Nordic Appeal is a Danish brand that designs accessories for Apple’s products. We had a talk with co-founder Martin Bay about why they use plywood in their products, why ergonomics is so important and a talk about what is in store for the brand.
DANISH™: What is your definition of good design?
Martin: Good design should be as simple as possible – particularly in the area of design that we are engaged in. There should be no redundancy. Good design is also multifunctional; you can use our products to do more than one thing. That is important to us – simplicity and multifunctionality.
DANISH™: How does sustainability interact with good design?
Martin: When we make something, it is important that it collaborates or co-exists with the environment. Especially considering the state of today’s climate. We feel that when you know how to take care of the environment, it is your duty to do so. In that way, we are very fond of the principles of cradle-to-cradle, which is a kind of ecosystem containing products that can be recycled.
The main principle is that when you produce something, it has to be able to return to nature without generating waste. In everything we do, we think about the consequences for nature – i.e. whether our products or actions will pollute or affect nature negatively. That is also why we use PEFC-certified wood, which comes from sustainable forestry. Sustainability is very important to us – it matters how we leave the earth to future generations.
DANISH™: You are following in the footsteps of traditional Danish craftsmen and craftswomen. How would you define Danish craftsmanship?
Martin: One of the things that define Danish craftsmanship is the tradition of working with wood. Both the knowledge and awareness of woodworking is extremely vital to us – and we also believe it is important to maintain and preserve these disciplines in society, especially so that there are experts around to convey these disciplines to the next generation. There should be people who can teach other people how to use their hands, so that not every finished product will come from a machine and we will still have handmade quality goods.
The way we help maintain these disciplines is to produce our products in Denmark. In that way we are contributing to keeping the factories running – thus ensuring that cabinetmakers can get educated and trained up in Denmark.
DANISH™: What kind of customers do your products appeal to?
Martin: Our customer group is Apple users. So the products are targeted at people who already have an Apple computer. Fewer people used Macs when we started our business a couple of years ago, but today Macs are used more and more.
One can say that the people we turn to are the people who care about sustainability. People who ask themselves “What am I surrounding myself with?”. These are also the people who want modern and classic stuff in their homes and who go out and buy a Danish design chair. They want something that has a nice look and feel.
DANISH™: Why did you decide to target your products to people with Apple computers?
Martin: We feel that our product line suits Apple’s and vice versa. And also, it is hard to make something that will fit every PC, because PCs come in so many shapes and sizes. Apple has a more monotonous design that only changes once in a while. It is a process that you can follow quite easily. Furthermore, we try to exploit the fact that Apple users tend to be more interested in design.
DANISH™: Why do you solely use plywood in your products?
Martin: It is hard to bend a big solid piece of wood into the shapes that we are after. When you use plywood, which in our products consists of eight thin layers of wood, it is easier to shape the wood into the shape we want. The eight layers of wood also make the wooden boards much more stable than if we were to use only a single layer of wood; this is because of the interconnectedness of the layers. So there is mainly a technical explanation behind the answer.
DANISH™: You have made a statement that ergonomics has not been taken sufficient account of in the design of today’s computers. What do mean by that?
Martin: A computer used to consist of a big box on the floor and a huge screen on your desk. You could move the big box and the screen as you wanted, and, furthermore, the keyboard was not fixed to the screen. Nowadays, laptops are a compromise between a lot of things. Firstly, a laptop has to be easy to carry around. It has to be as small as possible, and have a nice design that pleases the eye. These things make the laptop shrink in a way that makes the keyboard and screen sit very close to each other; therefore, you are forced to bend your body a little in order to get maximum use of the screen. It is just not very ergonomic to use.
DANISH™: What is most important in your design: being ergonomic, the simple design, the craftsmanship or sustainability?
Martin: It is difficult to say what is most important. We try to take everything into account when we design our products. But I guess you can say that in the beginning it was the desire to create something that was ergonomic that made us want to design. We tried to create a smart space where you could stand up and work with your laptop. It just was and still is important that you do not sit down all day. Many studies have shown that it is unhealthy to always sit down, so that got us started thinking and creating.
So being ergonomic supersedes the other things, but sustainability, simple design and craftsmanship also have to all be incorporated in all of our solutions.
DANISH™: Do you have a personal favourite among your products?
Martin: In my opinion, the Wall desk is quite genius. You can use it in various ways – it is, of course, multifunctional. And then there is our Macbook stand; it also fits a computer bag and protects the laptop from bumps and knocks.
DANISH™: You sell products in the USA. How have you come so far?
Martin: I guess you could say it is sort of nature’s way. And we have incorporated this born global aspect into our products – our products are small and easy to ship worldwide and they seem to appeal to people all over the world. The fact that we are selling products in the USA is simply because Americans are early adapters and more attached to their computers and the things they surround themselves with. We quickly reached thousands of people in the US via blogs, which then resulted in a lot of orders. Actually, the USA is our largest market.
DANISH™: What does the future hold for Nordic Appeal?
Martin: Our plan is to strengthen our business and to gain more market value in the USA. Even though, the USA is where we sell the most, we still believe that it is where we have the most potential to grow. We are looking for more retailers to distribute our products. In that way, we can reach people that normally do not Google products like ours, but who are drawn to them in an interior of a shop instead. And then of course we have some products in the pipeline – for example, a desk for an iPad.