Dabi Robert

Specialized in Lighting Design.

Dabi Robert

About Dabi Robert

My name is Robert and I am based in Nuremberg, Germany. My story in a nutshell: Coming from a Graphic Design background, I set foot into product design while co-founding two watch brands in 2010. With friends in Hong Kong, we are still active world-wide. I have also worked for a Tech Startup Incubator, and since around 2017 my very passion is lighting design.

  • Winner of 4 A' Design Awards.
  • Specialized in Lighting Design.
  • Original Design.
  • Creative, Diligent and Innovative.
  • All Designs
  • Lighting
  • Jewelry
Poise Adjustable Table Lamp

Poise Adjustable Table Lamp

Lighting Design

Jupiter Watch

Jupiter Watch

Jewelry Design

Cling Floor Lamp

Cling Floor Lamp

Lighting Design

Lunar Watch

Lunar Watch

Jewelry Design


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Interview with Dabi Robert

Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
When I was a kid, I drew a lot. My mum always loved painting and drawing, so she supported me. Pretty early already I knew that I wanted to be a Designer growing up. My interest for drawing extended gradually and became an interest for anything creative like illustration, 3d visualisation, music, dancing, interaction design, photography, graphic- and product design. I never studied industrial design in particular, so that’s something that evolved out of self motivation.
Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
I've been working as a freelancer since 2012 after co-founding the watch brand ZIIIRO. The studio founded in 2020 called "unform" is solely dedicated to lighting design, which has become my main passion during the past 3 years. I've accumulated a nice palette of tools in my small workshop for working on prototypes and expanded my knowledge around this subject.
What is "design" for you?
For me, Design is an intersection of functionality and aesthetics. It isn't always 50/50, sometimes something can be more useful than beautiful and the other way round. So I think that design isn't necessarily functionalism. When design leans more towards the artistic way, it can have a psychological influence on the individual, for example to inspire him.
What kinds of works do you like designing most?
At the moment, product design is what I like the most, especially lighting. But I'm also working on other things, for example I just designed a simple nose clip for securing a bandana to the nose in times of Corona.
What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
Not sure wether it should be my own or something I admire.. if it's my own one, maybe the Horizon watch I designed for ZIIIRO, because I think it is a timeless design. If it's something I admire, for example the Guise lamp Stefan Diez designed for Vibia.
What was the first thing you designed for a company?
Before I started with product design, I designed lots of print products for different companies. But the first thing that really made an impact to my life and the life of other people was the first watch for ziiiro (ziiiro gravity) back in 2010.
What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
I don't really have one favourite tool, I think it depends on what you want to make. Sometimes I spend hours on creating something in CAD, and sometimes I spend hours getting my hands dirty working with metal pieces. I love both!
When do you feel the most creative?
When a plan works out! That really motivates and makes me feel i can achieve everything. In contrary to when something doesn't work out – which is actually most of the times. I guess every designer knows this.
Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
I tend to focus on aesthetics and interactivity. Also I'm trying to create things where it's not always obvious what they can do or how they work. This should encourage the curiosity and playfulness of the user.
What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
When I'm focused on a project I feel like in a tunnel, but in a positive way. I often let myself guide by intuition, things I've learned over the years influence what I do on a subconscious level. Sometimes I feel like there are pieces coming together, from things I thought about earlier for a different project. Then I always need to step back, that helps getting out of the tunnel and see the whole picture.
What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
It makes me feel happy that I'm not the only one who likes what I do.
What makes a design successful?
Well, a pragmatic answer would be that good marketing can make a design successful. That doesn't always mean that the design is really as good as the revenue it generates. So if success isn't only measured financially, it could be timelessness. In the end, the things that have the most value to me are the things I often use or can't take my eyes away even after years.
When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
Does it bring any additional value to my life or the life of others?
From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
Not to harm both of them. As a designer you can always refuse to design something that is harmful for either society or environment. But then the client can look for another designer that does the job. So the responsibility is to solve problems in ways that are harmless and in a best case scenario even better than the harmful solutions.
How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
The future of design in general leans towards life preservation, the corona crises shows it again, everybody designs masks. But the biggest challenge of our time is to fight climate change, so I think that's a field with many opportunities for designers, for example in traffic and energy transformation.
When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
The last exhibitions where a while ago, at Berlin fashion week in 2014, that was for my watch brand. For Lighting, I planned to attend Light & Building in March 2020, my lamp was supposed to be exhibited at their Trend Forum. Unfortunately, the whole event was cancelled along the crisis.
Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
I get my inspiration from many things, I can’t even point out anything in particular. The web is certainly the most important source of inspiration. Being responsive to the world you’re living in is the essential part. When I look around, I often analyse things and automatically start thinking about what could be done with them, or what could be done differently. Every new design is a remix. Sometimes it can even be exhausting that my mind keeps drifting off.
How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
I would describe it as somehow minimal, but not in a super rational, pragmatic way. More like in a playful way. Maybe I try to bring these two styles together. So what I'm striving for is to create fun, but also timeless things because I noticed that the more details there are to an object, the quicker it gets boring.
Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
I was born in Romania and am living in Germany since 86. The heritage of German design is very functional and effective. Especially the city i live in (Nuremberg) is full of engineers and one of the cities with the highest density of IT related jobs in Europe. I was never very interested in coding or engineering myself, but I admire what can be done with it and consider myself a geek. So maybe these two worlds can be complementary here. Actually when I think about it, I'm not especially focused on the city or even country I live in.
How do you work with companies?
During the last 10 years I mostly worked with the 2 other co-founders of our watch brands from Hong Kong. So remote work is normal to me. Back then, we even founded the company just by by text chat, we didn't even call each other. For one year in 2018, I was also part-time working as a designer for the fastest growing Tech Incubator in my city.
What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
First of all, it is important who in the company is involved in decisions like that. It would be good if there's someone who understands the value of the design and works with the designer afterwards. If you narrowed it down to a small number of designers of choice, it might help to do a little commissioned test project to see if the designer fits into your environment.
Can you talk a little about your design process?
For me, the most important thing in creative work is taking notes. I do that digitally so that I can access them any time. It's like thinking about different things, taking notes, making a scribble eventually, and when I feel like I’m onto something I start making more precise scribbles followed by CAD drawings, or I try to build it right away, depending on the complexity. In graphic design it's similar, but it's more like a rough rock that gets chiseled into a finished sculpture, metaphorically.
What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
iPhone, Airpods, Mac, the Aeon Rocket P3 lamp, ... and I just notice that I'm not very attached to any specific objects around.
Can you describe a day in your life?
Right now, my days are different than 2 -3 months ago. I'm used to work from home where my studio is, but normally my wife and 5-year old son aren't at home as well. So now me and my wife have to switch working and taking care of our son because nursery schools are closed. My regular day would be to drive my son to daycare and then go back up into my studio / workshop and just work on different projects there, as well as having a meeting with my colleagues from time to time. I have an adequate amount tools and materials to try some basic stuff, so I can do many things in-house and switch between screen and workbench.
Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
Whenever possible, try to work on things that you really care about. Often times, the best works are the ones you would want to have for yourself. If you work with others, try to find places where your work is appreciated, because this is what makes you happy.
From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
The pros and cons are pretty close to each other. It is great being able to create something from scratch which can potentially influence others. But at the same time, when you are really enthusiastic about what you do, you'll have to learn how to stop thinking about it and enjoy other things in life.
What is your "golden rule" in design?
The principles of design are more important than the tools, because they won't change over time.
What skills are most important for a designer?
To think outside the box, to question why things are done the way they are. Then, being able to observe these things and to alter them in a way that they open a new perspective for the observer.
Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
A stationary computer, my smartphone, notebooks - those are my tools for creating intellectual information. In the workshop I have tools like a lathe, a milling machine, vacuum chamber, different tools to cut and sand. My sources of inspiration are mostly online, I also have many helpful books, but I couldn't pick any specific one.
Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
When you have to work where you also live, you really have to be disciplined and organised, not to be distracted. So (in other times than during the corona crisis) I have pretty strict working hours from nine to six. Sometimes I also add an evening here and there if I have to get something finished. If there's a deadline, I consider myself focused and solution-oriented.
How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
That's very dependant on the object. For watches, there were models that took over a year because we wanted to try really unusual things which oftentimes turned out not to be feasible.
What was your most important job experience?
The most recent one was working for the tech incubator, because of the great team there and the things I learned. I got to know what makes a great and effective working environment.
Who are some of your clients?
During the last years I more or less worked on the brands I co-founded, ZIIIRO and Cronometrics.
What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
At the moment it's lighting design. Sometimes I feel like a fly that is attracted by light because i can't stop thinking and researching about lighting objects.
What are your future plans? What is next for you?
I really want to work on lighting objects, but I'm not sure yet how. Whether to create an own brand or try to offer commissioned work to existing brands. The Poise lamp is only one of many lamps I created over the last months and years, so I wish it could be the entry ticket into this world.
Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
Yes, I have some more prototypes of lamps, and even more unfinished ideas after that. I am looking for an outlet to let them grow.
How can people contact you?
On my website www.dabi.me, you can find multiple ways to contact me.

Extended Interview with Dabi Robert

Could you please tell us about your experience as a designer, artist, architect or creator?
After art oriented technical secondary school, I was working as a media designer for about 10 years. After that I co-founded an international watch brand, and a second one after that. Mostly working on those, i did a couple of side projects, worked for a tech incubator for a year and also catched up on studying design at the university. That was unusually late after having worked in that field for years.
How did you become a designer?
When I was a kid, I drew a lot. My mum always loved painting and drawing, so she supported me. I knew that I wanted to be a Designer when I grew up, it was never a question to do anything else than a creative job.
Which emotions do you feel when designing?
At the moment I do a lot of product design, most of all related to watches and lighting. Lighting is what I'd like to do more of. However industrial design isn't something I studied, I'm just really enthusiastic about it and try to teach myself.
What particular aspects of your background shaped you as a designer?
Focus on learning the basic principles of design, not so much the tools for creating it. The principles will stay the same for decades while the tools are rapidly changing. And you can always quickly learn the tool you need. Whenever possible, try to work on things that you really care about. Often the best works are the ones you would want for yourself. If you work in a team, try to find places where your work is appreciated, because this is what makes you happy and keeps you going. And just try out as much as possible, because most ideas turn out not to work like you imagined.
What is your growth path? What are your future plans? What is your dream design project?
A good designer does the job, a great designer doesn't stop there.
What are your advices to designers who are at the beginning of their career?
Design is somehow the communication between objects and humans, and there are multiple factors that define this communication. I think the more of these factors the design carves out at the same time, the better it gets. It depends on the product, which of these factors are more important.
You are truly successful as a designer, what do you suggest to fellow designers, artists and architects?
Design is part of the backbone of our society. It has the power to steer our society. Cavemen designed their axes, which allowed them to hunt better, now we have smartphones which make the world more connected. If we invest in good design, we can change the world.
What is your day to day look like?
Realistically I would like to work for Flos, Vibia or Artemide and design lighting. In a space of infinite time I would probably try to create some art instead of design. I have a couple of ideas for illustrative and figurative artworks but never get to work on them.
How do you keep up with latest design trends? To what extent do design trends matter?
Probably +12 years ago, I wanted to make an illustrated book about our oceans to raise awareness about our environment. It should have been entertaining and informative at the same time.
How do you know if a product or project is well designed? How do you define good design?
My secret recipe is to follow my passion, it sounds cheesy but I believe in it. The secret ingredient would probably be: every time I think I have finished something, add a breeze of insanity to it.
How do you decide if your design is ready?
For example Phillipe Starck, Ives Bahar, Steve Jobs (even if he wasn't a designer he understood more of it than many others)
What is your biggest design work?
For example the Guise lamp Stefan Diez designed for Vibia, because I was experimenting with something similar at the same time it was released... his design just was much better than what I had in mind.
Who is your favourite designer?
Well, I think my poise lamp is not bad :) What I like about it is that even after months of working on it, I still keep playing around and changing its' pose. From my watch-related projects, I still like the ZIIIRO Lunar watch very much, it was also sold in the MoMa shop. I think a design is great when it's still interesting after a long time, when you still want to interact with it or look at it without getting bored. Those are the things you end up getting attached to.
Would you tell us a bit about your lifestyle and culture?
Constantly keep learning. New tools, new disciplines, new sources of inspiration, new people to work with, projects that are not in your comfort zone. Eventually, you will end up doing one thing in the end and that's ok, but if you tried many different things before, you know your strengths and weaknesses, so the one thing will have even more value to you and others.
Would you tell us more about your work culture and business philosophy?
Maybe an artist or photographer, but at least something creative.
What are your philanthropic contributions to society as a designer, artist and architect?
It defines how we interact with something and it's an intersection of functionality and aesthetics. It isn't always a 50/50 intersect, something can be more useful than beautiful or the other way round. So I think that design isn't necessarily functionalism. When design leans more towards the artistic way, it can have a psychological influence on the individual, for example to inspire.
What positive experiences you had when you attend the A’ Design Award?
When I was younger, my mother supported me, but in the times when I was a teenager my family slowly drifted apart and everybody had their own problems. For a long time I didn't have any mentor or special supporter, until I met my wife.

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