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PRESS RELEASE 14.05.2014


Exhibition at the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design


Tõnis Käo is a designer, visionary, teacher, photographer and theoretician. In his professional activity practical work as a designer is mixed with theoretical research resulting in domestic electronic devices, exhibition design, articles and books.


Tõnis Käo represents the very rare and specific success story of a designer of Estonian origin who has had a successful career outside Estonia in a leading international company, Siemens, contributing significantly to contemporary international design and teaching.


Professor Tõnis Käo (1940) was born in Saaremaa, Estonia and educated in Germany at the Essen Folkwangschule für Gestaltung (1962-67). He has worked from 1969 to 1991 at Siemens A.G. in Munich – initially as industrial designer, later as chief of the design studio. In 1992 he was appointed Professor of Product Design at Bergische Universität Wuppertal. Here he realized his teaching concept „Design in der Forschung“ (Design in Research) and developed a methodology of design teaching. He has designed and organized many exhibitions and has published numerous articles in his field.


As early as 1982, he has developed an important visionary model for a mobile phone the size of a bank card and for a computer the size of A4-office paper. These are on display at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich and have been included in the museum’s permanent collection. His work for Siemens includes many everyday products well-known worldwide. Among them: phone and phone booth for Deutsche Bundespost in cooperation with Herbert Krämer (1972), hairdryer MH1715 2000 (1978), vacuum cleaner Super58 (1978), and Siemens mobile phone (1982).


In addition to product design solutions, Tõnis Käo is the author of several exhibition designs and has also worked in graphic design, he is a long-term educator and researcher. As a professor at the Berg University in Wuppertal (Bergische Universität Wuppertal) he cooperated with scientists from many different fields to ensure that high level of research and development would be part of the curriculum.


Tõnis Käo has also written articles and books about design and culture.
Between 1978 and 1980 he published a two-volume book on product design Product Design I.


Features of form and their influence and Product Design II. Carriers of meaning and their contents. (Produktgestalt. Teil 1: Formmerkmale und ihre Wirkungen, 1979, and Produktgestalt. Teil 2: Bedeutungsträger und ihre Inhalte, 1980).


It was a serendipitous that work brought Tõnis Käo and Martin Pärn, professor and designer from Tallinn, together in 2006 in Solingen. It is due to this meeting and the subsequent contacts that developed, that this retrospective exhibition of Käo’s work and catalogue came into being. In 2012, another auspicious event took place, when Tõnis Käo donated his design archive to the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design.


Tönis Käo has donated the archives of his work to the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design. This has been possible with the support of the Estonian Cultural Endowment in 2011, selected materials have been digitalized and a selection will be published with the support of the Rahvuskaaslaste Programm support of the Ministry of Education and Research in 2012 and 2014. The project has been generously supported also by the Kitman Thulema AS.


The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue to open up Tõnis Käo’s work in wider perspective and context with contributions by Professor Peter Zec (Professor of Business Communication, design consultant, founder of the renowned design prize „red dot award“ and since 1991, president of Design Zentrum Nordrhein-Westfalen),Professor Martin Pärn (Professor of Strategic Design at the Estonian Art Academy, designer), and Kai Lobjakas, director of the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design.


Vernissage 29 May at 17 p.m.


Further information:

Kai Lobjakas

+372 56486977

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