Interview: Armin Scharf
Photos: Instagrid GmbH
In 2022, Instagrid won the Baden-Württemberg International Design Award in gold for its OneMax portable battery system. OneMax doesn’t just feed energy-hungry tools independently of the grid and without producing emissions, it supplies mobile workers with power too. The storage battery with a huge capacity of 2.1 kWh replaces conventional combustion generators. The Ludwigsburg-based company has meanwhile moved beyond the startup phase and presented a new storage system with an even higher capacity. Instagrid is also continuing to pursue internationalisation and is about to venture across the Atlantic. A success story, definitely. And Felix Fuchs knows what role design plays in all that: he’s responsible for the design of the devices, UX design and the company’s visual branding.

Instagrid was founded in 2018 – do you still see yourselves as a startup?
FELIX FUCHS: That’s a question that keeps coming up internally as well. I’m sure team members who have been on board for a while would give a different answer than the current onboarders. We’re actually in a kind of transition phase, with one foot firmly in scaleup territory.
The company set out to internationalise early on and is about to enter the US market. Why?
FELIX FUCHS: With our products, we’re working on mastering a global challenge. Because creating infrastructure for clean energy definitely needs to be seen from a global perspective. Entering the US market is simply a logical step in order to generate a big impact.


I assume that Instagrid is purely technology-driven at its core. At what point was the design team brought in?
FELIX FUCHS: I have to contradict you there! A great deal of importance was attached to design right from the start. It’s the interaction between sustainability, technology and design that shapes our company. Especially when it comes to defining a “new” product category, the user-product interface is the cornerstone for success. Accessibility, usability and reliability are the basic prerequisites in order for a new product to be accepted by customers. The user shouldn’t sense the complexity and all the development effort that’s gone into the technology behind it – it’s the superiority of these factors that enables him to get the job done. That’s the promise that the Instagrid brand has made.
And why has Instagrid relied on in-house expertise for its design?
FELIX FUCHS: That’s a question you’d have to ask our two founders, Dr Sebastian Berning and Dr Andreas Sedlmayr. But your previous question answers it to some extent: Instagrid sees itself as a company where design is a strong influence. We’re creating a new product – others will follow – and at the same time a new brand. Especially in the startup phase, decisions have to be agreed on and made quickly. Because speed is essential, we minimise the number of levels involved. Establishing our in-house design expertise also underscores the company’s long-term anchorage and orientation – luckily that’s a view our investors share as well.
How would you describe your current role as a designer in a team of engineers?
FELIX FUCHS: Perhaps as a kind of good friend who provides support when it’s needed – and who challenges them once in a while as well.

When all’s said and done, our portfolio isn’t only growing at the hardware level, there are digital products and services in development too. That obviously has an impact on design-related tasks and activities as well. I’m really happy to welcome some fantastic new people to the team here so that we can keep pushing ahead and driving things forward.
What was uppermost for you when it came to the OneMax concept? The product design, the interface and UX, or the brand?
FELIX FUCHS: I find it difficult to look at those things separately and compare their importance. In my opinion, it’s the interaction between the individual areas that accounts for a product’s quality. For a young company, how you deal with the brand is definitely a tricky aspect because it has to be established and made visible first. Taking a holistic approach to branding, including in relation to physical products, is both a challenge and an opportunity.
So the brand and design belong together?
FELIX FUCHS: Design plays an essential role in establishing our positioning. Right from the start, we’ve always incorporated our customers’ requirements into the design process. The result is a product that isn’t just compelling for its technological superiority but that stands out from competitors due to its original design as well. Although good design certainly doesn’t just mean what something looks like on the outside – functionality, usability and sustainability are just as important.
The design of the interface, for example, is a very deliberate attempt to position ourselves in stark contrast to a lot of our competitors, who overwhelm users with too many socket options and make their displays too fragile. Our focus was on good legibility, using a dial as the control element and reducing it to the essentials, and equipping the battery with a conventional and therefore universal socket.

In the meantime, OneMax has a big brother by the name of Zero. How were you able to transfer the design features so that the relationship between them is recognisable?
FELIX FUCHS: A lot of design features simply can’t be translated into the different scale. So in that respect, it’s a challenge. The first step is to identify the really crucial elements; then we modify them so that they define the new product in slightly different form. At the same time, the established connection between function and allocation ought to be preserved. All in all, this process can be seen as a stress test for the primary design principles.
What role do design awards play for you?
FELIX FUCHS: As a young company with a strong focus on the B2B sector, it’s very important for us to be noticed and to establish the brand. And design awards are obviously an excellent tool in that respect. But the feedback from a qualified jury is just as important to us – how are the features and design elements perceived? We see that input as an opportunity to make improvements and evolve our design language.


The company was founded in Ludwigsburg in 2018 by Andreas Sedlmayr and Sebastian Berning. Around 110 employees from about 19 countries currently work at its locations in Germany, France, Finland and the United Kingdom. The focus is on the development of innovative storage battery systems for mobile applications.