Words by Lucy Thomas
In a world where there is an abundance of influential designers out there it’s hard to keep up with who you need to be looking out for and following closely to capture the best new designs before anyone else. That's why we decided to make it easy for all of you with our series 'My Life in Design' where we handpick some of the greatest designers around so you don’t have to.
Our latest instalment is from Stockholm-based design studio JWDA. Founded by architect and designer Jonas Wagell, who boasts an enviable portfolio of global collaborations that range from Menu with the Concrete JDWA Table Lamp to Normann Copenhagen with the ever-popular Swell Sofa and the Rust Stay Table. It's safe to say that Wagell is at the forefront of contemporary Nordic design and although its likely that you've seen his designs and collaborations many times before you've probably not heard his story. So that's why we sat down with Jonas last week to talk about the advantages of collaboration and what it brings to the design sphere, as well as his top tips for achieving the perfect home.
Form, proportions and typography have always fascinated me and after high school, I started studying graphic design. My first job in the mid-nineties was with an advertising agency and as the firm’s business grew with telecom clients we expanded with designing showrooms, trade fairs and events around the world. This emerged my interest in three-dimensional form and collaborating with international design firms, like Imagination Ltd in London, and that eventually inspired me to go back to school for another five years of design and architecture studies.
I’m constantly listening to music as a mental backdrop in the studio. Music creates mood and with good mood comes inspiration. Regretfully, I spend too little time reading but enjoy watching films to relax and free my mind.
Nordic people are rooted with a functional approach to making things. Materials were unavailable and scarce, so excess and waste were unthinkable. I believe this has formed Scandinavian design and still today most designers here strive for functionality and thoughtful use of materials. Someone said that chipping out a small statue of a huge block of marble stands in contrast to the economic Scandinavian mentality, which is something I agree with.
First of all, be selective, think long-term and invest in the things you really want. Avoid the temptation of buying stuff that is just good enough for now. There is something nice about saving up and waiting for something special. On a more practical note; don’t forget good lighting – both directional and ambient – to enhance the feeling of the space. Rugs are good to frame areas in the home – such as the dining table or the sofa corner. The rug will create a more cohesive look, but also improve acoustics dramatically. In my opinion, I choose rugs before curtain. Lastly, use lots of green plants. It looks nicer to organise them in a group, instead of spreading them out everywhere.
Probably the living room, because it the most spacious in our home and we are fortunate to have huge floor-to-ceiling windows towards a green park.
I believe in having few, selective things around me and try not to over-consume. At the same time, I love beautiful objects and sometimes - well, quite often - I buy things out of affection rather than need. It’s a contradiction, for sure.
For a product and furniture designer, the collaboration is an integral part of the work. It’s a necessity for any outcome really. In my opinion, the most successful collaboration is where you work closely together to merge aesthetics, technology and craftsmanship. Of course, communication is key to any partnership. Since I work with several companies with both geographical and cultural distance this may be challenging at times.
I’ve always been drawn to household objects and consumer products and in my opinion, Danish companies are probably the best in the world in this category. Therefore, it was natural for me to approach them already before I started my studio. When Norm Architects was brought in as design directors for Menu in 2013 they reached out with a proposal for collaboration. Today I believe we share the same design values and are close in aesthetic expression.
I believe there is a fundamental expression or core value that connects the Scandinavian brands, not least the Danish, even if the style and market position is different from one company to the next. My first client in Denmark was Muuto with the Bulky tea set in 2011 and the following year I released a candle holder and a floor lamp with Normann Copenhagen. At the time, Normann fit my design expression very well, with playful and friendly shapes. The last years, I believe my work has developed towards a more neutral and simplistic direction, probably influenced by new clients and international collaborations. Nevertheless, we seem to find at least one new project per year to add to our long-term collaboration.
Lead times for product development can vary from one to four years, so it’s always difficult to say what will be released next. However, I’m currently working on around 15 new projects with clients in Sweden, Denmark, UK, USA and China. My work today is focused on furniture and lighting, rather than smaller items and accessories.
Shop and explore all of Jonas' Normann Copenhagen and Menu collaborations at OPUMO.
Keep up with everything that is happening with Jonas by checking out his website, or by following him on Instagram.
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