Clipsal Switches it Up
What happens when a historic Aussie brand meets with French innovation? Find out how Xavier Lifran, Director of Schneider Electric’s Pacific Design Lab, is merging design cultures to create a “radical” new identity for Clipsal.
ST: Can you share a little about your beginnings in design?
XL: I left my home town Montpellier to study art in Paris. My education began at Penninghen, an art direction and interior architecture school in the heart of the city. This was an intense, defining experience that opened my eyes to diverse tastes and creative directions. Moving further into the design world, I studied at a multidisciplinary design school (ESDI) before specialising in product design. What is fascinating to me is the potential to marry form and function to improve everyday life.
Gaining some experience in diverse creative sectors – working for Hilton McConnico, on food industry packaging and for bathroom industry giant Kohler – I then started my career with Schneider Electric. After 10 years working across Europe from Spain to Finland, my international design journey began, creating a design lab in China before moving to Australia to take care of Australia and New Zealand products.
I take inspiration from every country I visit and enjoy immersing myself in different cultures, making observations on local and global trends which aid me in the development of new products and technologies.
ST: What does your role at Clipsal involve?
XL: As the Director of Schneider Electric’s Pacific Design Lab at Gepps Cross, South Australia, I have passionately encouraged a shift in focus for the business.
I lead the Clipsal brand design, that is now seen as an integral part of the company strategy. The aim is to create a radical identity which respects Clipsal’s long history, soon to be 100 years old, but also highlights the new innovative products and technologies that see the brand continue to lead in electrical accessories and be a major player in smart home control and data communication.
ST: What is the inspiration or ethos behind your design work?
XL: Likening myself to a curator, I do not try to define my own industrial design style. Instead, I believe the key to good design is to tell stories relevant to the audience. Whether I personally design something or call upon other designers, like Michael Young or David Caon, I am always looking for style that tells the most relevant story, that fits best with the intended audience.
The design work in the past six years has resulted in a more user-centric focus: an innovative dual-users’ strategy which has one approach for electricians, focusing on best-in-class ergonomics; and a second approach for end-users, highlighting aesthetic choices for different lifestyles.
ST: Tell us about the relationship between Clipsal and Schneider Electric – what does each brand bring to the table?
XL: In 2003, Clipsal became part of Schneider Electric, the global specialists in energy management and industrial automation. Clipsal by Schneider Electric is a unique brand with its own distinct Australian essence, values, tone and style principles. However, we use many elements from the Schneider Electric design system to communicate our place as a proud member of the Schneider family of brands.
Clipsal is the signature for our Australia-specific offers, while Schneider Electric is our global brand for global products. For instance, in the same home you might find an Electric Vehicle charging station by Schneider Electric, alongside switches and sockets by Clipsal. The same reliability, ease of use and ingenuity lead our design thinking, but Clipsal design is dedicated to the Australian culture and lifestyle.
ST: How would you describe the Australian aesthetic?
XL: I think the Australian aesthetic is ever-changing, combining the best of its diverse cultures with local inspirations. Free from the weight of history, Australian designers are able to experiment and mix things up with a fresh energy. The country has its own colour scheme, representing its beautiful, wild environment and the aesthetic is equally connected to both its untouched outdoors and its urban lifestyle. The great Australian dream is to build a happy home to call your own, as people work hard to transform empty spaces into favourite places.
ST: What might we expect to see from Clipsal by Schneider Electric’s first-ever spot at DENFAIR?
XL: This year, we are launching our new Iconic range of electrical accessories, a new sweep fan to complement our Saturn Zen switches and sockets, and much more. Our stand will demonstrate how we put our clients at the heart of what we do. This inspires us to think differently in providing solutions that enliven their homes, transform Australian living spaces and enrich their lives through the promise of connectivity, sustainability, efficiency, reliability and safety.
Clipsal by Schneider Electric is the Major Partner for DENFAIR 2019’s Speaker Program.