About the project, Axel Hartmann and 20 years of Design Box


When I started my career as an in-house designer at Waldorf Music in 1989, all I wanted was to design the instruments that I loved most: Synthesizers. It was a dream come true, when Wolfgang Düren, ex PPG, hired me to design the successor of the PPG Wave 2.3 Synthesizer. So my first job was to design the Micro Wave, that you can see below.


The Waldorf MicroWave Synthesizer


Back then, I was just coming from university where I finished my industrial design studies with a music workstation thesis that I called Gambit.


An early sketch of the Gambit workstation


It opened the door for me into the world of synthesizer development, when Wolfgang Düren hired me as in-house designer at the young Waldorf Music, after I had sent him some drawings of the Gambit. And from that day on, I was part of a team, breeding new machines for electronic music adventures. I was visiting the NAMM shows in Anaheim and Musikmesses in Frankfurt - demonstrating the machines I designed. I had the chance to meet the heroes of my youth face to face. This job was the perfect combination of my two passions: music and design. I found my professional home.


In 1995, I left Waldorf Music. Together with my friend and ex-classmate at university Stephan Leitl, we started the company „Design Box“ in the very south of Germany. I got back in touch with Russ Jones, who I knew from the times at Waldorf Music. Russ helped me to get in touch with many of the US American companies, and I could expand my network not only there. Between 1995 and today, some of the biggest names in synthesizers gave me the chance to work on their instruments.



Axel (right) and Stephan, the Designbox founders.


With the help of some close friends, I was even able to realize the „Neuron“ synthesizer in the early 2000’s. The neural network code for the visionary concept of this instrument was implemented by Stephan Bernsee (back then he was Stefan Sprenger). Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer became part of the adventure, and helped us a lot on the way from a concept to the final instrument.


An emotional shot of the Neuron Synthesizer, taken for the brochure back in 2001


Today, it is more than 25 years, that I have been designing synthesizers. And it is 20 years, that Stephan and myself have been running Design Box.


This is a long time - time to look back and recap the work we have done so far. There are many projects where I feel quite proud of being the industrial designer. I have met a lot of fantastic engineers, inventors, musicians and visionaries. And - what seems typical for the MI business - almost all of them very friendly, and honest people. I had the chance to work together with Bob Moog on his last synthesizer, the Little Phatty in 2005. 


Moog's Little Phatty synthesizer (Picture © by Moog Music )