From the world’s first independent design museum and a long history of promoting the arts, to up-and-coming designers and globally established superstars, Munich is officially a capital of design.

As Germany’s design capital, Munich joins ranks with the league of international hubs that include Barcelona, Milan, Paris, New York, Tokyo and Shanghai. The best German designers live and work in the Bavarian capital. They develop products and concepts for global corporations and create items which arouse desire that transcends mere functionality, incorporating their work into iconic collections. Munich is, moreover, home to a lively fashion scene. Every year the city awards its own design prize and invites the most important personalities from the design industry, as well as creative minds and artists, to participate in discussion series and exhibitions for the “Munich Creative Business Week”.

Three reasons why designers love Munich:

1. The New Collection in Munich: First design museum in the world

The New Collection in the Pinakothek der Moderne was founded in 1925 and is the first independent display of excellence in design in the world. It accommodates one of the most comprehensive collections of product and industrial design, graphics and ceramics. The New Collection is breaking the path to raise industrially-manufactured items of everyday use into the status of museum exhibits today, and to objects of scientific research.

On display are different products of creative design such as motorbikes, cars, chairs, tables, lamps, running shoes, computers and mobile phones. The museum exhibits milestones of design from Colani and the late Zaha Hadid, to Gijs Bakker, Donald Judd and Stefan Wewerka. From Driade and Alessi, to Ikea and Rosenthal. And from Lamborghini, Ferrari, Mercedes and Audi, to the Fiat Panda. Accordingly, it rivals the collection of the New York MoMA.

The fillable paternoster is a true eye-catcher.

With an inventory of 70,000 exhibits, the New Collection has been residing in the Pinakothek der Moderne since 2002 and ranks among the greatest magnets for visitors of Munich’s museum scene.

In 2013, the museum acquired the Höhne collection, probably the largest and most important private collection of design created in the German Democratic Republic.

Munich Museum Citizen Carl

Photo by F. Mueller

2. The history of design in Munich

Bavaria was lucky that many of its kings were important promoters of the arts and sciences. These rulers, who also showed great interest in music, enriched their capital city with all kinds of collections, theatres and great courtly architecture, as well as institutes and laboratories throughout the centuries. Duke Franz von Wittelsbach, who — if Bavaria still has a monarchy today — would be entitled to the throne, is a living testimony to this passion. As a low-key but knowledgeable collector, he commands great respect in the world of contemporary art.

The design and creation of meaningful as well as artistically pleasing objects were long excluded from public discussion, although this topic gained increasing importance within the bourgeois citizens who accumulated growing wealth in the 19th century.

With the 7th International Art Exhibition in the Munich Glass Palace in 1897, a change of mind became obvious. This event resulted in the foundation of the ‘Associated Workshops’ in Munich the following year. Inspired by the English Arts and Crafts Movement, the French Art Nouveau style and the German Werkbund, this association of craftsmen and early industrial designers was dedicated to the development of furniture and interiors in the spirit of the emerging modernist style. Famous designers such as Richard Riemerschmied and Peter Behrens worked for the Associated Workshops; their customers were demanding and well-off Munich citizens who had a taste for new ideas. Later designers on the banks of the Isar River also took up the concepts of the Bauhaus.

After World War II, the functional style of the Ulm University for Design offered young talents a creative new start following the kitsch commanded by the Nazi rulers. Otl Aicher, who founded the Ulm University for Design together with his wife Inge Aicher-Scholl, developed the appearance for the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. With his innovative pictograms he created graphical icons for the individual sports which are still imitated and further developed worldwide today. His clear, distilled communication design also facilitated passenger orientation in the former Munich-Riem airport.

3. Munich’s talent factories for newcomers

Another reason for Munich’s allure with respect to design is the high quality of its colleges that attract young people from Germany and abroad. The University for Applied Sciences boasts 14,000 students has an excellent faculty for design. Those who study there are in the immediate proximity of BMW and Siemens, numerous highly specialised suppliers, and he film and television industry. They make important contacts for their professional futures at an early stage. One of the university’s graduates is Clemens Weisshaar, whose customer base includes corporations such as BMW and Prada, as well as the architect Rem Koolhaas.

With a representative building in the Beaux Arts style of the 19th century and an audacious new building by the Vienna architect group Coop Himmelb(l)au, the Academy of Formative Arts trains tomorrow’s generation. In Otto Künzli the academy has a professor who is considered to be a revolutionary of jewellery art. His master class regularly exhibits in the central rotunda of the Pinakothek der Moderne. This was facilitated by a co-operation of the Danner foundation, located in Munich and dedicated to the promotion of new trends in the design of jewellery.

In addition to a number of excellent private technical colleges for upcoming designers and graphic designers in Munich, the Academy of Design of the Bavarian Chamber of Craftsmen offers a variety of courses. The oldest school which teaches the demanding art of tailoring is the Master School for Fashion, whose graduates include Ayzit Bostan. In 2014, the fashion school ESMOD, where Patrick Mohr studied, will celebrate its 25th anniversary. The training offering of Munich last but not least features the Academy for Fashion & Design where public relations, communications design and fashion journalism are also taught.

Munich Citizen Carl

Photo by B. Roemmelt

Who are Munich-loving designers?

The quiet superstars of the Munich design scene

Both Ingo Maurer, celebrated creator of light sculptures, and Konstantin Grcic, one of the internationally most sought-after design artists, have chosen Munich as their home town. They appreciate the relaxed atmosphere and the conviviality of the cultural metropolis for their work. Exchange with more distant colleagues can be easily organised from the city too, since Munich airport offers direct flights to New York, Milan, Barcelona, Shanghai and many other creative hubs worldwide.

In addition to Maurer, who, for example, developed the light design for the subway station Münchener Freiheit, and Grcic, who began his career working for the Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory, many other renowned designers are based in the city. These include Peter Naumann, Thorsten Franck, Clemens Weisshaar and Stefan Diez, and corporations such as Factor Product München. The communications designer Mirko Borsche and his team have their offices and ateliers along the Isar River. They create furniture, develop design for industrial use and for the media, and produce objects for daily use, as well as the interiors of hotels and caterers.

These creative minds are stars in their field. Their ideas and concepts arouse international attention, even if they shun the great media stage, preferring to cultivate understatement in their public appearances.

Munich’s young fashion scene: More than just dirndl dresses

Like established designers, their young colleagues from the world of fashion and jewellery design tend to steer clear of media hype. The dazzling fashion world is usually associated with Paris, Milan and New York. But Munich cuts a fine figure here, and not just in a traditional dirndl dress.

The city is home to world-famous brands, such as Escada and renowned designers, such as Susanne Wiebe and Gabriele Blachnik, with famous customers from show-business and big business. In addition, there are convincing young fashion designers, such as Ayzit Bostan, Marcel Ostertag, the internationally established duo Talbot Runhof, the young group A Kind of Guise and Patrick Mohr, whose designs explore the limits of fashion.

The successful artists who explicitly love to live and work in Munich include the hat maker Nikki Marquardt and the jewellery designers Saskia Diez and Isabella Hundt.