As we become increasingly reliant on technology, the industrial designer emerges as the ultimate behind-the- scenes power player. Each innovation, every successive upgrade and improvement spring from the designer’s mind and Swiss based paragon Marten Helwig ranks among the very top forces in the industrial design field.
Although a native of the Netherlands, Helwig combines his adopted homeland’s renown capacity for intricate design and Swiss mechanical precision with a spontaneous creativity and instinct that produces such uniformly successful innovations that he has earned—despite fierce peer competition—more than 50 juried awards and trade recognitions, including the coveted Industrial Designers Society of America Gold Award and the Red Dot Best of the Best. As impressive as these are, Helwig is always quick to give credit to his colleagues on the development and design teams which he excels at assembling.
“I’ve been fortunate to have worked with strong partners throughout my career,” Helwig said. “It is important to remember that any award winning design is the job of an entire team. A product isn’t just about how innovative it is or how desirable its aesthetics, but it is also an item that must be produced in large quantities and help drive the business. Each project is always a learning experience for the next, to push the needle further.”
Helwig always strives for improvement, to reach the next level, and his groundbreaking design work is as consistent as his singular gift for innovation, as with his recent success with the Logitech MX Master computer mouse. While a lay person might consider that a mundane computer accessory, Helwig’s team took it to a far greater altitude of capability.
“The MX Master is a mouse for people whose work requires heavy computing and mousing,” Helwig said. “These people are heavy users of programs such as 3D Modeling software or Adobe Creative Suite who spend much of their day using those programs. The MX Master is the best tool for that job, very comfortable to use and has built in unique interaction elements that make the work as efficient as possible.” Here is where Helwig’s unique talent to conceive actionable insights for innovative design really came into play. “It started with a deep dive into understanding those professionals, their context, where they work, what tools and programs they use—a better understanding of who they were, what matters most and what would be most valuable” he said. “We created what we called a gesture button, allowing users to mimic the touchpad gestures with the mouse, a thumb scroll wheel that allowed for fast horizontal scrolling and a scroll wheel that could automatically switch between ratchet and smooth scrolling, even an easy way to connect and easily switch between different computers”. Typically Helwig went above and beyond, virtually reinventing the humble desktop mouse into a revolutionary device with an entire new range of functionality. Helwig’s holistic skill set is one which he developed throughout the course of a remarkable life path that found him living in no less than ten countries across the globe. “In each country everything is a little different,” Helwig said. “Things that you take for granted are totally different elsewhere. Sometimes these are noticeable, sometimes you only figure this out after you’ve been there for a while. To avoid any faux pas, you naturally become very observant and you take nothing for granted—two qualities that I believe are very important if you want to create innovative designs.” The Logitech MX Master perfectly crystalizes the Helwig philosophy of comprehensive anticipation of consumer need. “All of those innovations, thumb scroll wheel, gesture button, were then customized by users through software to their own needs,” Helwig said. “What was also new in this design was that the entire area where the hand would rest was made out of a rubber for comfort and grip and avoiding uncomfortable splits between parts.” Helwig’s boundless technical capacity and instinctual flair for complex yet accessible design is matched only by his pragmatism and humility. It’s a rare formula for success which has kept him at his field’s forefront for an impressive decade’s span. “I have been lucky to have worked on a lot of projects that made it into the market,” he said. “Many great designers often work on projects that never see the light of day, which is definitively the first hurdle, and also to gather experience and learn how to do it better on the next project." Helwig’s approach is one of dogged, unflagging dedication tempered with an almost poetic quality, the serene, simple truth of pure creativity which he invariably translates into success. As Helwig said “I believe we proved with the MX Master that the mouse still had significant relevance, and tapped into a niche that was ripe for innovation.”