040ferm LIVING’s team of designers share their thoughts on the journey of creating new products: a collaborative and balanced approach to the design process.
The Art of Balance
At ferm LIVING, we have the relatively unique pleasure of having our own design studio. A team of different personalities who, together, produce the vast majority of our designs.
“We are all different from each other, but we share the same values that ground our designs in the same place,” says the design team. That place is what makes up the ferm LIVING core identity: authentic Scandinavian design with a clear functionality that embraces the contrasts of life. “We’re always asking ourselves; how do we design a home with space to feel comfortably you? We want to awaken a happy, warm place in the people we’re designing for, whether it’s furniture, lighting or accessories. Occasionally, we’ll partner with an external designer for a product that’s a perfect match for our brand DNA.”
The team comes from a range of educational and working backgrounds within design. Equally important, however, are the different perspectives that each member of the team brings to the table – that gut feeling that’s uniquely informed by each person’s individual life experiences: “Call it what you want – a gut feeling, intuition – but we’re not afraid to work from that place. It’s a concrete thing, an accumulation of your taste, memories, beliefs and experiences. When designing a product, you merge that feeling with function, aesthetics and craftmanship, but it all starts with intuition.”
The Creative Process – Notes to Achieve Balance
The process of creating a new collection is both collaborative and structured. Each of the designers have one or several areas of expertise, some working with paper and textiles, others with furniture or lighting. They work closely together with category managers who specialise in certain categories such as furniture, mirrors, lighting or kid’s products, or specific materials like stone and marble, metal, glass, ceramic or wood.
Although the designers each specialise in various categories, collaborating and sharing the responsibility of the design process is still an important element: “We value the idea of examining every piece from all angles, with many pairs of eyes. By doing this, we have no doubt when a piece is complete.” The notion of collaboration also ensures balance in the design – one of the most important elements in the entire process: “The process of creating new collections of products is very much an art of balance. Finding the right balance between the authentic and the structured, the artsy and the functional is the most important and challenging task that our unique in-house design team take on in their daily work” says Jannie, Chief Product Officer at ferm LIVING.
The objective of creating designs that are in balance impacts not only the functional process of designing a specific product, but also the inspiration behind collections, which is part of an ongoing dialogue – a response to what is going on in the world beyond. “We are constantly contemplating the words and ideas that inform a collection. For example, when thinking about balance and stillness, we ask ourselves; what does stillness look like? How do we capture that feeling in a design? What will balance look and feel like in the future?”
“Each designer in our team has a different approach to taking notes; some are more attracted to visual communication such as sketches and doodles, while others enjoy to jot down words and phrases in physical or digital notebooks to describe the thoughts and feelings behind an idea.”
– Trine Andersen, Founder & Creative Director
In a constant attempt to capture these ideas that emerge from everyday feelings, reflections, experiences and memories during the creative, inspirational process, the design team work with notes. These are not only limited to the original, pen-and-paper kind: “Each designer in our team has a different approach to taking notes; some are more attracted to visual communication such as sketches and doodles, while others enjoy to jot down words and phrases in physical or digital notebooks to describe the thoughts and feelings behind an idea. Either way, it provides us with the unique opportunity to not only structure our own thoughts, but to invite each other into our individual, unique minds and create the layers that track our thoughts during the collaborative design process.” shares Trine Andersen, Creative Director at ferm LIVING. Sometimes, this process enables the formation of ideas by combining notes from different designers, while at other times notes can grow into products on their own. It also happens that an idea dies when the notes are shared: “It allows us to be deliberate in our design. Is something missing? If the answer is yes, the product isn’t ready, and it doesn’t make it into the product family. We might save it or adapt it for a later collection. It’s a journey, but the products are better for it.” Notes therefore present an integral part of the design process; they help the designers nurture the unique process from intangible thoughts to functional products, enabling the team to create collections that beautifully balance the authentic and structured.
A Complete Collection
When posed with the question ‘when is a collection finished?’, the designers answer with a resounding, unanimous ‘never’. “It lives on! When a new product joins the family, it takes its natural place alongside our existing products,” says the design team. “We are always building on from the last collection. Our pieces aren’t meant to last just a season. We consider it a strength that new and old collections interact and live on together.”