Lightness in Design and Material
For several decades, SILHOUETTE has been pushing lightweight designs crafted from high-quality materials. This approach continues in the new 2021 collection, as the design philosophy Sensual Simplicity remains a guiding principle for the brand. Aside from a number of technical features, the label’s eyeglasses owe their signature light weight to the materials. With strong expertise in titanium frames, SILHOUETTE also relies on its signature frame material called SPX®. In this Design Talk, designer Roland Keplinger provides an insight into the Austrian label’s design philosophy and on the advantages of exclusive materials.
Hello Roland, for how long have you been designing SILHOUETTE eyewear?
My journey has led me to SILHOUETTE in 2012. So I have had a chance to design and develop eyeglasses for our brand together with my team for about eight years now.
On that note, how does your team approach work?
My department starts with the first sketch and the search for new solutions. From investigating the technical implications to building prototypes and developing color concepts all the way to collaborating with departments such as product management, technology, manufacturing, and marketing with the goal of successfully bringing a product to market.
What are the characteristics of a great designer?
For me the most important aspect is to remain curious and open towards ideas and technologies from different areas. What’s more, finding a good balance between tenacity and pragmatism in order to realize ideas as best as possible.
Will this approach automatically yield beautiful products? Is there an overall formula for great product design?
As a classically trained product designer, I am fascinated whenever form and function blend into one unit, thereby creating a significant added value for the user. Tactile sensation, functionality, and user friendliness have to be well thought out and on point. Dieter Rams was definitely not wrong with his ten theses for great design.
But is there even room for design innovations when it comes to eyewear? After all, the product is clearly defined. We’re talking about a front section with two temples?
Real boundary breaking innovations, which to me include our Titan Minimal Art, have been missing in the eyewear business for a long time. SILHOUETTE represents a strong innovative spirit which also guides our daily work. Although many innovations are not that obvious. But they do exist, of course. I would consider our Accent Rings as a new chapter in the rimless eyeglasses segment. And we are noticing that this idea has already been embraced by colleagues in our industry. Lots of invisible innovations also take place in terms of materials and manufacturing processes.
Are there any signature SILHOUETTE designs?
Design plays an important role and every single one of our glasses represents our interpretation of timeless design and aesthetics. This approach starts with design features such as our temple tips and ends with the way we deal with edges and surfaces. In the words of our founder Arnold Schmied Sr., you have to be able to recognize a pair of SILHOUETTE eyewear blindfolded.
THE 10 DESIGN THESES OF DIETER RAMS:
Good design …
… is innovative
… makes a product useful
… is aesthetic
… makes a product understandable…
… is unobtrusive
… is honest
… has longevity
… is thorough down to the last detail
… is environmentally friendly
… is as little design as possible
How does this product design approach reflect in your brand DNA?
Our brand DNA is to a large extent the direct result of our product characteristics: light weight, comfort of wear and quality from Austria are the guidelines. The fundamental focus is putting the human individual at the center.
Let’s talk about 2021: Is there a specific overall design philosophy? Are your eyeglasses trending in a specific direction?
Going into 2021, our design philosophy Sensual Simplicity still rings true. For us this means minimalistic designs, smart and technical solutions and the typical tactile properties of SILHOUETTE frames. Fluent lines, extremely light weight and optimal comfort of wear are the results.
What has inspired your most recent designs?
For the Blend collection, the art of traditional Japanese wood joinery was an exciting departure point. And for the Lite Wave collection my colleague was inspired by integrated and invisible door hinges. The Blend collection includes the typical SILHOUETTE rimless frames.
What makes the new models stand out?
The starting point was the idea to blend titanium with SPX® inwell-balanced proportions. The goal was to work exclusively with mechanical interfaces, which is why we developed a safe and durable snap connection between both materials. This also unlocks advantages in terms of manufacturing but also provides us with the chance for a better, purely segmented recycling process. An important aspect in terms of sustainability, which is becoming increasingly important for us. We are also spending a great deal of thought on the afterlife of our future eyewear products.
It’s in the nature of rimless frames to require relatively little material. How come you are still putting great emphasis on this aspect?
SILHOUETTE represents lightness. Lightness means comfort of wear and that really requires a minimal amount of material and the right kind of ergonomics.
What are the technical standouts of the Blend collection?
On one hand the use of connective technologies as well as ourwidely known, maintenance-free Snap Hinge. Plus, a great mixture of highly wearable and modern lens shapes.
By comparison, the models in the Lite Wave strike a far louder note. What is the focus here?
In this full rim collection crafted from titanium, we are introducing an innovative snap mechanism that is integrated in an entirely invisible manner. It is easy to open and opticians can fit the frames with lenses safely by using a simple tool. We’ve packaged this novel technology into a range of rather exclusive shapes.
In how far does titanium represent a good match for SILHOUETTE in terms of materials and what do you like personally about it?
Titanium is really ‘our’ material. Ever since the invention of the TMA, we have built the necessary expertise which has also made our hinge-less frames possible in the first place. I love the flexibility and the baseline tension that we can realize with this material, especially at super-thin material widths.
Is the design language of your full-rim frames fundamentally different from your rimless designs? Are you serving different target groups with these collections?
No, even our full-rim frames revolve around a reduction to essentials,lightness, and quality. This approach really addresses a broad target group.
You are also adding new models to the SPX® Illusion Collection. what are the main talking points?
The SPX® Illusion collection provides access into the world of full rim SILHOUETTE glasses. It includes models in classic, timeless shapes for every type of face at a great variety in color choices.
Who are you targeting with these frames?
They are created for individuals looking for extremely lightweight, robust glasses without chasing all the latest fashion trends.
What are the standout technical features of this collection?
This collection is based on our unique SPX® material as well as our screwless Snap-Hinge. High comfort of wear and easy adjustability are the main features of these models.
Once again, your signature material SPX®, which you first introduced in 1983, plays the central role. What’s behind the acronym?
The acronym stands for Silhouette Polymer plus X. The latter being the ‘secret ingredient’. That’s what it was like in the 1980s…
Well, but perhaps you could explain the ‘X’ in a bit more detail?
We developed this polymer in close cooperation with our plastic manufacturing partner. The ‘X’ is characteristic for this specific development process and lends the polymer material exactly the kind of features needed for the manufacturing of extremely delicate, lightweight, and at the same time highly stable frames and models.
In how far do plastic models fit into the material philosophy at SILHOUETTE?
Titanium is known for lightness and high tech. That’s why SPX® is also such a great fit for us as a polymer. It‘s really the equivalent of titanium among plastics.
Aside from light weight, what are the advantages of SPX®, especially in comparison to other plastics?
Utmost stability of shapes at very slim diameters, ability to absorb constant stress and resistance to chemical influences.
What kinds of options does the material unlock in terms of colorways?
Over the years, our work has opened up a large variety of design options from transparent to opaque and numerous dip-dyed methods. Our color design is really free to explore creatively.
And how about the creative potential in terms of shapes?
The biggest advantage in comparison to acetate, for instance, lies with the possibility to strip diameters to the limit. The level of how far we can reduce becomes brilliantly apparent in collections like our Urban Lite line.
Where’s the journey headed for SILHOUETTE in terms of designs and materials looking ahead?
Together with our R&D department, we are constantly exploring new materials that fulfill our quality demands. At the moment we are thoroughly testing a highly promising material. This would also challenge us to change our way of thinking in terms of design and manufacturing. It’s safe to say that the journey remains exciting.
And finally, what does your own pair of glasses consist of?
Titanium in a hinge-less design.
Thank you very much.
photos RAPHAEL SCHMITZ
Find out more about the Collection here: www.silhouette.com
Brand Profile at SPECTR.
Check out a fine selection of frames on FAVR by SILHOUETTE!