Keplinger Brings New Design Dimensions to Silhouette

By Paddy Kamen

Roland Keplinger

When an already renowned eyewear manufacturer like Silhouette brings on a new head of design, you can be sure that synergy between the parties is of utmost importance.

Roland Keplinger came to his interview for the position of Silhouette’s head of design with a set of drawings. “I was envisioning where we could take the Titan Minimal Art collection and wanted to share my ideas with them,” he explains. “Interestingly, the prototype they showed me was exactly as I proposed. We were definitely on the same wavelength.”

Keplinger has been with Silhouette since early 2012. While the Titan Minimal Art redesign was already underway, he guided it to its launch one year later in the spring of 2013. The collection was first revealed to the public in January and highlighted at MIDO in March. What the new Titan Minimal Art reveals is an edgier, more masculine style, in a revision of the groundbreaking materials Silhouette is known for.

Quite possibly a genius in the design department, Keplinger certainly brings a strong background to Silhouette. He has a master’s degree in industrial design from FH Joanneum in Graz,Austria, and worked for several years for a design house in Germany where he created a wide variety of products. “I made both micro- and macro-sized products, from a 1 cm hearing aid to a 50 metre display booth for a trade show,” notes Keplinger.  Somewhat tongue in cheek, he refers to himself ‘a head specialist’: “I created many products for the head in addition to the hearing aid, including headphones and Bluetooth headsets, and I have filed several patents having to do with fixing hearing aids and headphones on the head. I understand the ergonomics of the head, having an ability to think of the head and products for it in a three-dimensional way. I also bring experience with solving problems with a wide variety of products and new ideas for production and material use.”

The interaction between the design and engineering departments at Silhouette makes for an exciting tension, says Keplinger. “The new Titan Minimal Art frame had to accommodate the larger lens shapes that have come onto the market and that presented quite a research and development challenge. We use a special beta-stabilized titanium alloy that is a modification of the material we previously used for the frames. We had to make sure that in the cold-forming process (swaging, pressing, bending and surface treatment) we achieved a highly precise flex zone with a perfect durability and elasticity. For the temple end, we use our specially developed SPX material as a hard component and an anti-allergic soft polymer for the inner side. The solutions involved high-end engineering, and new tooling was required to have the materials bond together.”

Of course, good design always looks simple. But problem solving is the order of the day and the back and forth between R&D and design is a dynamic process. As Keplinger explains, “It’s easy for the designer to say what he wants, but we have to squeeze out what is technically possible to achieve the look we want. The process is very creative and allows new ideas to come in. In the case of the Titan Minimal Art, combining two materials with SPX fusion technology has provided the added option of two-tone colours on the temples.”

The Titan Minimal Art’s dynamic new look with defined edges brings a contemporary element to collection: “In touch with the now,” notes Keplinger. “Our direction now is for a slightly edgier look that appeals to a younger generation.”

Still young himself, Keplinger, 34, has a long working life ahead of him, with plenty of opportunity to make a contribution to Silhouette. He and his team of four designers have more products in the development pipeline that will push the already top-of-its-game company to a new level. His vision is clear: “My aim is to find something really new in the eyewear industry. What comes next after hinge-less and screw-less frames? We’re currently testing something that isn’t yet on the market and I’m excited to see where that goes.”

Feel Lite, Show Style is the promise of the Silhouette eyewear brand, and they’ve been fulfilling that promise with the world’s lightest eyewear for almost 50 years. With Keplinger heading the design team and a new Titan Minimal Art on the market, there’s no stopping this eyewear dynamo.