Designer Researcher Musician Author – 25 years of design practise, research and philosophy (site will grow, launched 11/2014)



PFS GArten querPeter Friedrich Stephan is a designer, researcher, author and musician. He is full professor at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne for Cognitive Design, 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. He recently founded Low End Berlin as a design agency and research institute. Peter also founded the Low End Academy which focuses on providing design intelligence for minimal standards of quality and competence starting 2015. Other projects include »Theorymachine« (infrastructures for knowledge work) and »Matters of Concern« (design for social change). Peter 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 in the early 1990s with widely acknowledged projects in experimental and business contexts. He started working academically by co-founding a university program in »Computational Design« in 1994.

Low End Berlin

Low End Berlin is a design agency and research institute that will take up operations in 2015. Stay tuned.

Low End Academy

Doing more with less.
This is the motto of the Low End Academy that will start in spring 2015. The academy will serve 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 low end:

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

As an initial project we work on the question of “selfies”. We will be partner of the radio station MDR Figaro that will produce a show on the historic and systematic contexs of self portraits. The show will be hosted by Andreas Höll and include exhibitions at the most prominent museums in Saxonia. A public symposion will be 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 approaches 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 will be part of the movement “design for social change” and hook up with initiatives like Open Knowledge Foundation and The Public School.

Students will first learn to identify urgent questions and needs. Then they will look for competent and inspiring people from inside and outside of academia. A series of interviews will be conducted and the material will be 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.


april, 2015

No Events


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.

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.

Vinylaktit Screenshot


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.



MIND 17 – Designing Future Knowledge Systems

While 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


Seminars_Flipchart_Schatten Zeigefinger15x11,25
Do you want to understand? Learn how to act.
(von Foerster)

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

Besser Scheitern

Type: Fachseminar Hauptstudium, A joint compact seminar by Peter Bexte, Peter Stephan, Georg Trogemann
Time: 2 sessions, 4. Dezember 14.00 Uhr – 5. Dezember 16.00, 22. Januar 14.00 Uhr – 23. Januar 16.00 Uhr
Location: Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln, Lab3, Filzengraben 8-10, 50676 Köln

Niemand scheitert gern. Wer jedoch experimentell arbeitet, muss sich genau darauf einlassen können. Was nicht scheitern kann, ist nämlich gar kein Experiment. Was aber heißt das fürs künstlerische Arbeiten? Kann man erfolgreich scheitern? Samuel Beckett hat das Stichwort dazu gegeben: „Try again. Fail again. Fail better.“ Die Worte von 1983 (aus Worstward Ho) haben in jüngerer Zeit Karriere gemacht: Der Tennisprofi Stanislas Wawrinka hat sie sich auf den Unterarm tätowiert; man hat den ewigen Verlierer Donald Duck damit beschrieben; und selbst der Chef von Google, Eric Schmidt, hat sich darauf berufen. Wenn das von Beckett proklamierte Scheitern also auf Centre Courts, in Entenhausen wie in Silicon Valley zum Thema wird, so wollen wir es auch für die KHM diskutieren. Welche Rolle spielt das Scheitern in künstlerischen Experimenten? (Peter Bexte)

Von Abbrechen bis Verfehlen: Scheitern ist vielfältiger und komplexer als das singuläre Gelingen. Beim künstlerischen Lob des Scheiterns aber geht es weniger um den alltäglichen, privaten und trivialen Reinfall, als vielmehr um das heroische, öffentliche und exemplarische Scheitern. Dies sollte einer Leistungsgesellschaft widersprechen, die auf Zieleinlösung ausgerichtet ist. Heute jedoch scheinen die Rollen vertauscht: Unternehmen verordnen sich – zumindest rhetorisch – eine Kultur des Scheiterns, um ihre Innovationsfähigkeit zu verbessern, während Künstler ihre Karrieren planen wie Manager, Sportler und andere Leistungsträger. Daher sollen die Verhältnisse von Planung und Risiko, Professionalisierung und Dilettantismus betrachtet werden. Leitend ist die These, dass sich am Scheitern die Konstruktionen von sozialen Systemen zeigen. (Peter Stephan)

Das Scheitern kennt viele Formen. Nicht nur Menschen, auch Schiffe und Staaten können scheitern. Komplexität und Kopplung sind die Schlüsselbegriffe zur Analyse des Scheiterns technischer Systeme. Es gilt die Faustregel: je komplexer und dabei starrer das System und die Interaktionen seiner Bestandteile sind, desto häufiger kommt es zu unvorhergesehenen Störungen. Beim Versagen technischer Systeme ist es immer noch üblich, die Ursachen in technisches und menschliches Versagen einzuteilen und dabei zu unterschätzen, dass technische Systeme immer auch soziale Gebilde sind, die von Organisationen und darin kommunizierenden Menschen entworfen, installiert und betrieben werden. Es ist aber prinzipiell unmöglich, alle Konstellationen, die in komplexen Systemen auftreten können, im Voraus zu durchdenken oder wenn sie auftreten, sie spontan zu verstehen. Denn Scheitern kennt viele Formen. (Georg Trogemann)

Too much – unterschätzt und überfordert

Type: Theoryseminar Grundstudium
Time: weekly thursdays 14-16.00 (for exceptions see CALENDAR)
Location: Filzengraben 8-10, Seminarraum Wissenschaft, 2. OG, Raum 204

Hier wird das Eiweiß weggeschüttet, nur das Gelbe wird entwickelt.
– Grabhund ABC

Die systematische Überforderung ist ein Thema der modernen Kunst: Unlesbar komplexe Bücher, endlose Kompositionen, Filme, die Tage dauern, Performances, die körperliche Grenzen erreichen, Land-Art in gigantischen Dimensionen… Diese einst singulären Überschreitungen des Leistungs- und Aufnahmevermögens wurden zum medientechnisch getriebenen Alltag, dessen entfesselte Dynamik natürliche, gesellschaftliche, technische und persönliche Grenzen sprengt.

Diagnostiziert wurden die „Müdigkeitsgesellschaft“ (Han) und der „unterschätzte Mensch“ (Negt/Kluge). Beide zeichnen das Bild einer Gesellschaft, deren doppelter Skandal in einer gleichzeitigen Über- und Unterforderung besteht: Einerseits werden menschliche Fähigkeiten zum Gegenstand der Selbstoptimierung, andererseits können sich Potenziale angesichts der strukturellen Arbeitslosigkeit nicht entfalten.

Vor diesem Hintergrund sind neue Ansätze in Kunst, Theater, Performance, Design und politischem Aktivismus entstanden, die die Polarität von Überforderung und Unterschätzung unterlaufen. Im Seminar werden Aspekte der Versammlung, Verständigung und Teilhabe aus der Perspektive von culturalhacking, urban interventions und design activism vorgestellt. Eigene Positionen sollen formuliert werden und zur Realisierung gemeinsamer Projekte führen.



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.

He 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.

Latest publications
– Institute of Electronic Business (Ed.) 2014: Schlüsselfaktoren der digitalen Kommunikation (Key factors of digital communication), Project, pdf in german
– 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
– “Matters of concern – Designaufgaben der Next Society” pdf, in: REVUE – Magazine for the next society #16, p. 118–123






Here are a view interviews:

»Design is LifeScience«
PFS with Julian Adenauer (director of retune conference) for friends of friends (in preparation)

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

MDR FIgaro

»Vom Design, mit Design und über Design: Die vielen Spielarten«
PFS with Bernhard Krusche (CEO of ignore gravity), in: Magazine REVUE – Magazine for the next society #8 2011, p.10–19, pdf

Revue Cover Heft 8 Design Thinking


Peter has a background in music and design playing keyboards, drum programming, composition and production. Together with Roland Aley (bass, composition) he forms the Berlin based pop music duo SAALSCHLACHT, selected tracks at > soundcloud. Beginner´s mind is the first track we recorded 2013 in Berlin. We look for a live drummer to perform this. Jojo Mayer are you listening?

Saalschlacht produced tracks for a Captain Beefheart tribute project using Beefheart´s a capella tracks from Trout Mask Replica (1969): Well, Orange Claw Hammer, The dust blows forward and the dust blows back.

Peter co-founded the bands Zatopek (New Wave/Jazz Punk) 1982/83 and Mint (Noise, Avantgarde) 1984-89. He recorded for Polydor, Constrictor, Strange Ways, Überschall and Vielklang. Selected tracks are at soundcloud, vinyl at Discogs, re-releases on CD in preparation. Peter also played as a guest on Charles and the Agency´s En-Core and with Element of Crime.

In the early 1980ties Peter studied at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY/USA with Karl and Ingrid Berger, Marion Brown, Don Cherry, Jay Clayton, Steve Gorn, Trilok Gurtu, Oliver Lake, Baba Olatunji, Pauline Oliveros, Nana Vasconcelos, Collin Walcott and Gary Windo. He wrote, played and produced music for theatre with George Tabori and Stanley Walden.

KORG Polysix

As a keyboard player my heroes include Thelonius Monk and Sun Ra. I like electronics from Martin Rev, Kraftwerk and the Low End Theory Club in Los Angeles/California. The electric Miles Davis bands (1969-74) are my alltime favorites.



Roland Groove Box 505



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, …


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…)

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 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…).

Jens Standke
Daniel Helbig
Julia Kotowski


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 at 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


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
Transportation 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