Respect for the concept keeps the design on track
Roger Persson keeps the essence of his products in focus throughout the development process. His designs for Swedese include top sellers such as the Happy series and the Bespoke tables. We meet in Vaggeryd to talk about the latest Bespoke tables, but also what inspires, consciously or unconsciously, and how some influences seem to be embedded deep in the muscle memory.
The collaboration with Swedese goes back almost 20 years, to 2003 when Roger Persson designed his first item of furniture. Swedese had just acquired Söderbergs Möbler and was looking for a new designer to expand its range.
"I was given the task of designing an armchair,” recalls Roger. “I was young and new to the industry, and I’d done a real mix of pieces within industrial design, but no furniture."
The armchair that Roger started out designing was the origin of Swedese’s Happy, one of the company’s runaway successes. Happy was exhibited at international trade fairs on its launch, and was immediately given an extremely positive reception.
"I remember the CEO at the time calling me to say they’d sold a container of Happy armchairs to Japan. I had nothing to compare this with, so I didn’t know what it meant, but I could see that he was over the moon."
Breadth has its advantages
Roger studied industrial design at HDK-Valand in Gothenburg and furniture design in New York, before setting up a design agency with some of his course mates from HDK. The jobs varied in nature, but the design process tended to be more or less the same.
"Mixing projects is both fun and useful,” he says. “Which is why I’ve continued to do different things, although it is mostly furniture these days."
Concept without compromise
Getting an item of furniture from the drawing board into production requires cooperation with the product development department, and the discussions about what is achievable and what can be compromised on are sometimes lively, to say the least.
The collaboration with Swedese is open-hearted, with a family feel, says Roger. We know each other well. I like to challenge technology and push the boundaries of what is possible, which obviously leads to discussions at times. There are some things I’m willing to compromise on, but not the basic concept for the furniture, as it is rarely positive for the outcome.
The Bespoke tables are a prime example. They look simple, but for someone in the know, their construction is quite spectacular - at first sight, it might even seem impossible. The sophisticated simplicity is also what makes the tables special. And so Roger and the product development team defied the impossible and continued to test and tweak, without compromising on what was important. The new members of the Bespoke line now being launched share the same core concept, keeping the design in the same family.
Inspired by everything
Roger Persson finds his inspiration anywhere and everywhere. In art, films, exhibitions or in nature. He often zeroes in on something, an idea or a phenomenon that can be put through twists and turns over a period of time.
I find a basic idea, and then I dig into all the different facets. For example, I’ve been fascinated with stripes and a kind of optical illusion for many years. And then traces of this can appear in everything I do in some way or other. It becomes a way for me to find my own inspiration.
"It’s interesting to see what sticks,” adds Roger. Sometimes it’s difficult to see it yourself, but I think we’re affected by things early in life, and that means that some things will always keep cropping up in different forms. I find it also affects what I find appealing in other people’s designs."
To Roger, music is another important source of inspiration, and a good way of shutting everything out. The sounds in his headphones can vary wildly. Some the old favourites are always present – Bowie, The Beatles and Radiohead, for example. But the playlist might also be shared with his 17-year-old son, or feature pieces of classical music.
Breadth appears to be a recurring theme, in both his inspirations and his own output, which makes it even more exciting to see what future classics Roger Persson will come up with.