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Drawing and writing are among the oldest cultural techniques of mankind. Just think of the cave paintings in Chauvet in France and Altamira in Spain. Is writing by hand being threatened with extinction because we now only swipe and type? Not at all! High-quality pens, trendy writing instruments and exclusive stationery products are currently all the rage. Product and packaging design play an important role in appealing to customers.
Figures don't lie, even if statistics are often interpreted according to the needs of a certain location. And although figures do not always reflect trends, they are good indicators of the market trend of individual sectors. On the occasion of its 2019 autumn conference, the German Association of the Office Brands Industry reported “an overall positive economic development", one that writing was also benefitting from. In Germany, the segment grew by 2.4% during the first nine months of the year.
LAMY, the market leader in school and youth fountain pens, shows just how important sustainable business models and product concepts are if you want to stand out from the crowd of generic products. In 2010, the company achieved a turnover of €50 million; in 2017, turnover stood at €131 million. A demise of the pencil, fountain pen and ballpoint pen would look very different from this. Despite – or perhaps because of – the transformation of the world into binary codes, "homo digitalis" seems to be discovering his anthropological heritage.
However, the Heidelberg-based company represents much more than just economic success. The history of modern German writing implement design is also inseparably linked with LAMY. Gerd A. Müller’s LAMY 2000 wrote design history in 1966. Even today, this true classic – of which a limited set with notebook was launched on the market on the occasion of the Bauhaus anniversary in 2019 – is still considered to be one of the most modern writing implements. With its timeless, simple design language, the fountain pen fulfils exactly what the multiple award-winning designer, the Italian Antonio Citterio, once said about his work, which led him all the way to the MOMA: “If my work degenerates into seasonal goods or a disposable product, I would regard it as a catastrophe.”
With the LAMY safari at the beginning of the 80s, good design then moved into the segment of school and writing instruments for young people. Forty-seven years before innovative and sustainable products were first honoured with the Green Product Award, a writing implement manufacturer was already setting standards in terms of durability.
However, the history of writing implement design goes back to the start of the 20th century. In April 2003, the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, in cooperation with the Goethe Institute, published under the title Denkmale deutschen Designs (“Monuments of German Design”), award-winning everyday objects that have become an indispensable part of everyday life and are familiar to many people even beyond Germany’s borders. The most successful children's car in the world, the “Bobby Car”, was inducted into the Hall of Fame, as was the hexagonal "Castell 9000" pencil, designed by Faber-Castell in 1905. With its design unchanged, it is still being produced today. The list of design awards for Faber-Castell is now long. In 2020, the company (whose motto is “Doing Ordinary Things Extraordinarily Well”) won the German Design Award 2020 in the "Excellent Product Design" category for its Grip fountain pen. The jury, consisting of experts from various disciplines, recognised its “outstanding design quality”. The Grip fountain pen is intended to be a daily companion for schoolchildren, teenagers and young professionals. Its characteristic nubbed design and ergonomic soft-grip zone make it stand out from the run-of-the-mill ready-made products.
It is not just LAMY and Faber-Castell that focus on design and high-quality writing tools as a distinguishing feature. Various other manufacturers followed suit and discovered the identity-boosting power of design for their branding for themselves. STABILO, a brand of the Schwan-STABILO Group, has been regularly winning design awards since the early 1980s, most recently with the EASYbuddy, which is equally suitable for right- and left-handed users. Carolin Vollrath from the department for International Digital Sales- Marketing/ Communication at STABILO International GmbH says, "Design certainly plays a major role in our products. Product names are often not remembered by consumers, so a clearly recognisable design is a great advantage. A lot of STABILO products can be recognised by their distinctive outline alone. Classic products such as STABILO BOSS ORIGINAL and STABILO point 88 are also considered design icons in the eyes of consumers.”
Even Pelikan, which became famous through the invention of the piston mechanism, can look back on a number of "classics". The "Model 400", introduced in 1950 and known as the "Stresemann", with its black and green sleeve, is still the epitome of the brand. Although the piston filler has been further developed in terms of design and technology over the last 70 years, it has retained its central role as an ambassador to this day. Pelikan has also received numerous design awards for its writing instruments, most recently the German Design Award for Stola III in 2017, which was developed to be “the basis for a successful start in the business world”. The fountain pen stands for “reliable quality, best functionality and an extraordinary design”.
With design-oriented writing implements for pupils, teenagers and the young at heart, ONLINE wishes to become a trendsetter for design lifestyle and the joy of writing. However, given the breadth of the range, this requires individual, target group-specific solutions, which is why one cannot speak of a consistent “style” here. “Young writing” requires something different in appearance and feel than “refined writing”. The company, founded in 1991, has been holding a design competition for end consumers for almost 20 years. It is an important tool for tracking down trends in the market, as Sebastian Preischl, Team Leader Marketing Online, believes: “The design competition primarily serves as a dialogue with customers.”
Product innovations and modern design alone are no longer enough to excel at the point of sale. Packaging design has increasingly assumed the task of conveying the message of a brand. At the same time, it is also an indicator of product quality. Staedtler Mars GmbH & Co. KG presented its “Design Journey” range at Insights-X. The range aims to offer beginners and advanced amateur artists alike a wide selection of products in order to send them on a “creative journey of discovery”. Anyone who believes that the range contains new, innovative pens for “early beginners” will be greatly mistaken. The sets combine tried and tested products and classics with a particularly striking and sensual packaging design, so that even those newcomers who would otherwise be somewhat hesitant when it comes to terms such as “pencils for artists” or “coloured pencils for artists” will snap them up. The company also broke ground in product design with its Concrete ballpoint pen, which is cast in concrete. According to the manufacturer, it embodies “the perfect combination of design and comfort”.
Another example of how manufacturers use packaging for communication is provided by Edding. The Colour Happy Big Box received the Design Award 2019 in the Packaging category. The graphic samples are all supposed to invite you to try them out, so they say. In plain language: the product may still be the star, but even a star can no longer do without an “attractive appearance”.
About the author
Ulrich Texter, a lover of design, has been writing about the office living space for many years. As editor-in-chief of the trade magazine Planet Toys, he ensures that the toy trade is kept on track. He also works as a freelance journalist for the online magazine of the Spielwarenmesse® Spirit of Play. Writing is one of the many lives of Ulrich Texter, the second is that of the culture manager who organizes author readings and literary events and awards a children's literature prize for debut works.