Other areas /

Google Ads

Q & A with Scandinavian designers

Monica Förster, Anne Kyyrö Quinn, Samuli Naamanka, Thea Berg, Janne Kyttänen, Ilkka Suppanen, Matti Klenell on what's important, what influences them and why..

Monica Förster’s work simultaneously seduces and nurtures. Her portable inflatable room the Cloud, inspired by the “happy weather” cumulus cloud according to the designer, fits into a bag; fan, electronics and all.
What was the first item you designed and felt proud of?
“It was a silicon lamp, which was produced by David Design.”

Is sustainability important to you?
“Of course it is, but I feel it is a jungle to take on! There are many ways to think about the environment. For example, I try to design objects and furniture which are not only here today and thrown away tomorrow.”

What makes your work distinctively Scandinavian?
“I think we’re all affected by the environment we surround ourselves with, in our everyday life. And that may be reflected in my projects. However, I don’t intentionally work in some kind of Scandinavian style.”

What are your inspirations?
“My inspiration comes from everywhere, from my everyday life, from traveling and from meeting people.”

Anne Kyyrö Quinn’s sculptural approach has pioneered a new genre of soft furnishings based on structure rather than surface ornamentation. From her base in London she provides a consultancy service for special residential and contract projects.

What is the most significant development in textiles today?
We’re seeing a shift in textile design that focuses on structure rather than surface. Traditionally, practitioners were much more concerned with embellishing the surface. I use relief and laser cuts to give my fabrics texture, and the textures also provide a motif. Therefore, they combine structure and surface in a single expression.

Which fabric has the most potential for the future?
Felt has many amazing properties. It is a fabric with a lot of potential, but for many years it was regarded as just a low-budget textile. I think that 100% wool felt has an understated luxury that rivals most other wool textiles. Because felts can also be created with silk and synthetic materials, I think the possibilities for creating new types of felt are endless.

What area of textile design inspires you the most?
Textiles have a long history of being an architectural material, even though they are usually regarded as a part of fashion. I’m looking back into history to understand the architecturality of fabric and update it for the present day. Historically, fabric was used to insulate a building and dampen acoustics; these factors inform my work as I use thick felt that has insulating properties and create rich textures that absorb ambient noise and reverberating sounds.

Samuli Naamanka, who was awarded the Nordic Designprize for his Uni chair in 2008 has his studio in Espoo, just outside of Helsinki—and best known for also housing the headquarters of design-conscious mobile phone company Nokia.
What inspires you and why?
“I usually aim at a new structural or aesthetic freshness. When everything clicks into place and the piece becomes a whole, it seems natural to design an entire range around that first idea. It’s also essential to consider the collection for which you’re designing the product.”

Would you describe your design as Scandinavian?
“Maybe in the way Scandinavian style is viewed internationally, but I see my style as more Finnish. I don’t need anything extra. In my furniture and industrial design, I underline the Less is More-concept, but not in my landscape art; there I allow myself to be more playful, even though the idea must be serious in some way.”

Is sustainability important to you?
“Yes, it is very important to me. I think we design and produce far too much, too many things we don’t need. It’s much better to try to design things that last, things with quality both design- and product wise. I feel sometimes that furniture design is much like fashion design nowadays.”

What’s your favorite material?
“I like all kinds of materials. It’s better to try to think what material is the best for the purpose. But wood or plywood objects always pose an interesting challenge, since you cannot bend them like you can plastic.”

Not your typical generation X representative, Thea Berg finds much of her inspiration in nature.
“I often feel inspired by the rich and various forms of nature. As my work on textile art and design for quite some years now have been focusing on how to create a 3-dimensional perspective on the two-dimensional fabric, it has often been most inspiring for me to study how nature builds up 3D forms — not to copy them, but to see how layers and shapes can work together. I often start design processes by studying formations of ice and snow or the way a flower grows with its many petals and leaves. In one of my main projects, the AQUATIC series, which consists of wearable textile sculptures, I was inspired by looking at aquatic creatures in the reefs, the light and shadow underwater, and how the tentacles of the sea anemone flow with the water streams….”

Would you describe your style as Scandinavian?
“Yes and no. I was raised in a family of architects and designers strongly rooted in the Scandinavian design tradition, and my own work obviously grows out of that soil, too. Scandinavian nature often inspires me, for example, and the special Scandinavian light is important to me in my design process. What’s interesting is that my design is more on demand internationally than in Scandinavia, perhaps due to the fact that my designs are very rich or sensual in their expressions, and not streamlined and ‘pure’ in typical Danish design fashion.”

What was the first item you designed and felt proud of?
“Back in 1992, I designed a collection of hand-printed silk shawls for the Danish National Museum boutique in Copenhagen. While looking into the museum collections, I discovered some beautifully embroidered jackets, aprons, and other textiles from the 17th century. By working several of those patterns and borders together, I came up with some up-to-date designs clearly inspired by Danish history. These silk shawls attracted quite some attention and are still in demand.”

The international orientation of young Scandinavian designers is evident among most representatives from the Nordic region.
Janne Kyttänen was born in Finland but lives and works in Amsterdam.
Did you always want to be a designer?
I was born in Hämeenlinna, Finland in 1974. As a kid I was into computers, music, and sports. At first I applied to study sound engineering but I was rejected, then I was rejected twice to the design school in Helsinki. Finally I was accepted at the Escola De Disseny, Elisave in Barcelona, Spain. After Spain I knew I needed to live in a central place in Europe that would allow me to quickly travel for squash, so it was either London or Amsterdam.
You used to be a professional squash player – has that helped you as a designer?
Yes, it has. Playing sports is the hardest thing you can do, physically and mentally. Sports take such persistence that everything else is peanuts in comparison. As a designer I won’t easily quit--I can work 24 hours a day. As a matter of fact, I work all the time because my work is also my hobby.
You are one of the first designers to use digital manufacturing. How has that affected the design world?
There’s a lot of benefits from this type of design, such as no storage and no transportation since everything’s on a CD. Imagine you download an image of this glass, for instance, from Internet, and then you just produce it. You won’t have to go to China and buy 12,000 glasses and ship them back home and sell only 6,000 and store the rest. See what I mean? The problem is that people are a bit slow to respond. Our entire planet is wired to a Henry Ford way of producing things, and it will take time to change that concept. But I know that what we’re doing is something that’s going to change the design world the way digital photography changed the world of photography or MP3 players changed the music industry.
With your company, Freedom of Creation, you market yourselves as well as design for others. What do you most enjoy doing?
For me the innovation part of a project is the most fun, since it’s something I always learn from. I know that I will come up with a solution to whatever it is I have to do, and I rather enjoy that first part when I have to figure it out. I used to be in front of the computer a lot, but now I don’t need to be, because I know the software so well in my head.
What inspires you?
Nothing and no one really. Since I’m using a new technique, I’m in a unique position. Nobody’s done anything like this before me, so it’s a completely blank page for me to draw on.
How do you work?
People ask me about “the process” but there really isn’t any process per say. I like to work incredibly fast, I get ideas all the time and probably have ideas to last me for the rest of my career. I also get very impatient. We have some big-time clients right now and we’re talking about a project with them, and they say, “Oh, it will take two years.” I don’t understand that thinking. I could make it happen in two weeks. When I have an idea I want to see it materialized right now, I don’t see the point with all these boring business meetings.
You made an amazing shoe for Onitsuka Tiger. A huge shoe with a city inside it.
Yes, that was a fun project. They asked us to make a shoe that would represent the Tokyo skyline for a photo shoot. In my head I immediately saw what it was going to look like. It took us 5 days to model it. And it was two weeks from the briefing to the photo shoot. It was printed in two parts.
What’s your favorite project?
Always the ones I’m currently working on. And I work on around 20 projects at a time.
What’s in your book bag right now?
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon.
What do you listen to?
I haven’t bought a new CD since I was like 18 years old.
What artists do you admire?
I appreciate people who have an original approach. Even though I wouldn’t want his paintings on my walls, I like the effort Mark Ryden puts into his paintings. They give me a kick.
Describe your work.
All my pieces are just smaller parts of a bigger puzzle, which I spent decades preparing for. I am also big on aesthetics; things must be beautiful. However, beauty isn’t what’s most important, there must always be meaning in what you do. I’m interested in industrializing objects; I always try to figure out how you can do things more economically and efficiently. I believe that’s how you go about changing the world. You can’t just sit and polish one precious piece of design.

Ilkka Suppanen
Co-founder of Finnish design group Snowcrash and curator for the Finnish presence in New York in May, Suppanen, like Harri Koskinen works for a wide range of Nordic and international design companies.

What are your sources of inspiration?
“The environment and people. I’m interested in how people behave, and how they use the objects we create.”

Have you ever used any materials that yielded unexpected results?
“It is quite often that materials behave differently than expected. It depends on the situation if we manage to make most of them intentionally or by mistake.”

Would you describe your work as Scandinavian?
“Well, first of all I don’t come from Scandinavia as Finland is not technically a part of Scandinavia!* I am, however, still seen as a Scandinavian designer. I feel I am creating and developing the idea of Scandinavian design simply by being a designer and part of the Scandinavian design ‘community’.”

Is sustainability important to you?
“Yes, it is one of the defining measures of my design – even though I find it a somewhat trendy word today.”

* Scandinavia is the region centered on the Scandinavian peninsula, which includes Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. However, the other Nordic countries, Finland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, are often included because of their close historic and cultural connections to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. (editor’s footnote)

Flying Carpet

Matti Klenell
Educated at Konstfack in Stockholm, has most recently worked with pieces for David Design and unique objects in blown and hot fused glass at the Ajeto Glassworks.

What are your sources of inspiration?
“A lot of things, but I get a lot of inspiration from watching movies. I guess it’s because I then combine visual input with being told a good story.”

Have you ever used any materials that have had unexpected results?
"Yes. Glass. That material is crazy. The entire process is very special and if you start experimenting with it you don’t know what the result will be. I like working with glass because of its strong connection with the working process. You can't plan that much when sketching and drafting a glass object. It’s not until you actually stand in the workshop that you will see what comes out and if it’s any good."

Which materials inspire you the most?
“Does light count as a material? Probably not, but I sometimes view it as the immaterial material when working. Apart from that I think the question is hard to answer. Most materials are very inspiring when you learn how to use them.”

What is the most innovative material you're using today?
“Right now I’m not very innovative in terms of my material choices. I work on a range of furniture in 100% birch wood.”

Orb hallstand
Family of knobs, hooks and a hallstand. Made of powdercoated steel in various sizes, colours and combinations.
Manufacturer:David Design

Tokyu Hands wall clock
Limited edition wall clock. Diameter: 400mm.
Manufacturer: ASKUL Corporation

Ajeto Urns
Unique urns in blown and solid glass. Produced at the Ajeto Glassworks, CZ for a solo exhibition at the IngerMolin Gallery, Stockholm.

Other articles on Design /
Nordic Design Now
Scandinavian design: Beyond Blond
Louise Campbell: If it works in paper…
Driving fashion forward
Design in Sports
Mathias Bengtsson: Redefining boundaries
Trine Andersen: Wallpaper, contemporary walls
Johan Verde: Design to lift, angle, clean and store
Maija Louekaris: Channeling a spirit
Johan Carpner: To capture the untamable
Nina Jobs: Impressions of depth