Creators

Form Us With Love

Interview by Carl MH Barenbrug

Form Us With Love team portait

Today, we see a lot of things get over-engineered and over-designed to achieve simple results. We really pride ourselves on designing with small gestures to create value that counts.

Form Us With Love (FUWL) is an international design studio and at the studio’s core lies a process that blends traditional creative practices with a lean, strategic application. The central intention is to evolve with the needs of each project, its place in the market, and the ever-changing needs of real people. We spoke with the FUWL team to talk sustainability in product design, staying creative, and how the studio’s work has evolved over the years.

Let’s go back to the beginning, how was Form Us With Love established? How did such a gentle and motivating name come to be adopted?

Form Us With Love is a Stockholm-based design studio repositioning brands through the strategic design of things. We started FUWL in 2005, the moment we graduated (Jonas Pettersson and John Loefgren). At the beginning we made a lot of invaluable mistakes. Each one laying the foundation for what the studio has become today. Now we are ten people, a relatively international bunch, working with partners like IKEA on sustainable initiatives and founding ventures like BAUX to reposition traditional building materials. For our team, it is important that each thing we design strives to innovate upon its category, raising the bar of what’s expected from design. The name, Form Us With Love, has stood for a lot of things over the years. Now, after 15 years of work, the name speaks for itself. For many of our close collaborators, we go by FUWL or Form Us.

Typically, what are the first steps in a project?

Good question. We always begin with an Exploration. It’s a half day or a full day where we gather the whole team to respond to a project brief. We call it a “gut feeling” ideas workshop. Everyone brings their accumulated knowledge to the table. The fidelity of the work varies from napkin sketches, to a collage of references, or rough 3-dimensional mockups. As a team we evaluate each idea and prepare a workshop around them that takes place at our partner’s HQ. This let’s us mix our fresh thinking with their expertise to identify opportunities that turn into great concepts.

Form Us With Love product design
Form Us With Love product design

The influence of Swedish design around the world is evident, from daily objects that go unnoticed in people’s living room to prize-winning projects. Which facet of your work better fits with the classic Swedish design aesthetic? And which project differs the most?

Not sure if this answers the question, but for us, ideally, our work would blend into a space; vital yet unobtrusive. It would be appreciated for the value it brings, whether that’s in the experience of its function or the intrinsic quality of its nature. We are currently ideating around product life-cycles to design better things. Our hope is that eventually these new products would be experienced the same way as their less sustainable counterparts. The same in function yet with an inherently different essence. To some, that adds something unexpected to the design that goes beyond the look and feel. In the best of cases the intrinsic values inform the experiential ones. Two great examples are Odger for IKEA, and Acoustic Pulp for Baux.

Form Us With Love product design
Form Us With Love product design

“Doing better with less” is a key statement, ever present in FUWL public profile. What is the importance of it as a design philosophy?

Today, we see a lot of things get over-engineered and over-designed to achieve simple results. We really pride ourselves on designing with small gestures to create value that counts.

Even though FUWL’s portfolio is extremely varied, it manages to uphold a cohesive identity throughout.

The studio is not focused on a single designer; it’s built around fostering the ambitions of the team to design real change. The studio works four days a week on client work, and one day a week on turning internally proposed ideas into running ventures. Anyone in the team can bring ideas to the table. Many of these new ideas focus around sustainability. To foster our creativity the studio takes two months of paid holiday so that everyone can pursue their broad interests and come back to the studio with fresh thoughts and an open mind.

How does your creative process allow to maintain such cohesiveness?

It’s a consequence of our process and the openness of our identity that allows for disparate things to be experienced so cohesively.

Form Us With Love product design
Form Us With Love product design
Form Us With Love product design

Since early projects FUWL have clearly displayed a very interesting identity around sustainability and unusual materials. Tell us about the importance of such elements in your projects.

It’s becoming increasingly important to what we do. In 2013 we co-founded BAUX, seizing on an opportunity to reinvent the aesthetics and positioning of a function-heavy Swedish-made building material: wood wool cement boards. Seeing a need in the ever-popular open offices cropping up around that time, the team repositioned the material as a wall tile for architects to create beautiful acoustic installations. In 2019, we along with BAUX joined forces with scientists from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) to develop a revolutionary new material based on over 25 years of research. The new 100% bio-based BAUX Acoustic Pulp panel is the first in the world to uncompromisingly combine the high-performance properties of sound absorption, safety, and durability with modern aesthetics and sustainability. Setting the foundation for the brand as a leader in its industry gives room for BAUX to continue to design real change.

Form Us With Love product design
Form Us With Love product design
Form Us With Love product design

Has it changed over time?

We’re learning more and more that sustainability isn’t just about material; it’s about lifecycle, infrastructure and business models. For example, a second hand piece can have a better environmental footprint than a new thing made from the “most sustainable” material in the world. That is speaking hypothetically of course; in reality we need to design with a more mathematical and rigorous understanding of sustainability. You’ll see our newer work heading in this direction.

As minimalism reaches new heights in popularity, the public perception of what makes something simple or understated changes. What is your perception on the rising popularity of the aesthetic?

We try not to label things that much. If we have to define it, to us minimalism is all about distilling design to what’s really important. Of course, as it does within the public, each member of our team approaches the idea of minimalism from a different angle.

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