Designer Researcher Musician Author – 25 years of design practise, research and philosophy

Peter Friedrich Stephan
Born 1959, studies of design, music, economic and social communications in Berlin, Hamburg and New York/USA.

Designer and consultant
Media productions in the context of corporate communications. Projects in Advertising (Philip Morris, Pash), Consulting (Institute of Electronic Business Berlin, VORN Strategy Consultants), Finance (GLS Bank, Deutsche Entwicklungsgesellschaft), Media (Apple, Medialab, Telekom), Publishing (Bertelsmann, Burda).

Academic Teaching and Research
Since 1997 full professor for electronic publishing art the Academy of Media Arts Cologne – KHM. 2002–2013 Guestlecturer at the University of the Arts Berlin and University St. Gallen/Schwitzerland (Masterprogram Leadership in Digital Communication–LDK), 2007–2008 at the International School of New Media in Lübeck.
Stephan is one of the founders of Cognitive Design in Germany and is involved in the international research for cognitive design. Research projects: 1994–1996 »Cognitive Aspects of Visualization«, Research Cluster »Bits–Bilder–Bedeutung«, 2002–2004 »Medienquadrat« (sponsorship: Federal Ministry of Education and Research – BMBF), 2006–2008 »Raumstaben«, 2008–2009 »Intelligent Objects« (Report pdf,  (sponsorship National Acdemy fo Science and Engineering – acatech), »Ambient Hybrary – Ambiente Informationsdienste in hybriden Bibliotheken« (Proposal for Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG).

Peter serves the scientific community as a consultant for the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, FWF– Wissenschaftsfonds Österreich,  ZEvA – Zentrale Evaluations- und Akkreditierungsagentur Hannover and as a peer reviewer for the congresses Mensch und Computer and Learntec as well as for the magazine i-com and the conference retune.


PFS GArten querPeter Friedrich Stephan is a designer, researcher, author and musician. He is full professor for Transformation Design at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, guest lecturer at the Berlin University of the Arts and partner with the Institute of Electronic Business in Berlin.

Peter works on the future of design and its interactions with art, science, humanities and economy. Peter recently founded the Low End Academy which focuses on providing design intelligence for minimal standards of quality and competence. Other projects include »Theorymachine« (infrastructures for knowledge work) and »Matters of Concern« (design for social change). Peter gives lectures and conducts workshops for the industry, NGOs and academia. He serves on a number of committees like the advisory board of retune.

With a background in design and music Peter was a pioneer in multimedia design from the early 1990s on with widely acknowledged projects in experimental and business contexts. His academic career started with co-founding a university program in »Computational Design« in 1994. more…

Low End Academy

The Low End Academy integrates
– historic and systematic knowledge in design, art and science
– aesthetic practise
– emergent technologies

Doing more with less.
This is the motto of the Low End Academy that started in spring 2015. The academy serves as an attractor for designs that aim at providing a minimum standard of quality and competence. Whereas media hypes focus on the exceptional high end the academy in contrast will focus its research on the low end:

How can basic qualities be produced like health, security and trust?
How can future civics participate in shaping the digital society?
Can overdeveloped countries learn from other cultures how to do more with less?

Pia grau heller+FarbejpgStart
As an initial project we worked on the question of “selfies”. We were partner of the radio station MDR Figaro that produced a show on the historic and systematic contexs of self portraits. The show was hosted by Andreas Höll and included exhibitions at the most prominent museums in Saxonia. A public symposion was held on March 28, 2015 at Stiftung Moritzburg in Halle.

This endeavor can be seen as a follow up on Victor Papanek´s “Design for the real world” and Buckminster Fuller´s “Anticipatory Comprehensive Design Revolution” from the late 1960ties. More recent concepts that inspire the academy´s approach include Bruno Latour´s Actor Network Theory and his notion of “matters of concern” (read Peter Friedrich Stephan´s article here). The Low End Academy is part of the movement “design for social change” and hooks up with initiatives like Open Knowledge Foundation and The Public School.

Students first learn to identify urgent questions and needs. Then they look for competent and inspiring people from inside and outside of academia. A series of interviews is conducted and the materials are published on the net. From there we hope to rise momentum and gather people around tasks and questions to be worked on in local projects.

Following the low end apporach, we endorse the use of alternative plattforms such as Raspberry Pi and Disapora. As we oppose the policies of facebook, twitter and others and we will not use them.



Aesthetics and technology
Our projects explore emergent aesthetics and technology in experimental and commercial contexts.
The projects offer new ways of visual, sonic or haptic perception/interaction (more to come…).
For older projects see ARCHIVE.

Transformation Design

Designing “matters of concern“ (Latour): A future design task?
Chapter in Jonas, Zerwas, von Anshelm 2015: Transformation Design – Perspectives on a New Design Attitude, Birkhäuser (BIRD – Board of International Researchers in Design), p.202-226

BIRD-Titel Kopie


Scope drill down skizze

“Scope and drill down” method by PFS
seamlessly scaling from the most complete scope of a project to the smallest detail

Knowledge Trees

Bildschirmfoto 2015-04-27 um 21.03.33

Wissens-Räume – Wissens-Bäume, räumlich erfahrbare Vermittlug von Wissens-Zusammenhängen

Knowlegde – Design – Organization


The Design of Knowledge Communities based on Pattern Language
Given the corporate goal of innovation it is crucial to tap into the informal and tacit knowledge types that knowledge management fails to address (Master Thesis Soenke Petersen, cooperation Daimler)


A laser reads vinyldiscs, another laser cuts vinyldiscs. New Sounds and new forms for sculptures are created.
Diploma by Jens Standke at Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Designaward of the city of Cologne 2013.
Presentations: Museum für Angewandte Kunst (Cologne), European Media Art Festival (Osnabrück), Strom‐Festival (Cologne), Festival Beyond‐3D at ZKM (Karlsruhe), Open Source Festival (Düsseldorf).

Videos at vimeo: assembling of sculpture timelapse, custom built machine with lasercutters technofaktur


MIND 17 – Designing Future Knowledge Systems

TM-konzept-6-timeline_v03While search engines collect and display more and more data, there is not enough aggregation to larger chunks of information. MIND 17 delivers comprehensive views of large data sets rendered in real time and featuring advanced tools for interaction. The focus is on constellations and contexts.


Research by design
My main areas of research are Knowledge Media Design and Design for social change. How can design relate to cognition and emotion? Design research can make an original contribution but has to organize its teams and budgets across disciplines.

Knowledge Media Design
Design is the ability to see »patterns that connect« (Bateson). Knowledge is form, thus theoryformation is a design task. Future knowledge systems are conceived as a co-creation of man and machine. If Big Data brings about the »end of theory« (Anderson), it will be crucial to find and design patterns that make sense.

Design for social change
Change does not wait to be designed. But designers can help to »lead from the future« (Scharmer) by understanding the concerns of people. Concerns can make you laugh or weep and let you stay up allnight. Concerns are love and hate, security and privacy, democracy and dignity. They constitute cultural diversity and clash with a global technoculture. So designers ask questions like: How to design trust ?

Moebius strip, PFS 2009

Theorymachine – Designing future knowledge Systems

The achivements of digital technology in communication are big: The exponential growth rate of articles and pictures and their exchange in almost realtime at almost no cost. However, this still is only an accelerated Gutenberg galaxy. The basic units of communication did not change but only the production and dissemination of media containers has been organized more efficiently. This success implementation began to show its downside in information overload and today is a major obstacle to efficient communication. So the next step in evolution will be to enter the Turing Galaxy and process meaning itself. Computers can extract probability today – and maybe meaning later – from media on the basis of Big Data and learning algorithms.

Theorymachine researches future knowledge systems as a co-creation  of man and machine. The perspectives of designers, computer scientists and computational linguists integrate to experimentally design highly comprehensive renderings of complex topics. The goal is to ease the exchange on controversial issues of public or scientific interest. Public interests are in the focus of the project »How to design matters of concern«, whereas scientific interests are in the focus of the project MIND17, (in preparation).

Research Partners include the Humboldt University Berlin and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence.

Projection of type in space, Nicolas Pelzer, 2008


Typefonts were conceived for books. Digital fonts are adopted to be displayed on screens but mostly do not make use of the dynamic potential of the digital medium. How can future type look like that uses the full design potential of digital technology? Can type become smart? Will there be completely new sign systems to change our notion of type? Can global standards in functionality and aesthetics be defined? The invention of the alphabet and the invention of the printing press were eminent cultural changes. What if new and original digital sign systems will turn out to mark a cultural change of the same magnitude?

The project combined experimental media design with historic and sytematic reflection.
In cooperation with Prof. Claudius Lazzeroni, Folkwang University Essen.

For more information see publication
Peter Friedrich Stephan, Claudius Lazzeroni 2008:
Raumstaben – Eine Schrift nach der Schrift. Ein Forschungsprojekt im Wissensdesign (pdf)
in: Bernd Scheffer, Marcel Schellong, Christine Stenzer (Eds.): Schriftfilme. Schrift in Bewegung, Bielefeld: Aisthesis, p. 219–241


Jacob´s mystic heart

ongoing documentation and archive (tumblr)

Fachseminar, Hauptstudium und weiterqualifizierende Studien
Do, 14-16, KHM Köln, Filzengraben 8-10, Seminarraum 2.04
Scope drill down skizze_Grau

Kein Thema, keine Methode, kein Material.
Oder: Jedes Thema, jede Methode, jedes Material.

Wir wollen uns mit Arbeiten im Prozess ihrer Entstehung beschäftigen. Dabei sollen die je eigenen erlebten und betriebenen Prozesse vorgestellt, diskutiert und beraten werden.

Wir interessieren uns vor allem für anfängliche Suchbewegungen: Wie verlaufen die Wege von unklaren, aber intensiven Ideen, Affekten und Intuitionen zu ersten Realisierungen und über Zweifel, Unsicherheiten und Rückschläge zu konkreten Projekten? Sind diese Formen der Annäherung und Umkreisung womöglich bereits die Arbeit selbst (Walter Benjamin: „Das Werk ist die Totenmaske der Konzeption.“)

Parallel dazu werden Quellen gesichtet wie Entwürfe und Skizzen, alternative Versionen, Rough Mixe, Making Ofs, Studioberichte und Tagebücher, die Aufschlüsse zu Projektentwicklungen in Design und Architektur, Kunst und Musik, Film und Literatur, Naturwissenschaft und Technik geben können. Vielleicht sind die jeweiligen Konstellationen von Einbildungskräften und Realisationsformen weniger unterschiedlich als erwartet, und es ergeben sich neue Einsichten in die Verhältnisse von Werkzeug (Modell, Instrument, Organon) und Entwurf (inventio, projectum, forma).

(Herman Melville 1890)

In placid hours well-pleased we dream
of many a brave unbodied scheme
but form to lend, pulsed life create,
what unlike things must meet and mate:
a flame to melt – a wind to freeze
sad patience – joyous energies
humility – yet pride and scorn
instinct and study; love and hate
audacity – reverence.
These must mate
and fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart
to wrestle with the angel – Art



Publications by Peter Friedrich Stephan cover design and media theory. Articles and book chapters have in published in german, english, french and japanese, see > researchgate.

Latest publications
– Designing “matters of concern” (Latour): A future design task? in: Jonas et al. (Eds.) 2015: Transformation Design, Basel: Birkhäuser (Board of International Research in Design), in preparation

System and Design – A conversation between René Spitz and Peter Friedrich Stephan, in: System Design – Over 100 Years of Chaos in Everyday Life, Catalogue of an Exhibition edited by Petra Hesse, René Spitz, 01/2015: p. 130–136; Museum für angewandte Kunst Cologne/Germany

– Institute of Electronic Business (Ed.) 2014: Schlüsselfaktoren der digitalen Kommunikation (Key factors of digital communication), Website of Project, pdf in german

– “Matters of concern – Designaufgaben der Next Society” pdf, in: REVUE – Magazine for the next society #16/2014, p. 118–123


Peter is the editor of two books
– Knowledge Media Design (Oldenbourg 2005)
– Events and E-Commerce (Springer 2000)

Radio, video and sound production can be found at > media


Here are a view interviews:

Peter Friedrich Stephan is interviewed by Julian Adenauer
(director of retune conference)
for Berlin based Webmagazine friends of friends (in preparation)


Peter Friedrich Stephan is interviewed by Dr. René Spitz (curator)
»System and Design – Over 100 Years of Chaos in Everyday Life«
Catalogue of an exhibition at Museum für angewandte Kunst Cologne/Germany, p. 122-128
pdf (english version),  pdf (german version)

Peter Friedrich Stephan discusses Sounddesign with Andreas Höll (art critic)
»Totalbeschallung oder Abschottung? Über Klangdesign im digitalen Zeitalter«
Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR), 23.09.2014, 18:05 Uhr | 06:27 min, see/hear

MDR FIgaro

Peter Friedrich Stephan discusses Design Thinking with Bernhard Krusche (CEO of ignore gravity)
in: Magazine REVUE – Magazine for the next society #8 2011, p.10–19
pdf (english version),  pdf (german version)

Revue Cover Heft 8 Design Thinking


At the LowEndTheoryClub´s video channel we feature mostly student works from the Academy of Media Arts Cologne.
We started by uploading works from the early days of interactive media design like this exhibition from 1998 (to be continued…)

Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, N.Y./USA,  Workshop Recap Oct. 2013. Hear my radio report (in german)
Featuring Karl and Ingrid Berger, Mark Helias, Peter Apfelbaum, Kirk Knuffke, Steve Gorn, PFS, …

Audio (Radio)

Radio features by PFS for NDR Info:
– Jazzpianist Otto Wolters
– Jazzpianist Karl Berger, 30.03.2010 hear
– Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, N.Y./USA, Workshop Report Oct. 2013 hear, video recap


Some projects will be remembered for pioneer concepts on new media platforms
(to be continued…)


Prof. Hans (Nick) Roericht called back students to »change parts«, »(…) die Lehr-/Bildungsteile auszuwechseln, die besonderem ideologischem und professionellen Verschleiß ausgesetzt waren (…) und statt dessen Teile anzubieten, die leistungsfähiger sind in Bezug auf die anstehenden, spezieller die sozio-kulturellen, Aufgaben eines Entwerfers am Ende des Industrialismus, d.h. im so genannten Info-Age oder Symbolzeitalter.« (DIE ZEIT, 17.04.1992)



Performance Arts integrating music, dance, poetry and video, Student work 2003-2004

Cognitive Aspects of Visualization

1996 kognitive Aspekte der Visualisierung
Interactive tool for research into visualization and cognition with Prof. Dr. Dr. Mihai Nadin for the Research Cluster »Bits – Bilder – Bedeutung« 1994–1996

Digital Dissidents

Cooperation with Joseph Weizenbaum while he was a scientific advisor for the Institute of Electronic Business in Berlin (2002–2005).

Weizenbaum cropped

Interface Design

modul 30 inseln frei
Hypermedia publication on design history 2000/02 (cooperation Enno Hyttrek)


Chair Wood 1983

Record Covers

Mint Cover
Cover Design for Avantgarde Noise Band 1986-88

Free International University Berlin

T-Shirt (Cooperation Volker Schneider), Joseph Beuys Exhibition, Berlin 1986


Academy of Media Arts 1997
Rendering of Data Traces, Diploma Carsten Becker

Mac World

PFS_Spindler MAcWorld 1991
Presentation of QuickTime 1.0
PFS and Michael Spindler, CEO of Apple Computer at MacWorld Berlin 1991


Burda_redaktion quadrat
Design of digital workflows at Burda Publishing, Berlin 1992
PFS (head of Burda´s Graphic Arts Department) with Günther Krumminga (head of Burda´s New York office) and Robert Lockwood (founder of news graphics)

TimeSystem on Apple Newton

Ref. Activity Info STONE
Interaction and screen design, Munich 1991
One of the first applications for the new Apple Newton

Philip Morris FutureTalk

drei screens621x390
Computer game, Munich 1991 Engaging audiences on the first Apple Powerbooks

Philip Morris HypeRemix

Hyperemix Main Screen
Eventmarketing, Munich 1990 Interactive music mix station


1991_Apple Kick_Agenda Screens
Eventdesign, Munich 1991
Visuals in cinemascope, cutting edge at the time


1991_Burda Pyramide
Visualization for a publisher, Munich 1992 Visual metaphor for displaying business areas.


1990-91 PASH distortion621x466
Advertising for Pash fashion, Munich 1990 Key visuals for a campaign promoting new denim styles


Some outstanding alumni from my courses at Academy of Media Arts Cologne and University of The Arts Berlin (to be continued…).

Artists, Designers, Directors, Poets, Musicians
Martin Hawie director of movie TORO
Jens Standke inventor of vinylaktits
Daniel Helbig poet
Julia Kotowski singer songwriter

Andrea Bauer, Boris Moshkovits, founders of ddaynetwork
Felix Hahn, Carsten Becker, founders of fluct
Dr. Thomas Nicolai, Dr. Lars Kirchhoff, founders of sociomantic
Dr. Bettina Maisch, Innovation Manager, Siemens Corporate Technology in Beijing, China
Sven Koerbitz, Co-Founder of Tweek TV

Prof. Andreas Muxel Köln International School of Design
Prof. Holger Reckter University of Applied Sciences Mainz
Prof. Dr. Hendrik Send, Prof. Dr. Daniel Michelis Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Report in DER SPIEGEL 16/2013 (pdf)


Universität der Künste Berlin
Masterprogramm Leadership in digitaler Kommunikation

Prof. Dr. Thomas Schildhauer
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
Institute of Internet and Society

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Jonas
Hochschule für bildende Künste Braunschweig
Transformation Design

Pia Betton
Managing Partner Eden Spiekermann AG

Dr. rer. nat. Stephan Baumann
Head of Competence Center Computational Culture (C4)
German Research Center of Artificual Intelligence

Sabine Junginger, PhD
Associate professor of design management at Kolding School of Design, Denmark
Fellow at Hertie School of Governance Berlin
> kolding
> Hertie

Prof. Dr. Steven Ney
Professor for Policy Science and Social Entrepreneurship at Jacobs University Bremen
Co-Director D-Forge /Design Thinking Solutions
> D-Forge

Dr. Ralf Grötker
Explorat, Recherche & Dokumentation Berlin