Jonas Forsman is 36. He won his first Red Dot Award in 2006. So why has Marcel Wanders chosen to adopt him now?
When Swedish designer Jonas Forsman approached Marcel Wanders with a prototype for a foldable chair, the Dutchman was impressed by Forsman’s ‘complete’ view on design. ‘Jonas’s prototype proved a point,’ says Wanders. ‘It was still primitive and perhaps not yet super developed, but it was clear what the product could do.’
Shift, presented by Moooi at this year’s Salone, is a foldable lounge chair that hides its nuts and bolts under a sheath of knitted polyester: a shinier version of the same upholstery fabric is often used for office chairs. ‘The idea is to minimize materials and make it as light as possible,’ says Forsman. ‘How it functions and how the mechanisms are put together are two aspects of great importance to me.’ By employing a matte yarn and a melange of colours, he produced a much warmer – and less corporate – aesthetic than what you see at the office. The light knitted backrest is made as a single piece that slides over the collapsible frame.
‘Jonas was very well prepared,’ recalls Wanders. ‘He was already connected to the company that does the knitting. What I look for in products is that they’re not just one thing. This chair has a really iconic character. It’s visually striking, smart and sexy, thanks to the transparency and stretchiness of the material.’
Forsman’s focus is on the fundamental issues. His background in industrial design is apparent throughout his work – ‘I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to the mechanical aspects of a product’ – and he took the same tack with Moooi that he relies on in other professional situations: Forsman doesn’t approach a manufacturer before addressing the various obstacles that could arise during production. ‘I try to get the more difficult problems out of the way before starting with a company. Often my products are based on a technical solution that can make or break the whole idea. I need to know that what I’ve designed actually works.’
The Crane desk lamp emerged from his desire to address one such technical element. Presented as a prototype at the 2012 Salone and launched as a product at ICFF 2015 by Adesso Design Studio, the lamp began with a special spring that Forsman wanted to integrate into the design. All technical elements, including the spring, are in the base of the lamp, which has a long wooden arm, adjustable in height and rotation. The spring keeps the cord taut, allowing the shade to be manoeuvred with minimal effort.
At a time when designers are struggling to keep pace with an industry that rattles along without pausing for breath, Forsman believes in making well-considered products, even though it takes longer. ‘If I live with an idea for five years, I know whether it will work or not,’ he says. ‘In the heat of the moment, I think everything is good, but we designers should take more time. I’m always out to do something challenging that’s not been done before.’
For many reasons the tall, unassuming Swede seems a surprising choice for Wanders, who rocked up to the 2015 Salone on a giant white unicorn. Does it mean his vision – or that of Moooi – may be shifting?
‘It’s not that we’re doing only elaborate, dramatic pieces’, says Wanders. ‘We make design. If we think it’s adding to the industry, then we make it.’ When he contemplates collaborating with Forsman, he says that ‘it makes sense to work on smart, functional objects with new features. That’s how he thinks. It’s what he wakes up for in the morning. He wants to have smart ideas – not just make something beautiful.’
Portraits Antonio Campanella