Between 3D Art and Design: Interview with Julia Koerner

Julia Koerner ARID Collection Re-FREAM Project Digital Vogue 2020 Photography Ger Ger

Contrasting fields like fashion, architecture and design seem to have something in common in the works of Austrian architecture designer Julia Koerner, who applies 3D-printing techniques to all of these different areas.

Known worldwide for her 3D-printing innovations, Julia Koerner is the founder of JK Design GmbH and a faculty member at UCLA. Her recent collaborations include costumes for Hollywood Entertainment Productions such as Marvel’s famous Black Panther movie.

Following the talk Just In Time hosted by Istituto Marangoni Firenze, the Editorial staff of I’M Firenze Digest recently asked her about her job, creative process and main inspirations.

Julia Koerner ARID Collection Re-FREAM Project Digital Vogue 2020 Photography Ger Ger


By Viola Pinori. Cover image: Julia Koerner, ARID Collection Re-FREAM Project, 2020. Photo: Ger Ger. Courtesy of Julia Koerner

I’MF: You work with architecture. You collaborate with famous fashion brands and recently created your own 3D printed products. How do you manage to combine these different areas?

JK: For me, fashion is architecture on a smaller scale. I have a background in architecture and use architectural design processes in my work. I work with computational and digital design processes; it does not really matter on a computer scale.
I design facade prototypes and architectural columns with the same digital tools as I would use to create a dress, jacket or purse. Digital fabrication techniques enable me to realise these designs on various scales. I utilise different technologies for different scales to manufacture and fabricate the geometries. I enjoy thinking of the body as my ‘building site’ on a micro-scale. 

I’MF: How was your first approach to 3D printing? What is your process when you work with computational design tools?

JK: I learned about 3D printing at Architecture University in 2005. Back then, I was 3D printing scale models, and I was fascinated by the back and forth between the digital and physical space. I use Architectural Design Software to create my designs in 3D. I work a lot with digital mood boards and various software systems. There is no linear, straightforward process I would repeat; there is a lot of R&D involved in testing new digital design methods, tools and techniques. 

Julia Koerner HY Clutch Slate 2021_Setae Jacket ©JK3D_Photo Elena Kulicova
Julia Koerner, HY Clutch Slate, Setae Jacket, 2021. Photo: Elena Kulicova. © JK3D

I’MF: Many of your works often reflect the typical curving line of the natural world. Where do you get your inspiration? Does nature inspire you? 

JK: Nature is my primary source of inspiration. Evolution has optimised form, aesthetics, colours and material performance over millions of years; there is so much to learn from nature. Growth processes, patterns, structure, material performance and life cycle are an endless field of inspiration. My interest was undoubtedly nurtured by my family when I was young.
My mother is a biologist, my uncle a botanist, my father a professor of arts and technology, and my brother is currently doing his PHD in architecture. We collectively share an interest in nature, technology, science and art, and this has a vast influence on my work. I would always collect shells, kelp, sponges, and other natural artefacts. I still do that and continue to 3D scan them to try and understand their mathematical logic so that I can integrate it into my design processes.

Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER..L to R: T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Ramonda (Angela Bassett)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018
Julia Koerner | JK Design GmbH in collaboration with Ruth E. Carter/ Marvel Studios, 3D printed costume for Queen Ramonda, 2018. Photo: still from Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, 2018 © Marvel Studios, 2018. Courtesy of Julia Koerner

I’MF: We know that your 3D printing fashion products are highly innovative and sustainable. But what makes 3D printing that sustainable?

JK: As the name says, Additive Manufacturing is an additive process, which means that material is added in layers, and you will only use the amount of material you actually need for the product. That differs from the subtractive processes traditionally used in the past. In my designs, I often find myself optimising the geometries I create to ensure that the 3D printing process doesn’t use any support material (structural material).
This makes my designs even more sustainable. I also work with biodegradable or plant-based materials and make sure that they are locally sourced. When it comes to digital design, you can send the designs virtually anywhere in the world and print them out locally where the machine is available. With this in mind, I aim for local and on-demand production. We only print our designs on request in our studios in Los Angeles and Vienna. Come visit us at

Julia Koerner HY Clutch Ice_HY Mini Ice_2021_©JK3D_Photo Elena Kulicova
Julia Koerner, HY Clutch Ice, HY Mini Ice, 2021. Photo: Elena Kulicova. © JK3D

Julia Koerner is an Austrian designer. She lives and works in Salzburg and Los Angeles.
Viola Pinori is an undergraduate student in Arts Curating at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

You might be interested in…