredibly simple product that can also be aesthetically beautiful. But if it doesn’t function seamlessly — or even worse it makes charging a hurdle — it doesn’t serve its purpose as that product and it doesn’t create value or add an experience. Products that do add elegant functionality and serve us in a way that adds value to our lives, solves a problem, and contributes to the quality of our lives – that’s how we’re helping drive business success.

Q:  What’s next for Huemen? Where can interested parties find more information about Huemen?

A: This year has essentially been the organization of Huemen – we’ve been working internally to get our teams ready to hit the ground running in 2019. We’re looking forward to getting to work on new projects and are very excited by the feedback we are getting from clients and events we have hosted throughout the year. We are also extremely excited to provide the experience and heritage of our teams to the external market next year, going fully out to market and taking on new clients. I look forward to sharing more on that as the New Year approaches.

At Huemen, we are delivering and connecting brands to customers through meaningful design. To learn more about our process, check out .


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