Alfredo Häberli

Internationally recognized Zurich-based designer Alfredo Häberli understands the power of atmosphere and the ability of beautiful, functional objects to lift the human spirit. A modern Renaissance man, Häberli has his hand in every thinkable area of design: industrial and product design, architecture and interior design, furniture, clothing, jewelry, toys, illustration and, most recently, automobile design for Volvo. The creative virtuoso designs products that are elegantly minimal, efficient and strikingly modern. Vastly curious with boundless energy, the native Argentinean constantly finds new ways to improve his surroundings. From designing a sleek sofa that also acts as a work table to creating a revolutionary handled hanger, Häberli transforms ordinary objects to wonders of design and functionality. Top companies around the world like Alias, Iittala and Moroso have enlisted Häberli’s innovative talent since 1991.

What is an essential part of your design process?
To immediately start working on a 1:1 scale.

What inspires you?
The everyday – everything around me, especially human beings.

Who inspires you?
Our kids, my wife, my friends and clients.

Do you prefer creating comfortable things or beautiful things? Which quality is more valuable?
I prefer to create both, which is the most difficult. As for beauty, I am not sure how much beauty alone could motivate me. At the university in the industrial design department, we never talked about beauty. I learned to talk about beauty when I received my first commission from the Italians. Today it is an essential part in my work progress. I speak about soul. If my product has a soul, it will attract you, as the right piece of functionality always does.

What is an example of a piece of yours that has soul?
For example, the range of glasses I made, Essence for Iittala. If you look at it you are attracted by the beauty of it; many people are wordless and surprised. It is not rational to explain, so for me that initial attraction could be the beginning of a soul. The chair Segesta for Alias is very similar in its raw attraction. And when you find the flexibility of the back stripe, the stability, the feeling of its surface, than you are in the middle of its charisma. We say a flower has a soul, well, an old chair with his patina can have it as well.

What is something you would love to have the chance to redesign?
I am an admirer of anonymous objects, like the Caran D’Ache wooden pencil or the normal lightbulb. Of course it would be a challenge to redesign one of these design icons. Another icon, which has been redesigned over decades, is the Porsche 911 where the designers have succeeded in keeping its beauty.

What aspect of design is the most satisfying?
When you can live by doing what you really want to. It is wonderful as a designer to enter each new project with a new world of thoughts. The entire process contributes greatly to a designer’s own experiences.

What is the future of design?
I hope more sincerity and less of the cult of personalities.

What is the future for Alfredo Häberli?
I will keep my small studio and try to do less, but better.

Do you have any projects that you are planning for the coming years?
I am working with Volvo on a big project, which has always been a dream for me! It will have four wheels and another to steer. If we continue to concentrate on the project at this rate we will see the result of that project next year. Another project is a complete fabric collection, which has been a real difficult project. I would love to design a small collection of clothes, maybe something like pants, shirt and suits for travel, a line to look smart but easily dressed.

What are you most proud of?
To have reached more than one dream.

– Mila Zuo

Reading by Lena, who has no idea this palm belongs to Alfredo Häberli.

1. His thoughts should have a sign on them that says, “This vehicle makes sudden sharp turns.” While he may not appear to others to always remain on topic, his words are relevant; if listeners remain patient he will explain and connect his ideas.

2. There is a delicacy of sensibility here, combined with exceptionally strong vitality and curiosity. This will cause him to find himself in more intense situations than he is really comfortable with.

3. Was born to be an absolute neurotic, but he’s NOT!

4. A bit of a temper here. He’ll still pop off, but (once again by effort) he has learned not to hold grudges against others.

5. Has a good balance between seeing the broad picture and encompassing the detail in things he undertakes.

6. He has taken a natural talent for communication and refined it to the point where communicating is what he does in life.

7. Born with a tendency to continuously tell himself stories about reality. He noticed early on this tended to make him feel neurotic so he has learned to stop listening to it. He makes a conscious choice not to let his worries worry him.


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