“Everything is made with a respect and connection to my roots – the Scandinavian design tradition.” – Hee Welling
Welling is an award-winning designer based in Copenhagen. His philosophy is expressed in the simple geometries and spirited contours of his products. We sat down with Hee for a chat about the Smile Lounge chair and sustainability in the industry.
Tell us about your working space – is it nice and tidy or organised chaos?
I try my hardest to keep my working space nice and tidy (and most of the time it works out fine), but in periods when we are swamped and have a lot of deadlines, it can get a bit chaotic!
Do you see any distinction between designing for the home and designing for the workplace?
In many of our recent projects, the differences between the home and the workplace have been reduced, and the distinctions have blurred. During the last couple of years, many of our design briefs proved useful for the office, soft contract and home.
How does sustainability factor into product design for you?
We focus on optimising our products – the construction, the use of materials and the production techniques to remain as sustainable as possible.
We have mainly worked on minimising the use of materials in our designs, both due to the visual and the environmental aspects. I am thrilled to see that sustainability has become a significant issue for the whole furniture industry and that includes not only the manufactures but also the sub-suppliers and end customers – everyone is starting to play their part.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspects when designing something new?
It is very different from project to project. In one project it is the construction, in the next, it is the aesthetics, and in the third project, it is the price target.
This year marks the tenth anniversary since the launch of the Smile Chair, what has changed in the design of the Smile Lounge?
The construction, the visual expression and the general outline of the shell are based on the Smile chair. We wanted to take those ideas and concepts, transforming that design into a great lounge chair.
Over the past year, we have been working on developing and optimising the visual balance, between the surfaces of the seat/back and the thin edges, but also focusing on both the low and high version with different bases. The comfort in the Smile lounge chairs has had an essential focus through the design process, and we are proud of the result – it really is a wonderfully comfortable sit.
You’ve been involved in teaching at the Danish Design School, how do you think this informs your own practice? What does teaching bring to you as a designer?
One of the great things about teaching design students is that you have to argue and discuss every detail of the design, so you really get into the essential parts of the project. From there it is possible to guide the student towards taking the best and most logical decisions. When that succeeds, and a great project comes out of it, you feel honoured and proud. For me as a designer, the teaching process also helps to be sharper and more focused on my own products and design process.
What designs have captured your imagination recently?
I am a huge fan of the playful, twisted designs that come out of studio Nendo. It is always one of the must-sees during the Milan fair