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Design Diplomacy in Oslo: Iina Vuorivirta and Kristine Five Melvær

The Design Diplomacy event in Oslo was a conversation between the designers Iina Vuorivirta and Kristine Five Melvær. The event is part of the Design Diplomacy discussion series created by Helsinki Design Week. Design Diplomacy opens the doors to ambassadors’ residences all over the world and invites two designers to play cards. Fifty-two questions created by Helsinki Design Week cover topics from the life and work of creative people.

In Design Diplomacy events, we sometimes seem to run out of time. When it was time to wrap up, Helsinki Design Weekly asked the designers to choose four questions that they wish they would have had the time to answer.

Iina Vuorivirta is Design Forum Finland’s Young Designer of the Year (2013) and the first Finn on the Ikea design team. Kristine Five Melvær is based in Oslo and works with lighting, tableware, furniture and graphic design.

Iina Vuorivirta, what has been your recent favourite piece of work?

Well I simply have to mention the dish brush! This simple, banal, daily hero is the best of Ikea. It’s practical and has an inviting form. This combined with the optimization of every single part of the material has challenged me as a designer, and the long and persistent product development has been an educational journey.

How to create a dish brush that you can use for years instead of months?  How to make the most of recycled material? How to make sure the product is one hundred percent recycled? How to maintain the high quality of the end product when it’s being manufactured locally all around the world through the use of the most simple logistics? And all this with a price tag of one euro. These types of questions are what keeps our team of twenty experts busy, and it’s still not completely finished…

What do you have on the table right now?

Here at Ikea, the designers might have up to ten different ongoing projects at the same time. One of the most interesting to me is the big natural fiber collection.

Bamboo, weed and rattan are my favourite materials. They require a slow and human-centred development process. When this is combined with ecology and a unique expression, a beautiful and sustainable narrative is born.

Name things you would like to change in your own field.

Openness, collaboration and the exchange of knowledge between other makers, companies and innovators. It would be educational as well as inspiring to learn from the mistakes and success of others and make tomorrow even better… Without the old confrontations and the competition.

Give a concrete example of how design has made a better world.

Only one example?! Design has made functional objects more beautiful and easy to use. Design has made infrastructure more utilitarian and smooth…

Where do you see yourself in 2030?

Right here where I am now, since there is a lot to do! When it comes to building a better, more beautiful and functional and sustainable everyday life for all people all around the world with different incomes, there are still challenges to solve.

Kristine Five Melvær, where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere. First and foremost from my everyday rituals. And from my travels of course, when these routines are changed. I also find inspiration from nature, and from other creative fields. Inspiration becomes more interesting when it comes from professions that are distant from my own areas of expertise. This distance gives more room for interpretation, which makes it more abstract.  I get inspired by music, scenography, haute couture and architecture… Just to name a few.

What is your favorite material?

I like to discover new materials, and find it very inspiring to get to know them.

In a way, my favourite material is the next material. However, I also have some favourites that I continue to work with. I love the transparency and the freedom of colours and shapes when working with glass.  And the warmth and the traces of time in wood. And the tactility and graphic freedom when working with textiles.

Tell us one memorable compliment you have received about your work.

I got a nice compliment last week. A woman told me that when she looked at my objects, she could see my joy when designing them.

Design Diplomacy took place in the residence of Ambassador Erik Lundberg in Oslo. The building is located in the Frogner neighbourhood, right next to the Embassy. The house is a three-story villa built in the beginning of the 18th century. The architect was the Norwegian Arnstein Arneberg.

The next Design Diplomacy event series will take place during Helsinki Design Week 6.-16.9.2018 in several Ambassadors Residences around the city. Subscribe to Helsinki Design Weekly to find out when the registration to these begins, since seats are limited!

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Helsinki Design Weekly is an online design publication presenting timely phenomena in the field of design and raises discussion about the future of the industry bolstered by top writers on the front lines.