Some designers hold on to their idiosyncratic ideas of what a design should be like, while others open up and invite their stakeholders to collaborate and develop their ideas. Most of the time, the latter believe that all collaborations are based on the art of the possible. By being open to their collaborators’ ideas and insights, these designers obtain better results, while their sub-suppliers’ and manufacturers’ ideas enrich their designs and add more know-how, resulting in better products. This type of designer is found in a significant Danish-Icelandic design duo.
Meet Hee Welling and Gudmundur Ludvik. Or simply Welling/Ludvik.
The duo has designed the Less dining chair in a fruitful collaboration with the Danish manufacturer of high-quality outdoor furniture Cane-Line. The company’s brief for the two designers was to do a super-simple and elegant stackable dining chair, which was capable of being used both indoors and outdoors. At the same time, Welling/Ludvik had to design a frame construction in powder-coated aluminium, where you can quite easily replace the seat material and back material during the manufacturing process.
“It’s one of our most complex products, when it comes to the actual manufacturing of it, due to the tools needed and the complexity of creating such a big press moulding machine. It’s also relatively expensive, but we saw some exciting opportunities regarding the many options for customising each chair individually,” says Mads Andersen, Product Manager at Cane-Line.
A Valuable Process
According to Hee Welling, the goal was to create a chair that could adapt to different surroundings. This was done by providing a simple frame, to which you can add your own customizations, such as a different seat upholster or a different material for the back.
“During the process, we met up with Cane-Line and went through the different details that we were working on. We started out with a very simple intuitive process, trying out different dimensions and welding methods for each part. In the meantime, we also altered the prototypes in line with the feedback we got from Cane-Line. It’s a big privilege to work this way – to find a solution together,” Welling states.
At Cane-Line, Product Manager Mads Andersen was responsible for the development process of the Less chair. When asked, he has no doubts about the value of the open process between Cane-Line and the two designers.
“Our culture is to ping-pong between each other, and when we invite over designers, such as Welling/Ludvik, we try to have a completely open agenda. This means that, in collaboration with Welling/Ludvik, we figure out what to do with the process and development. We try to solve challenges together,” says Mads Andersen.
Gudmundur Ludvik, who comprises the Icelandic element of the design duo, states that you have to focus on what you’re good at in order to end up with an optimal product. This also applies to the Less chair; its manufacturing process includes one of the duo’s main focuses – to optimize the design in a way that minimizes the amount of materials used for the chair.
“Cane-Line didn’t have the machinery to produce the Less chair in the beginning, so it’s also a big investment and a bit of a gamble for them. But involving multiple stakeholders in the design makes the whole process more positive, because the project is looked at from multiple angles,” Ludvik says.
Intensifying the Feeling of Ownership
After two years of preparation, the chair is finally in production. “But it’s totally worth it, spending two years on a product like this, when you see the finished product,” Welling adds. And to the duo, it’s not a question of whether or not they’re compromising their designs by working with a manufacturer such as Cane-Line; it’s more about how well the collaboration works out.
“The collaboration functions optimally, and it’s something completely different to handing in a sketch and then not seeing it again before the product is finished. In addition, it’s not only our product as designers; it’s also the manufacturer’s product and the employees’ product. We don’t lose ownership of the product due to the fact that many people are involved in the process – in fact, it kind of intensifies the feeling of ownership for us,” Welling ends.