Studio Prindsen: Design Beyond the Triple Bottom Line

At Panafold, we value curiosity and expanding our borders. So, it was with great excitement that Kit, Meg, Jorge, Wut, and Eduardo visited Oslo and Copenhagen to meet with direction-setting product designers.  The first stop was the shared creative community at Studio Prindsen in the center of Oslo.  There, we were introduced to Kristine Bjaadal’s work such as this elegant linen-upholstered wood and steel Ladybug chair. Its construction resembles a beetle’s; a soft inside covered by a protective shell. We also met with Runa Klock,  who is possibly coolest designer in Scandinavia and has an astounding resume.

Ladybug Chair by Kristine Bjaadal. Photo, Kit Halvorsen.

Ladybug Chair by Kristine Bjaadal. Photo, Kit Halvorsen.

As we walked through the courtyard we saw evidence of one of Klock’s most recent efforts, Retour, which creates appealing bikes by uniting design, cast-off bicycles and under-employed people who want to learn how to be good with their hands. Check out a video on Retour here.

Klock is also leading a project called Bokhari, helping Pakistani artisans to create traditionally-crafted textiles that appeal to the European market. Every purchase helps employ artists and foster education in Sultan Town, Faisalabad, where the literacy rate is incredibly low. Literacy is life-changing for the children, she told us, enabling them to access knowledge on their own and change the way they think about the world.


If that were not enough, in Oslo she cofounded a company, Epleslang, which employs young people who need work experience--including many people with disabilities. Epleslang produces  all-natural apple juice and brings their crew to harvest donated apples from trees that bear excess fruit. They then make that into juice. Klock’s work doesn’t stop there.

Epleslang Apple Juice. Photo, Epleslang.

Epleslang Apple Juice. Photo, Epleslang.

Runa has also designed cutting boards for the social entrepreneurship project, Moving Mamas. The organization employs immigrant mothers, helping them adjust to life in a new country. The boards are made using by-products  donated by Kebony, an eco-friendly Norwegian wood producer. 

Tableware from The Thief, Oslo. Photo, Runa Klock.

Tableware from The Thief, Oslo. Photo, Runa Klock.

Finally, Runa designed some of the most cutting-edge tableware in Oslo for the sophisticated hotel, The Thief. This project has a socially conscious bent as well: prisoners in Oslo Fengsel, Norway’s largest prison, craft the tableware and gain satisfying work experience. Norwegian prisons focus on teaching skills so that inmates can find work when released.

We’re proud to mention that Runa worked with us as an intern when Panafold first opened its doors. Even then, she fixed up a bicycle to zoom around San Francisco, foreshadowing Retour. In an interview with Cool Hunting, Runa said, “I believe the most important thing we can do is to make people feel useful.” We couldn’t agree more, and cannot wait to see what Runa has planned next.  

Digital Presence in Interior Design

In the fast-paced technological world, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. How much is too much on Instagram? Which apps are worth using? What’s the deal with Insta stories? The fear is, while the Internet has widened access to design, it can also diminish the role of the designer to one of glorified shopper, as Jon Call of Mr. Call Designs pointed out. Last month, Panafold attended the What’s New What’s Next conference at the New York Design Center, and we came away with some thoughts on preserving your integrity as a designer while benefiting from social media.

L to R: Jon Call, Katie Lydon, Philip Gorrivan, and Tamara Rosenthal of Viyet.

L to R: Jon Call, Katie Lydon, Philip Gorrivan, and Tamara Rosenthal of Viyet.

1. Digital presence is important at any stage of your career.

What we heard repeatedly was that a digital presence is essential, no matter if you’re a new designer with only a few projects under your belt or an established designer with years of experience. Social media is a way for potential clients to scope out your work and feel connected to you. And while it can feel contrived or superficial, Instagram can also be a good breeding ground for new ideas. Social media works well as a creative outlet or a visual diary.  Don’t go dark - your followers want to know that you’re there (we hear that 9am and 5pm on Fridays are particularly good posting times).

2. Maintain a healthy balance between work and personal on Instagram.

Instagram offers an immediate portfolio of your work, but also allows people to feel personally connected to you. So, how do you determine how much of your content should be personal and how much should be work-related? The consensus on this point varied at the conference, with some designers (for example, Katie Lydon) leaning more heavily toward a work-oriented page and others (for example, Patrick Dragonette) treating Instagram as a diary of their everyday lives. What eventually emerged was that whatever ratio of work to personal you have on your Instagram, it should feel authentic. Don’t post thoughtlessly, and keep your tone consistent.

Beautiful lighting at What's New What's Next. 

Beautiful lighting at What's New What's Next. 

3. Pinterest can be helpful in particular circumstances.

The designers at What’s New What’s Next expressed a complicated relationship to Pinterest. Almost all used it internally to onboard new staff to the aesthetic of the company or to bounce ideas around in-house, but rarely or never used it with clients. When clients come in with a Pinterest board already put together, designers said it can feel like their skill set is reduced to that of shopper, not designer. However, some did say that Pinterest boards can be useful in establishing a baseline of the client’s tastes.

4. Cultivate your relationships and create new ones on social media.

The Internet and social media have widened access to design to nearly everyone. That translates to relatively easy exposure for a designer. Several of the designers at WNWN recalled meeting new clients through Instagram DMs or finding inspiration on other designers’ pages.

All the designers at WNWN expressed frustration at the lack of convenient, intuitive applications that help, not hurt, the relationship between client and designer. While these are being developed, embrace the power that social media can give you and the growth your business will experience.

What’s new what’s next: In world leadership and design

New York ruminated on technology in September, appreciating it in the New York Design Center's annual market day as well as during the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.  As AD writes “We've passed the point of forgiveness for designers who are un-savvy about technology.” A few days later, all member states of the UN were encouraged to be savvy as well.

The UN High-Level Event on Innovation and Technology gathered Heads of State, CEOs and technology thought-leaders. The President of Estonia, H.E. Kersti Kaljulaid related why her small country already has 5G LTE - the government kept out of the way.  (She also noted that the washing machine changed more lives than putting a man on the moon.)  The event  was convened by the Executive Office of the Secretary-General's Global Pulse and the SDG Action Campaign and we were pleased to participate. SDG stands for the Sustainable Development Goals, the “to-do list for humanity,” a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The 17 Goals include Sustainable Cities and Communities and Responsible Consumption and Production - two goals designers and architects can embrace.  Kristin Gutekunst, an Executive Producer for the UN SDG Action Campaign, moderated a panel on “The future we want in virtual reality.” On the panel was Monique Marian, architect, BIM Coordinator and VR Specialist  at Grimshaw Architects, who spoke about VR use in her field.  

H.E. Miroslav Lajčák, the President of the United Nations General Assembly urged, “Let us unleash innovation to unlock the potential of every person everywhere, especially young people.”  Likewise Reid Hoffman, Co-founder and Chair of LinkedIn, stressed the importance of Artificial Intelligence in shaping societies, saying how all people will be needed to solve the problems ahead.

Marc Benioff, the CEO and Founder of Salesforce, reminded us that the UN was born in San Francisco, and we all need to allow innovation to happen. He explored AI as a basic human right as it touches on education, farming, commerce, health.  

At the NY Design Center’s What's New What's Next, designers Jon Call, Philip Gorrivan, Katie Lydon and Philip Gorrivan talked with Viyet CEO Lix Brown about issues Panafold helps designers with, such as having a digital presence (important at any point of your career), and using tech-enabled Moodboards to create design boards (stay tuned.) Dering Hall Executive Editor Dennis Sarlo led a discussion on tools the panel knew about and used. On the panel were Kati Curtis, Joe Human, Paloma Contreras, Patrick Dragonette. The group sourced ideas from attending a lot of markets and often stored them in Dropbox folders.  They were cautious with sharing Pinterest boards with clients,  finding it can lead to misinformation (an interesting user experience design problem).  Instagram was good for connecting with people so long as designers kept a good ratio of personal and work content.  Online design services hurt more than helped their work. More helpful services were Matterport, which will document and model a space, and Trello-like applications such as Dapulse and Asana.

In the foreground an example of design innovation: The Aplat + Chef Melissa King Shibori Tote makes its debut at the UN. On the monitors, President Kersti Kaljulaid (Estonia).  

In the foreground an example of design innovation: The Aplat + Chef Melissa King Shibori Tote makes its debut at the UN. On the monitors, President Kersti Kaljulaid (Estonia).  

Along with the SDG goals that directly relate to design and architecture, we at Panafold want to underscore the spirit of Goals 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and 10 (reduced inequality). Just because many in the design industry work in small companies it doesn’t mean that we can’t have impact. The Global Day of Action is September 25th.

On Wayne Thiebaud and Gary Hutton: Art, History, Place

Fall Fields, 2017 © Wayne Thiebaud / DACS, London / VAGA, New York 2017

Fall Fields, 2017 © Wayne Thiebaud / DACS, London / VAGA, New York 2017

Not many know the art lineage of two western artists and designers, Wayne Thiebaud and Gary Hutton, or the role of the land in their work.  In 1920, Mesa Arizona had a population of 3,000, among them Wayne Thiebaud.  Mesa has hundreds of miles of thousand-year old canals that texture the Sonoran desert. There and in his boyhood home of Long Beach, California, the sun was bright and cast well-defined shadows.

Wayne Thiebaud called himself a painter of illusionistic form. Others credit him for helping to invent pop art. Thiebaud is well known for his paintings of pies and other diner and cafe objects. It took a British critic describing Thiebaud’s recent show at White Cube (2017) to see beyond pop to portraiture and landscape. Laura Cumming writes, “Thiebaud’s joy in America extends out through the landscape, no matter how industrial. Gold and pink striped fields somehow keep their terrestrial reality, despite the celestial colours, because he puts so much exactitude into the drawing that underpins every work.”  Among his pupils was Gary Hutton, an art student who would become a California designer, furniture maker and interior designer.

Hutton told Designwire, “I was born and raised on my grandmother’s apple orchard.  My dad was an engineer, driving trains for the railroad; my mother a homemaker.”  He left for U.C. Davis “during the Golden Age of its Art Department,”  which included Wayne Thiebaud.

Designer Gary Hutton

Designer Gary Hutton

Thiebaud had been inspired by New York artists whose work was experimental, modern, sometimes clean and spare, sometimes textured.  Willem de Kooning’s paint textured the canvass, and Thiebaud’s cakes are textured with paint as thick as frosting. Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns  captured objects in the life of post-war America.  Elaine de Kooning expanded possibilities of portraiture. She studied each person hard to uncover the essential pose that would define them.

Did Thiebaud’s inspirations influence Gary Hutton’s work? “My design aesthetic originates from my art background and training. Touch and feel are very important. It’s like textiles —how does this fabric feel?  What’s it going to look like?  How is it going to perform?  I’d describe my style as clean, modern, and experimental.”  Equally, he said to us, the relationship between the client and the designer is key to the success of the job. He studies his clients hard.

We met with Hutton on a mild summer day in San Francisco.  He told us about an enjoyable project on a house designed by architect A. Quincy Jones and postwar developer Joseph Eichler.  “Postwar clean, modern, and experimental” are terms that come to mind.  They peeled back layers of misguided design and reintroduced mid-century designers.  He also introduced artworks from the period.  Gary spoke fondly of the clients - they developed “a professional partnership, but also a friendly one.”  

Gary Hutton's Lagoon House: A revitalization of one of the last remaining Eichler houses. Photo: Matthew Millman

Gary Hutton's Lagoon House: A revitalization of one of the last remaining Eichler houses. Photo: Matthew Millman

The house sits on the water. It is not large, but its open plan, glass walls and interior garden capture a sense of place and give it a light feel that honors the modernity and historicity of one of few remaining Eichler houses.  Gary humbly says that “working for ghd is a continuing education.” For the rest of us, his work educates and continues the work of his teachers.