“If you like to understand the present and being able to predict the future, you have to know the past.”
... to Ralf Groesel Design: a hub of information with a mission to share the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind product design. We’ll be exploring the bits and pieces that make a product unique, as well as the processes involved in bringing them to life.
The inspiration for this website, including the blog, comes from the amount of time, creative flair and effort that goes on behind the scenes in order to achieve a polished and functioning product that looks smart, feels intuitive and speaks for itself. This is a designer’s goal, yet the journey taken in reaching this moment is rarely spoken about or shared.
For the last 25 years, we have designed numerous ‘market leading’ products within multiple action sport and lifestyle industries, both collaboratively and independently. We look to the future with our own knowledge gained through experience, with a focus on innovating new products to further our sports. Our success and drive has come through the increase in globalisation and technology, combined with our proven, industry acknowledged, reputation and a spotlight on delivering the perfect package.
At Ralf Groesel Design, we believe that a product must, and will speak for itself. These are the foundations that every RGD product has been built upon and we know that the DNA in all of our designs can be felt by the consumer; it can’t be ignored.
MY PROFESSIONAL CAREER
I remember sitting on the beach watching paragliders fly from a little dune, trying to use the small upwind area to stay in the air as long as possible. This was 1993, I was 14 and paragliders had just started to look like proper wings instead of an advanced version of a parachute.
I was hooked on the idea of flying a self-inflating, stitched, light material wing. Ever since I was a young kid I have been into building and designing model airplanes. Even back then the general rules of physics, in terms of aerodynamics, were well known to me. But it was the combination of flexible material, lightness in weight and the obvious fun the pilots were having that motivated me to look into this matter deeply. I quickly found myself behind a sewing machine and building the first scaled paraglider. Once the manufacturing side had been understood, I took it to the next level. Scraping together all the money I had and borrowing some from my mother, I’m not sure if I ever gave it back, I got the first PC.
At 15 I was hyper allergic to books, yet I still managed to read the entire 600 pages of AUTOCAD for Beginners in 4 days. In 1994 the internet did not capture an ounce of the information available today, so there was no such thing as downloading a profile or a 3D model wing. Forced to be an autodidact, I had to figure it all out by myself.
In Germany we have a saying, “Viele Wege führen nach Rom,” which means there are a lot of different ways to approach one goal. I didn’t like it, as mathematically there is only one fast/best way. My goal was not to find a way, but to find the best way to solve a problem. This approach requires the ability to dive into a matter as deep as you can potentially go.
God, or who else created the universe, gave me the gift to visualize fluids and complex mechanical interactions. This gift, along with a competitive way of thinking, has pushed me further all these years and kept me looking for the best possible solution.
The following summary showcases some of my personal highlights in chronological order.
This scaled model was the last ‘scaled’ paraglider I ever made, but also the starting point of my career. This model was equipped with the latest technology and was my masterpiece that showcased my skills when I was 16.
This portrait in GLEITSCHIRM Magazine April/1997 was a result of the work and became my opening into the paragliding industry. I started to work as a test pilot for SWING and FLIGHT DESIGN.
Kitesurfing had just arrived in Europe and it was instantly clear that I wanted to participate in this young and fresh movement.
Together with Armin Harich, we founded the kite brand FLYSURFER.
I was in charge of designing the entire product portfolio, including the production side of the products.
The picture shows a Flysurfer Speedair-Kite taken at the Mercedes Benz wind-tunnel in Stuttgart.
The picture shows a kite equipped with a S-BEND profile, which made Softkites much safer to fly due to the increased profile stability.
Products have been:
Easyair, Speedair, Master, Warrior, Psycho
In 2002, FLYSURFER merged into the company SKYWALK, which then started to produce paragliders and sails alongside Softkites.
The HYPE was my first serial production glider.
In 2003, I took the most important career changing step. I split from SKYWALK, leaving the company with the experience of how teamwork should not be.
I moved to NAISH KITEBOARDING and had the chance to go wild on several design ideas. I focused on incorporating a flap functionality into hybrid and Tubekites.
The X3-FLAP was the first ever tube-kite with trailing edge flaps that were automatically operated by steering line input.
Together with Günther Wörl, CEO of the paragliding company SWING, we started ISTEC. Based on the patent from Hartmut Schädlich, I developed and designed his idea of a Spinnaker, including a lifting wing built to perfection, and created two different models. The Parasailor and the Parasail vary in their wing designs. As well as there being over 50 different sail sizes, I developed the entire product portfolio which ranged from new snuffer systems to accessories.
The Parasailor is equipped with a double surface wing - like a Paraglider - which creates lift and stabilizes the movement of the boat.
The Parasail operates with a single skin wing, which makes it lighter and therefore more effective in light winds.
From 2005 onwards, I was commissioned to implement the Spinnaker sail department into the SWING production facility in Ukraine. This very exciting job included technical parts such as automated cutting machines, software logics and production processes. It was a great exercise to capture the production steps, starting with design ideas all the way through to the final product.
Being part of the German Pavilion at the EXPO 2005 in Japan, was one of my personal highlights in my career. I was asked to design an inflatable wall and roof system which contained more than 7500 single patterns. These honeycomb shaped patterns, made out of 40gram Polyester fabric, were illuminated from the back and created an astonishing flare that highlighted the BIONIC- motto.
700.000 people visited the German stand which was honored with the Gold-medal for best Realisation.
In 2005, I dropped back into the kite scene and started to develop soft and trainer kites for NORTH KITEBOARDING. Together with 3-times Snow-kite World Champion Fabio Ingrosso, we developed a set of different snow-kites which mimicked little paragliders in terms of their flying and gliding abilities. I’ve stopped counting the amount of soft-kite designs I’ve made. Looking back, I have to admit that it was a very thrilling time as snow-kiting turned into speed-riding and involved a lot of airtime.
Designs: Lizard, Solid, Husky, Fabio Pro, Husky LTD
BOARDS & MORE CEO, Till Eberle, asked me to join the R&D department of the rapidly growing kite sector in 2007. My first project was the EVO, which turned into one of the bestselling kites worldwide. By increasing the portfolio, more kite lines have been added to my list. In 2009, I took over the VEGAS from my colleague Ken Winner. In 2014, 5 times World Champion Aaron Hadlow, joined the NORTH KITEBOARDING team. Together we started to tweak the VEGAS into a dedicated competition tool that propelled the brand to the top in this niche.
This new position opened the gates for a new kite line, the DICE, which had an astonishing market entry with 7600 kites sold in the first year of production. We decided to split up the portfolio even further, entering into the wave market. The NEO was born. After two years of being in charge of designing this model, I passed it on to Ken. He had much greater options to develop the wave concept due to living in Maui and having Sky Solbach as his super wave rider for testing. The JUICE is the latest kite on my designer’s menu which started in 2017. Taking the design over from Ken, we repositioned the model more towards light wind kiting and foiling. Overall, kite development has been a great pleasure to me over the years and I’ve enjoyed the very competitive market environment which leads to constant progress in design and technology. NORTH KITEBOARDING started as the underdog but has grown to become the market leader for several years.
“Progression 10” describes the modular system which I have been developing for NORTH KITEBOARDING together with the Sri Lankan production facility GSL (Global Sports Lanka). Hand in hand with Production Manager Hannes Knolz, we have been questioning every single seam, every material, process and design feature on our kites. The result is a system dedicated to logic, quality and the latest machinery, enabling us to redefine industry standards. Based on this modular system, we have been able to significantly reduce production related mistakes and have dropped the warranty claim rate under 0,2%! A huge achievement for such a complex product.
Adventure design Gmbh
As a freelancer I’ve always been involved in several projects simultaneously. By drawing on the synergies of design and production related work, natural progression has lead me to develop inflatable products further. In 2005, I started by developing an inflatable Event Tent for NORTH KITEBOARDING. As a result, I founded the company Adventure Design GmbH, and created the brand GYBE: dedicated to inflatable Event, Humanity and Bus-Tents.
Adventure design Gmbh
Alongside GYBE, I created the brand OXLEY. Through utilizing all of our existing knowledge, we were able to develop Inflatable Snuffers for big boat sailing and several other products within the sailing world.
Together with Frank Ulmer, the owner of Aqua- Dynamics, one of the biggest production facilities for Kitesurfing, Windsurfing, Big-Boat-Sails and Accessories worldwide, we started to establish the paragliding production facility Aero-Dynamics. Responsible for the glider’s modular system, Aero-Dynamics has rapidly grown to be one of the most modern and sophisticated production facilities globally, with a yearly capacity of 6000 gliders and hosting brands such as BGD, 777, AirG, PHI and ICARO.
One of the great success stories has been the redesign of paragliding brand, ICARO, first brought to life in 2015. By implementing the knowledge and infrastructure of Adventure Design, we’ve proven to set new standards within the paragliding industry. By combining premium products with an aspirational and tangible brand image, our goal is to grow the paragliding community as a whole.
Being responsible for the rebranding and technical design, the logical step was to take over the company entirely as from 2018. This allowed me to drive all aspects of ‘Paragliding’ to the next level. A milestone in glider-design is the BUTEO EN-B glider, which was released in early 2018. Combining the performance level of a higher class with the safeness of a mid-range glider is a groundbreaking design and a new concept to the industry. With a constantly growing product portfolio, ICARO is a fast growing, core brand, dedicated to diversifying this sport.
THE FUTURE OF KITEBOARDING
In July 2018, the Boards & More kite division started developing and distributing all products under the name DUOTONE. This includes my world-renowned EVO, DICE, VEGAS and JUICE kite designs. Continuing with the finest team in the industry, I am very excited to move forward. Knowing that
DUOTONE will even better the way my creations are brought to life, with further innovation and design, as well as preserve the true kiteboarding family.
The most advanced and stimulating project for me so far has been the development of the ERP software PICASIX. As the complexity for developing fully-customizable GYBE tents has reached a level where neither the production facility, nor the office could handle the process anymore, it was time to develop a software for our specific needs. In the early stages I realized that our knowledge regarding the production process and every other aspect along the chain, needed to be transformed into general logics. Saying this, I focused on a generic architecture that is able to serve several different user cases and supply chains. PICASIX has already proven its potential and allows us to operate faster and more efficiently than any other system on the market.
Keep your eyes peeled for updates.