Student Portrait Jonathan Erne

After moving to Cape Town as a one-year old, Jonathan Erne decided to make use of his Swiss passport and moved back to Switzerland to do his Master’s degree in Design. The 27-year-old holds a Bachelor’s in Industrial Design and is specializing in product design.

BY ANDREA ZELLER
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What are you working on?
For my Master’s thesis I’m working on a project to help people with visual impairment. For this I have been following people with visual impairments, filming their day-to-day life. There are so many issues like people parking their bikes on the white lines on the pavement or restaurants putting signs outside their doors, making it more difficult to navigate. I realized how other senses take on much more importance when one can’t rely on sight. People with visual impairment use techniques like echolocation, where they create sounds by tapping their cane to detect objects, or describe places they visited by talking about their smells. Instead of designing a specific tool I want to focus on raising awareness, getting the public to understand what it means when you don’t have sight, and to help make life easier by creating empathy.

Is your Master’s course fulfilling your expectations?
Yeah, it’s really good. The lectures are very interesting and the workshops are amazing. At my university in Cape Town they had one 3D-printer and it was only to be used by the teaching staff – here there is a whole lab for 3D-printing. 

Which piece of art inspires you?
I find Jasper Morrison’s product design inspiring and generally draw a lot of inspiration from music. More recently I was in Madrid and went to see Dalís work. There is so much more to it than you see on pictures, small details and hidden images. I really enjoyed that.

Why do we need art?
Art is like an escape. It makes you get out of your head a little bit and changes your perspective. Take music; for me, if I hear a song that perfectly describes my feelings it’s a kind of release and it helps to see that someone understands me, someone has been through this before and it’ll be alright.

What are your plans for the future?
Apart from travelling more I want to do furniture design. I love being hands-on and cannot stand repetition. With designing furniture I get to draw and design but also to choose materials, source them, and then spend time in the workshop, making something new.