Listening is the key to great design – listening to your surroundings, listening to your clients and listening to yourself. This is true whether you engage in furniture design, spatial and exhibition design or everything in between. This is the belief of Danish designer Tine Mouritsen. Mouritsen has been running her own studio for a decade, when DANISH™ caught up with her and asked her about her craftsmanship and what are the biggest challenges of being a designer today.
DANISH™: You work with a lot of different scales and types of products when it comes to design. How did you achieve this broad expertise?
Tine Mouritsen (TM): I graduated from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, School of Architecture, Department for Space and Furniture, so in a way it’s a continuation of what I did at the architecture school. I hold the same belief now that I held back then, namely that a piece of furniture can’t exist without the space surrounding it, and the space surrounding it can’t exist without the piece of furniture in it. In addition, I work with scale jumps, from the smallest details to bigger exhibitions and spatial flows. You can say that I work in the field between furniture design and space design, and there’s a lot of synergy in working this way, because I can support different functions in the overall design of e.g. an exhibition.
The fact that I’m designing different solutions that are meant to last from a couple of days to several decades gives me some good considerations and contemplations about my work as a designer. I’ve always worked like this.
DANISH™: What are these contemplations? What is your design philosophy, your design DNA?
TM: It’s always hard to describe yourself, it’s way easier to describe others. But my philosophy includes a huge amount of listening to the client and the user in order to figure out their needs and demands. I do a lot of research and question the challenge in order to find the best solution and functionality for my designs. I also do quite a lot of research about the company that I am doing the assignment for, so I’m able to adapt to different design languages and the different narratives of a variety of companies. I draw, experiment and do sketches on design for my own sake as well, but most of the time you have to listen to the client to figure out the task ahead. Then you need to ask yourself, what do I, as a designer, want to add? What do I want to remove?
In my interior tasks, I listen to the client, but I also try to influence them with what I think is the best solution. I suggest to them, perhaps, you should try this and that, and usually I move them forward in the process of getting closer to the most optimal design. I like to challenge them to ensure we arrive at the best design in the end.
DANISH™: What is ‘good craftsmanship’ to you?
TM: Well, good craftsmanship occurs when there’s a certain amount of experience involved in what you’re doing – you have to spend hours, days, months and years even to become good at your craft. At the same time, you have to establish a good dialogue between the designer and the craftsman so that you can have a meaningful know-how exchange between the two. The dialogue between the craft, hands and materials is also of great importance, but that part is actually linked to the experience part. I believe that the overall craftsmanship is important to me, not necessarily just that you have to execute the craft. But there’s craftsmanship in a lot of disciplines today. In a way, you can translate craftsmanship to competencies and more human qualities like forming arguments and getting along with people around you.
DANISH™: Speaking of competencies and qualities, what is your strongest asset as a designer?
TM: I’m good at listening and decoding what is being said, and I also tend to be good at being true to myself and the client.
I’ve been told that I’m good at selecting colours and combining different materials and colours. And then I dare to have my own opinion about the way things are put together, I dare to be honest. That sometimes knocks me out a bit and sometimes things get too serious and formal. But I like to try to make things a little less serious, such as by incorporating an element of humour and play.
DANISH™: What is the biggest challenge in being a designer today?
TM: It’s still the challenge of convincing people about the value of design. Design is not just something that you draw on a napkin after two bottles of wine (sometimes it is, but most times it’s hard work). Some people still have this perception of design. In my opinion, the creative process needs time to flourish, you can’t rush it. And as a designer, you want to be aware of all the parameters that can affect the final solution. That awareness process takes time.
Advertising agencies have been good at telling people about the value of their work, but when it comes to design companies, the story is a bit different I believe. It’s striking that 9 out of 10 design companies are one-man-armies, and that definitely tells you something about the business as a whole, I believe – it’s a hard business field to succeed in.
DANISH™: You have been running your own design studio for 10 years now. What are your future plans for your company?
TM: Hopefully, I’m still going to be around and designing more products and interiors. I would like to spend my time 50:50 on furniture design and spatial design; whereas today, it’s more like 30:70. My ambition is also to continue my business successfully, and to launch more great furniture and interior projects. I also have a project in development about ‘homo ludens’, where I focus on creating designs for the playing human. It’s about incorporating play into the work environment, such that you don’t sit still when you’re working. Again, this is part of my mantra of not getting too serious.
Tine Mouritsen will present her new daybed design with the Danish manufacturer Linak at the Orgatec fair in Cologne from October 25 to October 29, 2016. In addition, Mouritsen has designed the exhibition stands for both Linak and Danish furniture manufacturer Erik Jørgensen.