Founding partners

celebrating 20 years of…

We founded Pilotfish in 2000 as two friends with a mission to create and deliver personalised products to your doorstep. We believed that emerging prototyping and 3D-printing technologies would enable us to design and manufacture unique and meaningful products at affordable prices. Our big idea was to shorten the product design, development and manufacturing times to match that of an eight-hour flight between Paris and New York. This vision kickstarted our journey – and part of yours.

We have supported more than 100 customers in designing more than 1,000 projects and producing more than 10 million products worldwide in the last 20 years. Starting out as a two-person design studio, we successfully migrated our core activity from styling consumer electronics to materialising user experiences. Our mission then and today is to humanise technology by putting the user in the centre of our design process. Our initial vision of making dreams tangible still stands proudly today.

This section of our website reflects on our first 20 years in business and throughout the pages you will find challenging projects alongside inspiring images. It is dedicated to all the people who have been part of Pilotfish in the last 20 years: our employees, our customers, our partners and our suppliers.

Thank you for playing a role in writing our history and creating an unlimited future,

Harm & Marc
Founders of Pilotfish
March 2021

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20 years | 20 projects

Challenging projects and inspiring images that proudly
highlights our first 20 years

Celebrating 20 years of 

…the Pilotfish timeline

1993

Harm and Marc meet each other for the first time at WeLLDesign in Münster, Germany, where they both work as industrial designers. It is the beginning of a professional relationship and personal friendship.

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1999

Harm accepts an offer to work at WeLLDesign’s office in Taiwan. He falls in love with the country, the people, their result-oriented mindsets and the fast-paced design projects.

In the winter, Marc and Nina meet Harm in Amsterdam for dinner and discuss the possibility of starting their own design agency.

Harm meets Marco Heusdens, who is responsible for the engineering of Harm’s projects at WeLLDesign in Taiwan.

2000

Harm decides to start working independently in Taiwan and Marc works with him on many projects for ERA Design. On 31 August, Harm and Marc officially found Pilotfish in Munich. David Chen, Managing Director at ERA Design, supports Harm and Marc and gives them the green light to submit their first invoice under the name of Pilotfish to Unitech.

Louis Kao becomes Pilotfish’s first employee on 1 December.

Pilotfish’s first website is launched with a focus on product styling and the product design of consumer and professional electronics.

2001

Marc opens Pilotfish’s Munich office at Heimeranstraße 68 and Harm opens the Pilotfish office in Taiwan on the ground floor of the ERA building in Neihu, Taipei. Both teams are growing; a mechanical engineer, sales representative and office managers are now on board.

2002

Pilotfish organises a design contest via the online design magaine Core 77 and receives 400 submissions. Pilotfish selects Brendan Hutchieson and Jeroen Bijsmans as winners of the grand prize: joining the team in Taipei.

Harm makes a first attempt to get Marco Heusdens on board, but Marco isn’t ready yet and kindly thanks him for the offer.

2003

Harm moves back to Europe and settles in Munich to work closer with Marc on building the European design business.

The Taiwan office moves to a new studio on Zhouzi Street in Taipei.

Pilotfish launches a new website.

SARS hits Asia and the Pilotfish team in Taipei goes into lockdown.

2004

More European companies find their way to Pilotfish and the existing client base grows.

Pilotfish celebrates the opening of a new office on the third floor of the Weberhaus at Schleißheimer Straße 6 in Munich with a big party.

2005

Harm and Marc travel to Silicon Valley, where they visit Synaptics and other tech companies like Cypress and Immersive.

2006

With the rising popularity of (multi)touchscreen interfaces, Pilotfish shifts its strategy from product styling to user experience design. Pilotfish creates a new corporate identity and corporate design, including a new website. Pilotfish’s mission becomes “creating unique user experience”.

The Taipei team continues to grow and moves to a new 300-square-metre office in Neihu.

2007

Due to the worldwide commercial success of the iPhone, the Taiwanese consumer electronics market, OBM, is hit hard. Pilotfish rethinks its strategy by leveraging its specialisation in the consumer and professional electronic space and applying it to new and emergent markets, including those in the fields of medicine, sports, lifestyle, audio and multimedia.

2008

Harm moves to the Netherlands in the summer to start the Pilotfish office in Amsterdam.

2009

Pilotfish Nederland BV is founded.

Harm is a judge of the iF Product Design Award.

At the end of the year, the Taipei team moves to a new studio on ZhouZi Street, Neihu – this time, the number is 88–2, where Pilotfish’s Taipei office remains today.

2010

A year of recovery: the business stays afloat thanks to many existing customers.

Pilotfish opens an office at Prinsengracht 326 Sous in Amsterdam to build a team with the focus on user experience and user interaction design.

2011

The Munich team needs more space and moves to the fifth floor of the Weberhaus.

Pilotfish introduces another website with a new tagline: “We humanise technology.”

Pilotfish celebrates its 11th anniversary with a huge party in the newly opened office.

2012

Pilotfish Inc. is founded to focus on tooling and production.

Marco accepts an offer to become a partner of Pilotfish and Managing Director of Pilotfish Inc. in Taiwan. He shares the office with the existing Pilotfish team in Taipei.

Pilotfish's Amsterdam team steadily grows and moves to a bigger office at Looiersgracht 50, which remains its current location.

2013

Thanks to many production requests from Hansaton, Audia, Ganshorn and tado°, Pilotfish Inc. is growing rapidly.

Pilotfish purchases its first 3D printer.

Marc moves to Berlin to start a Pilotfish office with an aim to focus on complete services – from concept to production (C2P) and delivery of products.

2014

Pilotfish’s first turnkey product is in production, including electronics and CE certification.

The China Design Association visits Pilotfish in Taipei.

Pilotfish works on many advanced projects in Korea, especially for Samsung, and is named a “master design studio”. Marc is also a jury member for the Korean Good Design Awards and Pilotfish has a booth at Design Korea in Seoul.

2015

Pilotfish invests in firmware engineering and is able to develop firmware in-house.

2016

Pilotfish launches a Concept-to-production (C2P) website.

The Pilotfish work lab in Taipei is expanded into a mini printing farm.

Taipei is named the World Design Capital and Pilotfish is invited to participate in the correlating events hosted by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.

2017

The Taipei team is restructured: One team will be dedicated to UI and UX design, while the industrial design team will join the C2P team to offer an integrated approach to product development.

2018

The German offices focus on C2P. Activities in Munich are scaled down, but the Berlin office is growing.

The Amsterdam office starts transitioning from a focus on design services to C2P.

Pilotfish exhibits at the MEDICA Trade Fair in Dusseldorf.

2019

Pilotfish begins to offer in-house electronic engineering.

A Dutch trade mission is organised to visit Pilotfish in Taipei.

Pilotfish in Amsterdam makes the shift to C2P with a specialisation in medical product design, including human-machine interfaces.

2020

Pilotfish invests in additional lab tools and software for electronic development.

All offices are aligned to use the same product development methods and tools.

The effects of COVID-19 hit Pilotfish’s EU business hard, but the pandemic also creates new opportunities, allowing Pilotfish to stay on track.

2021

Pilotfish celebrates its 20th anniversary.

On to the next 

20 years

When we started Pilotfish, we wanted to work on projects that involved designing new experiences and in the past 20 years industrial design has become increasingly complex with a much broader definition. At one end of the spectrum, design is returning to its roots, where craftsmanship, materials and product quality are at the fore. Thanks to new technologies, rapid prototyping and a shared responsibility for a sustainable future, we are happy to see more designers embracing design as a holistic craft.

At the other end of the spectrum, design is being transformed by technology, where the industrial designer is creating new digital experiences. Industrial designers are great in digital UX because we relate to the material world, where light reflects on a coloured surface, tactility is tangible and dials make sounds. This fusion of the physical and the digital makes our work so valuable, because we, industrial designers, make digital experiences more integrated and therefore more intuitive – no matter if we’re designing new products or new services.

New technologies like virtual reality enable fast simulations during the product creation and product development phases and can cut down on manufacturing time. 3D printing and additive manufacturing continue to enable us to make different design decisions that saves costs, waste and time. Easy re-programmable robotics boost the automation and flexibility in manufacturing. Smart sensors in production lines convert data into different units of measurement, communicating with other machines and recording statistics and feedback to create models of predictive maintenance.

According to McKinsey, Industry 4.0 “is the confluence of trends and technologies” which “promises to reshape the way things are made”. Companies today have access to large amounts of information from across the value chain and can utilise this to create unique, precise and personalised offerings.

Successful companies will be those that are able to deepen customer relations and respond to their clients’ needs immediately.

But the world soon needs to figure out what it means to be sustainable. Industrial designers can make sustainability a mantra of the profession because people will always need things and we will always be the “guardian angel” of the machine of progression and the well-being of people and planet.

The future is now,

Marco, Harm and Marc                                  

Celebrating 20 years 

… of winning awards