Jonas Wagell is a Swedish architect and designer born in 1973. Wagell’s studio is based in the Hornstull area in Stockholm, but his recent collaborations reach as far as China, Taiwan and North America. His work has come to be known for simplistic playfulness and clever compact living.
Jonas Wagell is trained in graphic design, marketing, product design and architecture at schools including Konstfack, Beckmans and Berghs in Stockholm and Parsons in New York City. He has a back record in strategic project management and communication. Today the studio’s architecture work is mostly known for the prefab house concept Mini House which early was recognized by Wallpaper* Magazine which named him one of The world’s 50 hottest young architects in 2008. More recently Wagell has designed an extensive range of small cabins for sauna and well-being in collaboration with Finnish artist, national icon and sauna enthusiast Arja Saijonmaa.
Wagell is a restless soul with a nerve for entrepreneurship and a strive to build up and create value. He started his design career in 2008 by founding the in-house design label Hello Industry and the prefabricated house concept Mini House. Today however, the work is primarily focused on product design and creative direction for clients around the world.
Awards and merits
2015: Wallpaper* Handmade Milan in collaboration with Kettal
2014: Belgrade Design Week, keynote lecturer – watch lecture here!
2014: Elle Decoration Swedish Design Awards, Lamp of the year
2008: Wallpaper* Directory, “World’s 50 hottest young architects”
2008: Swedish Chamber of Commerce London, “Innovation Award”
2008: 100% Design London, First Prize “100% Futures Competition
2005-2007: Interior Arch & Furniture MFA, Konstfack, Stockholm
2004-2005: Interior Design, Parsons School of Design, NYC
2003-2005: Interior Arch & Furniture BFA, Konstfack, Stockholm
2001-2002: Foundation year, Beckmans, Stockholm
2000-2001: Strategic Project Management, Berghs, Stockholm
1996-1997: Marketing Economics, Berghs, Stockholm
1994-1995: Graphics and print, Ebersteinska skolan, Norrköping
The JWDA studio has a diverse approach to design and architecture – from consumer goods, tableware and cutlery, furniture and lighting, to interiors and private houses. The clients include many Scandinavian companies, but the last years have introduced several collaborations with new clients in Asia and the United States.
Normann Copenhagen, Denmark
Design Within Reach, USA
From the Bay, Taiwan
Design House Stockholm, Sweden
Nordic Hotels, Sweden
Stockholm Furniture Fair, Sweden
Inter IKEA Systems B.V., The Netherlands
Describe your most recent project and how it was made.
It’s always difficult to say which project was the most recent since they always overlap and the time from idea to market can vary from 12 months to three years. Having said that, one of the most recent to be launched is a wine carafe and glasses for German company WMF. I suppose my work is known for being rather playful and colorful which is quite far from the classic and elegant expression of WMF. As a designer it’s a challenge to find a middle ground, to adapt to a new context without losing your own personal DNA. I received the final factory samples last week and I feel really happy with the result. It has been a long process stretched out over almost three year, but now finally, the first parts of the range will be launched at Ambiente in Frankfurt in February 2015, something I really look forward to.
Another project that I’m super excited about is a table lamp I have designed for Design Within Reach in the United States this year. I hope we will see the final product sometime early next year. Except for this there is also new project in development with Normann Copenhagen, Menu and more.
Describe your next project and how you’re currently making it.
For the last year or so I have been discussing opportunities with an American company with ties to Taiwan and with long experience of manufacture and supply the design field. We have decided to create a new small collection together with simplistic, functional and beautiful object. I will contribute with design, strategy and creative direction for the brand. It’s a great challenge that will require hard work since we are basically starting from scratch, but its great fun too! I enjoy this type of work since a big part is about communication, something I was working with for almost a decade before going back to school to study design and architecture. In that sense, the project ties together all my knowledge and experiences. We want the collection to have the optimism of the American fifties and the humble aesthetics of the Scandinavian north. However, at this stage it’s more about establishing a framework and strategic platform than hands-on design work, but we are planning to show the first small collection already next year.
Tell us one thing that’s been inspiring you lately and why.
The single most inspiring thing for me is to travel and meet new people. And it’s been lots of traveling lately. A couple of weeks ago I was one of the keynote lecturers at Belgrade Design Week. The organizers are famous for their generous hospitality and superbly arranged event. This year was no exception and for five day (with not much sleep) we took part of numerous great lectures and made many new friends from all over the world. And then last week I visited the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven and the Biennale Interieur in Kortrijk in Belgium where I was also a part of the exhibition and book release “Scandinavian Designers at Work”. The book is portraying a selection of designers in their studios and focus on how they work and from where they gain inspiration.
I believe most designers are hard working and after a few years you kind of establish a specific expression and a personal way of working. Therefore, just meeting and hanging out with other creative spirits is super fun and a great inspiration. Inspiration is energy, and energy is everywhere!
Show us your studio and tell us what you like about it.
Well, the space is an old milk shop in the ground floor of an apartment building from the 1940-ties. It’s divided into three rooms with a quite office space with large shop window towards the street. Here, there is a soft grey carpet on the floor and low wall-mounted cabinets along one side covered with rows of books, piles of magazines and random paper mock-ups and prototypes. One wall is covered with sketches, ideas and drawings of ongoing projects and in the middle of the room there is a large table with computer work stations.
Two steps further down is the kitchen and meeting room. A dark blue cabinet wall covers one side of the space and contains fridge and all kitchen utensils, but also a big collection of colored paper sheets and cardboard, color printer, material samples, 3d printer and more. The whole room is painted grey including a zig-zag of tubes and pipes in the ceiling.
Next to it, with a window towards the back yard, is the workshop. It’s a tidy space with an overload of tools and gear properly organized in drawers and build-in cabinets. Timber slats and MDF boards are crowding a corner together with cardboard sheets, some furniture prototypes are hanging from the ceiling a few left-over cases of exhibition beer sits on top of a cabinet. Today, the work in the shop is mainly with paper and cardboard rather than wood and metal and the space is also used to store a small stock of the in-house Hello Industry collection piled up in neat stacks with colorful labels.
An interview with Jonas Wagell for Furniture Magazine.com
By Mary Gomes – Furniture Magazine.com, Feb 25, 2014.
How did you decide to become a designer?
I have always been intrigued by graphics, topography and graffiti since I was a kid. I studied graphic design and ended up working as a project manager for an event agency creating exhibitions. This was a great school for spatial design and communication. However, I wanted to develop more and after seven years went back to school to study a master in interior architecture and furniture design.
Tell us about yourself!
I’m productive and driven as a person and like to keep myself busy. Also, I’m freakishly organized which frankly is a bit in-productive at times. But most of the time I’m quite a nice guy. I like to run and enjoy good food.
How would you define your perspective of the profession as an industrial designer?
There is a tendency in the world to consume and throw away. As a designer you need to be contemporary and up-to-date, but not trendy. You need to create work that is relevant for more than a few years.
How do you keep up to the concept of sustainability?
Sustainability is something that has to be a prerequisite today. It’s not a trend. As a designer you have to influence producers to use sustainable manufacturing methods and materials. But it also about creating work that is not trendy, but has true long-term qualities and will stand the test of time.
How would you define your designs?
I want my products to be simplistic, intuitive and easy to understand. Perhaps this has to do with my relation to graphic design. I try to reduce unnecessary details and emphasize a function or main character, which often results in simple but expressful objects with soft shapes – and sometimes over-sized, playful details. I have come to call this a type of ‘generous minimalism’.
How long does it take to complete a product/design?
Of course, there is not just one answer to that question. But usually I find the idea process to be fairly quick. I tend to contemplate and process a concept for a while and when I finally have time to start several ideas come easy.
What are your future projects?
I have recently designed a lamp for a large American company and feel super thrilled about that. We’re going to China next month to review samples. Also, I have several ongoing projects with WMF in Germany. We’ve been cooperating since two year back and will finally launch the first product – a wine set – later this year. Furthermore, I’m involved in various furniture and products with Swedish and Danish companies, but also recently launched a range of tiny functional houses – Arjan Sauna – in collaboration with a Swedish house company. We’re re-launching a prefab house concept called Mini House this summer as well.
Tell us about a design that was very special to you?
As a designer I think it common that you are most excited about the new thinks. The products that you still have not seen finished. A have a lot in the making right now. However, my pendant lamp Cloud for Bsweden recently received Elle Decoration Swedish Design Awards – Lamp of the Year 2014. That’s nice of course!
When did the Jonas Wagell Design & Architecture studio form?
I graduated from Konstfack University College in Stockholm in 2007. I worked for an architecture office for a year and started my own studio in 2008.
Who are your favorite designers? Which designs do you like the most?
I really like the analogue and playful work of Ettore Sottsass. All things do not have to be functional. In fact, beauty is also an important function!
What is the relevance of awards in your life?
It is of course a pleasure and an honour to be awarded, but most of all it has relevance from a work perspective since it creates recognition and reputation.
Which product design has been most challenging for you?
One of the most complex projects to date is the prefab cabin range Arjan Sauna. Obviously, this is architecture, but my perspective has always been to look at the concept as product design with add-ons and customized solutions. Tailor made and turn-key. The concept appears simple but has been challenging to solve with regards to building code, production synergy, transportation restrictions and more. See the full range at www.arjansauna.se.
Tell us about some of your award winning designs!
The most recent was the Cloud pendant lamp for Bsweden in 2014, but also the prefab house concept Mini House from 2008 has received some awards including that I was named one of ‘the world’s 50 hottest young architects’ by Wallpaper magazine in 2008.
What is the most important aspect of designing?
I believe the most important is simply to create objects that people care about and crave for. That way things will not be thrown away so quickly, but saved and passed forward.
What inspires you?
It not looking at things really, which may have been logical. Actually, for me it’s about having time to do things I like. Travel, culture, running and food. When I’m relaxed and feel good I’m at my most creative spirit.
Tell us about a design that was recently launched!
I was selected to be part of a new exhibition called ‘Twelve – established Nordic designers’ during Stockholm Design Week in early February. I was previewing a range of new table for Swedish company Mitab, but also four new prototypes that we have been working on in the studio during the winter. These include a small table mirror, a desk lamp, a tiny LED pendant and a set of serving cutlery in plastic.