Interview with Erik Ulbricht from Germany

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Erik Ulbricht

Continuing the innovation in EV vehicles, Erik Ulbricht is pushing the boundaries by designing the world’s first electric hydrofoil ferry!

Interview with the 2022 MUSE Design Awards Winner - Erik Ulbricht

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

I decided at the age of 16 that I want to become a professional product designer. I grew up and went to school in Germany, where I also studied and got my bachelor’s degree in product design. After a successful internship in Austria I found a new home in Nuremberg, Bavaria where I live and work now.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?

Because I have a great hunger for knowledge in so many different fields of interest. I love cars, watches, ships, technologies, human behaviour ,... the list goes on and on. I am a very curious person, but I always evolved around the question "why?" ... Why do people desire certain objects? Why do we need or use certain things? This is what design is figuring out and also what design is capable of creating. So I could only imagine myself doing something to create new products that shape our future.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

I am currently employed at a German stationary company and pick projects I like to do on the side, this is also how I met the guys at Boundary Layer Technologies and we decided to partner up for ELECTRA. So I am a product designer full time and on the side.

4What does “design” mean to you?

It's my profession and the only thing I could see myself doing when I was a child. It's the first dream I conquered in my life. I dreamed of being a designer and now I am one. This is the simple answer looking at me, but Design itself is a huge field that looks at technologies, human interactions, the future, the past, into materials, business.... everything. Design is also a thought process and Design questions everything .... hearing this, design itself, is kind of like, how I would also describe myself. Haha

5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?

I love almost everything I haven't done yet, inside the industrial design parameters, so I would have to say, everything that's new for me, is my favorite. Starting with a blanc page and seeing something evolving is amazing.

6To you, what makes a “good” design?

When visual and technical attributes combined spark an emotional reaction. This can be a small, or a big reaction. Soothing or Controversial, even negative or positive. It all depends on the project, product and/or task. In the end good design does what it was intended to do, that does not mean it always has to be popular.

7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

Because of my automotive and technical interest, I take many analogies from there, which inevitably influences my style. The main characteristic I would say are my focus on the product itself and its characteristics, well-chosen lines and surfaces.

8Tell us about your design process.

Communication is king, especially early in the project and it has to remain a key focus. Communication of ideas through sketches either pen and paper or digitally are my go to tool kit. CAD & Rendering I choose whenever it is beneficial to the project. I follow a well-structured and clear design process I would call "classic". Understanding, Researching, Ideation, Visualization and Delivering, of course with reviews and iterations on the way.

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?

Definitely, I am very structured and focused in my process so that everything makes sense, especially for the client and partners. This is very German I think and the reason for the great quality in the end.

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2022 MUSE Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

It makes me happy especially for the guys at Boundary Layer Technologies, they work so hard in making foiling, hydrogen and electric powered vessels a possibility for the future and now to see a first very positive independent feedback for all the engineering and developing they do, by receiving an Award... Platinum Award! Wow!! It’s amazing! And for me it is another confirmation for my work and design approach. I think , I speak for the team involved with ELECTRA, when I say we are all very happy.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2022 MUSE Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

ELECTRA by Boundary Layer Technologies is a foiling, fully electric vessel. This concept will change the way we travel and also transport goods in the future. It is a great alternative for traditional ships and aircrafts as well. A foiling vessel is much faster than a ship and with zero emissions, much more sustainable than planes. I entered this project because, it looks stunning and everything it represents. This will impact lives for the better and that's what great design is about!

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

Creating a new design language that makes ELECTRA new and instantly recognizable, but still keeping it in some sense "normal" so guests won't be intimidated by some futuristic spaceship. Observers should understand ELECTRA is innovative but trustworthy. Basically we took Loewy's MAYA (most advanced, yet acceptable) principle to guide us through some decisions.

13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

This is not first one for me personally, so this is a reinforcement and proof, that my way of looking at things and making design decisions is the right path. To now have a winning price for such a great project, shows me that I have grown. The the whole Team at Boundary Layer Technologies this is a very great assurance that their idea of foiling electric vessels is viable and the design and engineering efforts are recognized.

14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

1. We change people’s lives for the better. Design, especially product design envisions, dreams, creates and decides how people live in the future. It's a great responsibility but a fulfilling one, when everything works out.

2. Design can create and delete products. We are not only creating new products and use up resources. Designers find solutions for problems, also by thinking in processes and looking at human interactions, so we can also make real products obsolete. Look at how many services and apps are developed over the last decade, that have replaced objects that needed to be produced with materials like plastic.

3. It is great fun, and a never ending learning process. Being a designer means looking into all kinds of different fields, so my curiosity is always fed with new answers, but also new questions. Its great!

15What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?

Germany is known for great design and great engineering. Of course Dieter Rams and Bauhaus played a big role in the design industry and people around the globe follow Rams principles. Germans today and in the last 2-3decades want to make the world a better place, especially looking at our environment and climate change. This is what makes Germany as a whole and also currently special!

16Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

We will see many new tools to support the process like, AR & VR. We can see it already with Gravity Sketch and programs like that. Also computing power and AI will play a role to make the design progress faster and Renderings so much more realistic. But I still believe, only humans can design for humans, even if AI creates everything, we decide, what we will adopt. So the human factor of empathy and creativity will stay for many, many years to come, maybe forever. But this is another, very philosophical topic. Haha

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

For students, try as much as you can, make mistakes, take inspiration from everywhere and learn the tools! Sketching, CAD modeling are too important, don't think, only the idea counts, a great designer is a good communicator, and the best tool sometimes still is a quick sketch on paper. You will still need this. For first time MUSE Design Award submitters, don't be intimidated, just start the submission process, you will figure everything out and trust your project.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?

Youtube for knowledge and tutorials, LeManoosh, behance & Pinterest for inspiration and a big accelerator are good internships, where you can follow and learn other designers that a further down the career path. The most important thing is still the efforts, you put in yourself, you can't learn the skills, just by watching tutorials, sit down and sketch or build things in CAD. Doing is the biggest factor.

19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.

I am very open with my best friends, so I can't think of anything I haven't told anybody yet. ... Wait ... nope also told that story already.

20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

Many people, I draw much of my inspiration from idols like Chip Foose, Yves Behar, Steve Harvey, Devon Franklin and many more. If I were to pick one I'd say recently it was Virgil Abloom, because I saw a Louis Vuitton exhibition in Dubai this year and bought his book afterwards. His work ethic, thoughts and approach to objects, brands and their meaning, stuck with me and made me think.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

I don’t consider myself successful yet, so it is hard to say. But to come this far, I'd say my curiosity and hunger for knowledge brought me here. Also learning the necessary skills is really important. Words of wisdom? hmmm... Comparison kills inspiration and gratitude.... My generation is very vulnerable to this because of social media and the rise of fakeness in the internet. So, my word of wisdom is very simple: "Don't compare, look at others to be happy with them or for inspiration and check your own motives."

22Which THREE (3) friends/peers would you nominate to participate in the next MUSE Design Awards?

I only have one: Sebastian Moock, my best friend and an amazing typographer and graphic designer. Any of his projects could be submitted here.

23Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?

Thanks for the opportunity to give my thoughts a platform.

Winning Entries

ELECTRA - a 150 passenger hydrofoil ferry | 2022


ELECTRA, by Boundary Layer Technologies, is a fully electric, zero emissions hydrofoil passenger ferry. Through its unique flying hydrofoil design, it can travel twice the speed and twice the range of any other electric ferry in existence. This greatly increases…
(read more at MUSE Design Awards)

Erik Ulbricht

Continuing the innovation in EV vehicles, Erik Ulbricht is pushing the boundaries by designing the world’s first electric hydrofoil ferry!

In a quest in sustainability, we recommend you check our NOOM’s amazing design here !