Our design heritage

The story of Philips is well known but, for Philips Design, it all started back in 1925 when a young architect named Louis Kalff joined the company. He had written a letter to Anton Philips, President of Philips, to tell him what he thought of the company’s advertising and how it could be improved. Just a few days later he was called into the head office to be offered a job.

Under his leadership, Philips advertising, product design and even architecture were inspired by differences in local preferences and customs worldwide. Kalff introduced the first social wordmark that became the model for the standardized and protected Philips wordmark, as it still appears today.

Louis Kalff

By the early 1950s, consumer products, such as radios, record-players, televisions and shavers, formed such a significant part of the company’s output, that a dedicated design group was created. Led by Rein Veersema, design was elevated to the forefront of the Philips brand. Philips set up a team of designers who could participate in the development process, and who understood the technology and marketing goals. The formation of this new group was the first step towards a coordinated industrial design policy within the company based on agreed standards.


When choosing the successor to Veersma, the board of management looked for a head of design who would represent the international nature of its business.  In 1966, Norwegian designer, poet and painter Knut Yran was appointed. Knut Yran viewed design as an inter-disciplinary activity and established industrial design and corporate identity as the main tasks of the design team. His time at Philips was characterized by growth and internationalization, the development of traditional design skills, and strong central design control.


American architect Robert Blaich took over as from Yran when he retired in 1980. Blaich introduced new and transparent processes and brought in outside design consultants to teach the team new skills. He recruited top talent and built up strong internal management and nurtured new, progressive forms of collaborative, creative working


Stefano Marzano

In 1991, Stefano Marzano was appointed to lead design. The Italian with a background in architecture, implemented a research-based strategy with a strong human focus, which he called ‘High Design’. The High Design process emphasized the use of insights from human sciences, and instigated research into both short-term and long-term trends. It was fully integrated into the business process and included input from design-related skills, such as trend analysts, psychologists and sociologists. Marzano also played a significant role in design education. 

Sean Carney

Following Marzano’s retirement in 2011, Sean Carney joined Phil¬ips to become the current Chief Design Officer. Originally from Britain, California-based Carney is known for his pio¬neering user-centric approach. Under Carney’s leadership, design at Philips has reached the tipping point of something phenomenal, as the team focuses on the vision for 2020 and how to get there. Philips is shifting from being product-led to being experience-led, needing to maximize the full potential that the Internet of Things, big data and digital eco-systems can offer customers.

+ Read our stories on the 90 Years of Design site