Heimtextil: Digital Wallpapers and Democratic Design

Heimtextil 2014 buzzes about Markus Benesch and his larger-than-life wallcovering experiments.

Mass customization. That's an oxymoron, right?

Not if you're Markus Benesch. To him, that's democracy.

Benesch, founder of Markus Benesch Creates, isn't one to box himself in. He designs unique surfaces, products, clothes, furniture, interiors, and architecture, all with the same mindset: "I try not to be a bore!"

Born and raised in Germany, Benesch began attending furniture exhibitions in his early teens, but grew frustrated with how little surface and furniture design changed from year to year. When he finally travelled to Milan at the age of 15, he became hooked on design, and relocated to the city to pursue it as soon as he was old enough.

The first product Bensech tackled was laminate. He managed to catch the eye of Abet Laminati, for whom he created designs known as "digital sculpture." That led to an exclusive collection of furniture, objects, stools, carpet, and even pajamas for Memphis Gallery, which was featured at the Galleria Post Design during Milan Design Week.

From laminates he turned to wallpaper, creating his visuals digitally, partly because it was "the only way I could afford to," and partly because his ideas were too big for traditional rotogravure printing. Literally.

"The scale of designs in rotational printing are limited by the circumference of the cylinder," explained Benesch. "Patterns for this kind of reproduction must be designed to repeat every time the cylinder makes a complete rotation. With digital printing, you don't have this limitation."

 Many of Benesch's experiments took center stage at this year's Heimtextil show. His designs could be found at the lush Rasch Textil wall covering exhibit, throughout the HP WallArt digitally-printed wallpaper stand, and of course, in his own Markus Benesch Creates/Curious Boy booth. (MBC is his design studio; Curious Boy is his own branded line of wallpaper.)

"What I love about digitally printing wallpaper is, you can cut your new collection launch down from 7 or 12 months to a single day. This is obviously a huge breakthrough. And it's nice for smaller companies and independent designers, because you don't have to produce batches or tons of material. You can literally print one meter. If your client orders more, you just print on demand; no need to carry an inventory."

"This access to production is really the democratization of design, of manufacturing," he added. "You don't need prohibitive amounts of capital to create a product, and every customer can have a custom design. This is quite a change."