Design is by definition made for exploration and finding new solutions. Thus, for Danish ARDE, working with design means moving in only one direction: forward. Meet the man behind ARDE who loves to explore new materials and sustainable technologies that can be transformed into successful products.
Every design created by ARDE has to challenge physical functionality and artistic visual expression and be commercially engaging. These three elements are, for the owner and founder of Danish design agency ARDE, guidelines in their approach to all new projects that the company takes on:
“We want to create an impact with the furniture we create. This impact has two different aspects: one is the way in which we design for the many or else our design has no impact, and the another is more at the production level, whereby we always seek to design using sustainable development, simply because being responsible for our planet is the only thing that makes sense”, states Rene Hougaard.
Rene Hougaard is the owner and founder of Danish ARDE, which has a wide portfolio showcasing work and design solutions it has done for a number of well-known Danish furniture brands.
As with many other designers, he is fascinated by those Danish designers who founded the term “Danish Modern”. Not because they created icons, but because of the impact their way of working has had and continues to do so:
“They pushed the boundaries for the materials that were known and accessible at that time. All the time! They were all incredible craftsmen. But at the same time, they combined their interest in the way people were changing their way of living with their own quest to create democratic design. In effect, furniture designed for people – in terms of the expression as well as in the price point. Sometimes, it feels like we tend to forget what really created the success Danish design had in the ‘50s and ‘60s; the designers were not focused on creating classics, they were focused on good craftsmanship, exploring boundaries and pushing evolution forward”, he tells and continues:
“It makes no sense to me why people would think that a new icon will arise purely on the basis of its expression. The pieces we believe to be icons today became iconic pieces because they were bought and used by so many. And they were bought by so many because our predecessors explored and found new solutions that then appealed to so many people. This is my task as a designer today as well. To be a good craftsman – one with technical insights that make me capable of challenging the boundaries with the materials that are known and accessible today.”
As an example, to support his statement, he ponders a comparison with other industries:
“It’s strange that the furniture industry looks back so often. Imagine if other industries made new products based on classics – a new Ford T, the Macintosh computer relaunched, Nokia 3210 in new colours – it rarely happens, design needs to move forward.”
Distinguishing between the task and a framework
Lately, ARDE have been doing a lot of work for Danish Eva Solo, who only recently entered the furniture market. The task for ARDE was to create a series of furniture that could tap into and support the existing brand of Eva Solo. One of the final products in this project, one that entered the market only 6 months after the first signature was put to paper, is a chair called Combo:
“Combo is, on the one hand, very organic in its shape, yet on the other hand, it shows a very strict graphical language. This supports the round shapes of the company logo, which individually are very organic but together they create a quite strict unity”, Rene Hougaard explains.
He is quite satisfied with Combo, but the work doesn´t stop there:
“When doing chairs, which we have a lot of experience with, we have to ensure that the final product has its own strong identity. Alongside this, we naturally need to challenge functionality: how can the chair be stacked, have flexible usability and similar aspects. Everything need to be considered – creating a seat on four legs is not the task. It´s just the framework”, he says.
Art as an inspiration
For Rene Hougaard it´s important the design is not directly comparable to art. It can challenge like art, be aesthetic like art; maybe even move people like art, but design also has to show considerations of the functionality, technicality and usability:
“This tension field is what I really love about design. How we have to allow ourselves in the beginning of every project to liberate ourselves from our knowledge and insights to become free enough to create imagery without limitations – almost like art, and then from there to use all of what we know to actually make the idea come to life”, he tells.
He points out the Covent chair designed for Newworks, who really appreciated the volume of the body in combination with the under-dimensioned frame underneath:
“Covent is the result of exploration and finding new solutions by using our craftsmanship and the materials accessible to make it happen. By finding inspiration in artistry and by letting the shape and visual expression be defined, we can focus on finding a well-thought out solution. This brings us forward!”, he ends.