Lufthansa Innovation Hub

The Lufthansa Innovation Hub is the creative branch of Deutsche Lufthansa AG. Comprised of a team of forward-thinking designers, the Hub looks for opportunities at the intersection of tech and mobility to reinvent the future of how people move around the globe.
We talked to Vera Wienken, Strategic Designer and Minh Tam Ngo, Junior Strategic Designer.
Werner Aisslinger is an acclaimed industrial designer working and living in Berlin, Germany. With the latest technologies and the newest materials, Werner provides new impulses in the product design world.

“There are a lot of cities where innovation is happening behind big walls.”

Since you design for both Germany and Europe, how do you take into consideration the area for which you are designing when starting a new project?

Vera: We always try to match it to our target group. In the very beginning, it is just important to get a sense of whether there is a user need.

How do you generate ideas for a new product?

Minh: Well, last year we had trainees come in for a week, and we ideated on a new concept. They worked Monday through Friday to work on concepts with us in sessions, and, on Friday, they had a pitch that they presented. We also take our time to ideate. This quarter, we wanted to have time to not only enable others to have new ideas but also to work ourselves to come up with ideas that, maybe in the future, will come to life.

What are some problems you have faced, and how did you overcome them?

Vera: I think some problems arise from the fact that we are sometimes too fast. Our ventures are growing very, very fast, and there is no structure. They are just running and producing. Often, when we come into a project or venture, we have the teams, for example, fill in personas, which takes a lot of time because we always have to go into the data. We have to force them to take the time to take a small step back to look into their customer needs. Then, we build the product.

Is there ever any friction between creatives and non-creatives on the team, in terms of communication and understanding? If so, what strategies do you have to work it out?

Minh: We try to talk a lot and see each other a lot to know where the other person is. When there are challenges, it is because the communication didn’t happen, so we have to bring everyone onto the same page.

Vera: Also, it is very important to always have an explanation for your opinion or for what you’re saying. I just started here four months ago, and I went directly into it saying, "Okay, this product looks fake to me. Customers are very skeptical." And non-creatives would say, "No, it’s the best. It’s good. How can you say that?" The projects weren’t designed well. No one was looking at the text; there was weird spacing, and then I realized that I really had to help them analyze it themselves.

What is your background? How did you end up being in Berlin, and how does the city affect you?

Minh: I think both of us made a very conscious decision to be in Berlin, and we both have made very conscious decisions to go into design. After that, I mostly applied for jobs here in Berlin because I like the city. I like a lot of the opportunities here on the creative side, and a lot of my friends from my studies came here to Berlin because it is the place to be. My bachelor was in Muenster, which is a beautiful city. It is creative, but offers not so much freedom as you have here in Berlin. I really like big cities. I also was an au pair in the U.S. near New York City, and I wanted something similar. That’s why Berlin.

Vera: I was studying product design. In the very early stages, I realized I didn’t want to design products, but I wanted to design concepts. I wanted to design strategy. I had close ties to the startup community in Berlin, so I went to a community space called the Factory in Berlin. It is just a huge network of tech and creative people who are working together on ideas. I enjoy this network and access to these people, and that’s why I decided to stay in Berlin.

Minh: As for Berlin, there is a lot of opportunity. We can talk to each other. If you want to go to a meet-up event every day, you can. There is always something happening: the most interesting talks are here, and we always seek out opportunities. I think Berlin is the place for that.

Vera: From an Innovation Hub point of view, I think it is very relevant to be in Berlin because we need to scale our business quickly, and the people in Berlin are all very open-minded. Everyone helps one another, and that is not very typical of German people. There are a lot of cities where innovation is happening behind big walls. If you look at all the big automotive companies, they work for four years on a concept, and then ‘ta-da’ there’s the concept. No one talks to one another, and this is not our approach. We want to be open. We live by talking to one another. That’s why, from an innovation perspective as creatives, it is way better to be in Berlin than in a very German city.

COVID-19 has affected the creative industry worldwide, yet Berlin creatives have come up with new ways present their craft and to interact. Berlin has always been known for its resourcefulness, and creatives have applied this ingenuity here, innovating in the digital social scene by using existing tools in new ways to create new experiences.

Below are some unique ways Berlin creatives are tackling the issues brought by the virus:

The Collective Action Nightlife Emergency Fun

Locals have come together to collect emergency funding for at-risk nightlife workers in Berlin. The shutting down of nightclubs means these people are out of jobs, and this emergency funding helps mitigate the economic damage that COVID-19 is creating.

Questions for you:

What changes once we make these social spaces digital?

Will the digital event become a more normalized way to socialize?

Are people more open to attending these digital events?

Special Thanks to
Vera and Minh

Editor: Alyssa Spelios Hudson
Interviewer: Jessie Liu
Camera: Mindy Kim

Additional Images: