Munich, Germany's design capital, ranks alongside international centres such as Barcelona, Milan, Paris, New York, Tokyo and Shanghai. An overview.
The best German designers live and work here. They develop products and concepts for global groups, as well as creating objects that instil a desire that goes beyond daily use and are included in collections as iconic pieces. Munich is also home to a vibrant fashion scene. Every year, the biggest names from the design scene join together with pioneers and artists for a series of talks and exhibitions at Munich Creative Business Week.
The city also awards its very own design prize every three years. In 2017, the Design Prize for the State Capital of Munich was awarded to Otto Künzli, a Swiss goldsmith and professor emeritus from Münchner Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Munich Academy of Fine Arts). Many of his pieces can be found in the world’s most important museums. With his ground-breaking work and teaching post at Münchner Akademie der Bildenden Künste, he played a decisive role in Munich gaining its current status as a global hub for designer jewellery.
Former winners of the design prize include the designers Herbert H. Schultes, Ingo Maurer, who died in October 2019 at the age of 87, and Alexander Neumeister along with art historian Florian Hufnagl, the long-serving Director of the Neue Sammlung in Munich.
Dr Angelika Nollert has been Director of the Neue Sammlung Design Museum since 2014. Founded in 1925, the museum is the world’s first stand-alone design collection and also houses one of the most extensive collections of product and industrial design, graphic design and ceramics. The Neue Sammlung was a pioneer when it came to giving everyday objects produced in industrial environments “museum status” and turning them into the subject of academic research.
Visitors can enjoy a wide range of highly sought-after design pieces, such as motorbikes, cars, chairs, tables, lamps, training shoes, computers or mobile phones. The museum presents milestones in design, ranging from Colani and Zaha Hadid to Gijs Bakker, Donald Judd or Stefan Wewerka; from Driade, Alessi and Ikea to Rosenthal; from Lamborghini, Ferrari, Mercedes and Audi to the Fiat Panda, putting the collection on a par with the MoMA in New York. One of the museum’s visual highlights is its Paternoster Hall.
The Neue Sammlung has been housed inside the Pinakothek der Moderne museum since 2002 and has over 100,000 pieces in its collection. It is one of the most popular attractions on Munich’s museum scene. With its acquisition of the Höhne Collection in 2013, the museum is now also the owner of the largest and most important private collections of GDR design.
Ingo Maurer, the celebrated light sculpture artist, and Konstantin Grcic, one of the world’s most in-demand names in design, valued especially the cultural metropolis’ chilled out, social atmosphere for their work. The proximity of Munich Airport, offering direct flights to New York, Milan, Barcelona, Shanghai and many other creative hubs worldwide, makes Munich a great base from which knowledge, experience and ideas can be shared with colleagues from outside Germany.
Other renowned designers such as Peter Neumann, Thorsten Franck, Clemens Weisshaar and Stefan Diez, and companies such as factor product münchen and communications designer Mirko Borsche and his team have their offices in Munich.
They design furniture, develop concepts for industry and media, and create both everyday objects and interiors for hotels and the restaurant trade. These artists are leaders in their sector and their ideas and concepts inspire people across the globe – even if they don't seek out the large-scale media stage, choosing instead the art of understatement with regard to public appearances.
Even their young colleagues in fashion and jewellery design tend, for the most part, to keep their distance from the media frenzy. The glamorous world of fashion is generally associated with Paris, Milan or New York, but Munich is also worthy of mention when it comes to fashion – and not just for the dirndl! The city boasts world-famous brands such as Escada and designers such as Susanne Wiebe and Gabriele Blachnik, who serve well-known showbiz and business clients. It's also home to outstanding young fashion designers such as Ayzit Bostan, the internationally established joint label Talbot Runhof, Natascha Muellerschoen, the young group "A Kind of Guise", and Patrick Mohr, whose designs push the limits of fashion. For younger fashion fans, there are labels like Oska and Mykke Hofmann, the clean styles of men’s brand Hannibal and Angelika Paschbeck, who designs her whimsical embroidered scarves at her atelier in Westend.
Milliner Nikki Marquardt and jewellery designers Saskia Diez and Isabella Hundt are just a few examples of the successful artists who love to live and work in Munich.
Bavaria is lucky in that many of its kings were big supporters of the arts and science. Over the centuries, the rulers applied their love of the arts to fill the state capital with an array of collections, theatres, magnificent examples of royal architecture, as well as various institutes and labs. This passion is still thriving in the form of Duke Franz von Wittelsbach, who would be in line for the throne were Bavaria to still have its own monarchy.
As a discerning and knowledgeable collector, he is a highly respected name in the world of contemporary art. Design and the creation of functional yet practical objects stayed out of public discourse for a very long time, though the importance of this area began to grow with the rising levels of prosperity within the middle classes of the 19th century.
Design’s breakthrough into public life came in 1897 with the 7th International Art Exhibition at Munich’s Glaspalast (Royal Glass Palace), which resulted in Munich’s Vereinigten Werkstätten (Associated Workshops) being created in the very same year.
Inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement in England, Art Nouveau in France and the Deutscher Werkverbund (German Association of Craftsmen), this group of craftsmen and early industrial designers dedicated themselves to transforming furniture and interior design in the spirit of the emerging Modernism movement. Renowned designers such as Richard Riemerschied and Peter Behrens worked for the Vereinigten Werkstätten, creating pieces for well-to-do citizens of Munich looking for high-quality yet innovative products.
Ideas from the Bauhaus movement later made their way to the city on the Isar. After the Second World War, the functional style prevalent at Ulmer Hochschule für Gestaltung (Ulm School of Design) gave up-and-coming stars the chance to start afresh following the kitsch designs prescribed during the Nazi period.
Otl Aicher, who founded Ulm School of Design with his wife Inge Aicher-Scholl, created the branding for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. His innovative logos for the individual sports have been replicated all over the world and are still evolving to this day. His clear, stripped-back designs also helped guests to find their way around the old Munich-Riem airport
Another factor that boosts Munich’s allure as a centre of design is the high quality of its universities and colleges, which attract young people from across Germany and the entire globe. With around 18,000 students, the city’s University of Applied Science has an outstanding design faculty. The chance to study in direct proximity to brands like BMW and Siemens, highly specialised suppliers, and the film and TV industry is ideal for forging important contacts for a creative talent’s professional future.
Graduates include Clemens Weisshaar, whose clients include companies like BMW, Prada and the architect Rem Koolhas. Housed inside a grand Beaux-Arts-style building from the 19th century and a bold new building created by Vienna-based architects group Coop Himmelb(l)au, the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Munich Academy of Fine Arts) enables the next generation to hone their talents.
Meanwhile, the Munich-based Danner-Stiftung is dedicated to promoting up-and-coming artistic talent. Every three years (most recently in 2017), the foundation presents the Danner Prize for innovation in design and the promotion of handicrafts in Bavaria. Further measures used by the foundation to promote newcomers include the acquisition of jewellery, class competitions, support grants, and many more.
In addition to a number of outstanding private colleges for emerging artists and graphic designers in Munich, Akademie der Gestaltung der Bayerischen Handwerkskammer (the Bavarian Chamber of Commerce Academy of Design) offers a variety of courses. The oldest school for the intricate craft of tailoring is the Meisterschule für Mode (Master School for Fashion), whose graduates include names like Ayzit Bostan.
And last but not least, the state capital is also home to the Akademie Mode & Design (Academy of Fashion & Design), where students can sign up for courses in public relations, communications design and fashion journalism.